The chapter, “Recent Trends in Japanese Horror Cinema” by Jay McRoy is a detailed account of how this genre has evolved in the Japanese film-making industry to assert global influence. The author starts by giving an elaborate background and history of Japanese Cinema which dates back to the origins of film as a commercial medium. The horror genre became popular after the war in the 1950s with the rise of kaidan, which means ghost stories. Japanese horror films offered western audiences a different taste of violence, with what McRoy calls “visually arresting texts”, which were missing in the seemingly monotonous and stale western horror cinema (407). One of the common characteristics of Japanese horror cinema was dead wet girls with long black hair, which offered a fresh and exciting perspective to diverse audiences, especially western ones. The famous mutant girl culture also emerged within the Japanese horror cinema characterized by ass chainsaws and breast swords. These changes were occasioned by shifting gender relations with women becoming more powerful and assuming roles that were hitherto reserved for men.
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Other themes such as suicide and bullying became common as this genre continued to evolve. In recent decades, the Japanese cinema has popularized torture-horror movies, which underscores the aesthetics of disgust. The author notes that torture-horror movies in Japanese cinema are rooted in traditions and cultural practices such as the idea of samurais. Additionally, the ceremonial evisceration of female bodies, which is a common characteristic of such movies, is rooted in Japanese rituals such as hara-kiri, “an ancient act in which female votives would offer up the ‘flower’ of their entrails and blood by a self-inflicted knife wound” (McRoy 417). Japanese horror films tend to reflect themes of transience and mutability, which forces audiences to face the reality of their own mortality and finitude. The mortality of human beings is a universal idea affecting all people because everyone will eventually die, which underscores the theme of transience. These themes transcend socially inscribed borders and cultural codes, which may prevent foreign audiences from understanding nuances that could only register with Japanese spectators. As such, the Japanese horror cinema is widely accepted internationally as it addresses universal themes such as mortality the transient nature of human bodies.
One of the strengths of this chapter is the way it is structured starting by giving comprehensive background information concerning the history of Japanese horror cinema. The author transitions carefully from one idea to another and thus the reader can easily follow what is being said. The arguments made in the chapter are placed under the appropriate subheadings, thus allowing the reader to know the sections that talk about a certain issue. For example, under the subtopic “Dead Wet Girls with Long Black Hair”, the author explores how this aspect has affected and contributed to the evolution of Japanese horror cinema and its growth in popularity in western audiences. The author also uses colored pictures to demonstrate some of his arguments. The image taken from Mutant Girl Squad with a chainsaw protruding from the ass of a young girl allows the reader to understand what the author means when he talks about “Ass chainsaws, breast swords, and the rise of mutant girl culture” (McRoy 410). Another effectively used picture is the one taken from the Guinea Pig Series emphasizing the place of torture-horror in Japanese cinema. The author also uses numerous reference materials to support his claims. With an elaborate and well-timed referencing throughout the chapter, the reader is compelled to believe what the author says.
Additionally, the author uses various Japanese horror movies as examples to support his arguments. Besides, the arguments made in this article are credible based on the available Japanese horror films. One such film is Battle Royale – a dystopian thriller movie by Kinji Fukasaku. One of the arguments that McRoy makes is that high school in Japan have become primary sites for both socialization and competition. This observation makes sense when placed in the context of Battle Royale. In the film, junior high school teenagers are forced to engage in a fierce battle whereby the only way to escape is to kill the adversary. The ensuing bloodbath in the movie validates McRoy’s claims that schools have become grounds for competition. McRoy also argues that another theme in Japanese horror cinema is the shifting gender relations whereby women are becoming more powerful. He says, “The young girls in Battle Royale, for example, are every bit as deadly and resourceful as their male counterparts in the life-or-death “game” from which only one member of their middle-school class can emerge victorious” (McRoy 410-411). In the film, Noriko comes out as a competent young lady, who is capable of doing anything that her male counterparts can do. Ultimately, she is one of the two survivors of the deadly game before escaping with Shuya.
The portrayal of women characters in the film as competent and independent validates McRoy’s claims, which improves the credibility of the arguments made in the chapter. McRoy also argues that Japanese horror cinema is awash with terror-horror, and this aspect comes out clearly in Battle Royale. The movie is characterized by permeating violence and bizarre killing of one another. Grotesque death plays a central role in the storyline of this movie, which is in line with McRoy’s claims of torture-horror in Japanese films. Therefore, the occurrences in Battle Royale validate McRoy’s claims, which is a significant strength of the chapter.
One major weakness of this chapter is the use of complicated language that may not be suitable for diverse audiences. The vocabulary used throughout for chapter is only suitable for advanced learners, and thus most individuals may not find it enjoyable reading the chapter because it becomes difficult to follow what is being said if one cannot comprehend the vocabulary. Another weakness is the length of the chapter. With 15 pages of prose writing, the chapter is unnecessarily long given that it talks about a single idea about recent trends in Japanese horror cinema. Many readers may not finish reading the chapter because at one point it becomes monotonous. The chapter is riddled with detailed information, which might be unnecessary for such a simple topic. Additionally, the author uses many citations, which might be confusing for the reader trying to separate McRoy’s ideas from those of other writers.
The chapter, “Recent Trends in Japanese Horror Cinema” by Jay McRoy discusses how the genre of horror has evolved in Japanese cinema. The chapter has numerous strengths, such as being structured in a way that readers could follow the flow of ideas. The arguments made in the chapter are supported by enough evidence from films and other reference materials. McRoy’s arguments can also be validated using occurrences in films such as Battle Royale. However, the chapter has few weaknesses including the use of complicated vocabulary and being lengthy hence monotonous.
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Battle Royale. Directed by Kinji Fukasaku, performances by Tatsuya Fujiwara and Aki Maeda, AM Associates, 2000.
McRoy, Jay. “Recent Trends in Japanese Horror Cinema.” A Companion to the Horror Film, edited by Harry M. Benshoff, John Wiley & Sons, 2014, pp. 406-422.