The World of Kanako

| January 28, 2016

Back in 2014, Japanese film diary, Eiga Geijutsu listed Tetsuya Nakashima’s The World of Kanako as one of the worst films to come out that year. After finally being able to see the film, thanks to Drafthouse Films picking it up for U.S. distribution, its understandable as to why the publication felt this way. For its two hour running time, Nakashima manages to incorporate some of the most vile characters and situations to grace the silver screen and place them on full display, whether we like it or not. With its narrative zipping back and forth a few years, we follow a disgraced former detective, Akikazu Fujishima (Koji Yakusho) as he searches for his estranged daughter Kanako (Nano Komatsu), who’s gone missing from her high school. As Akikazu finds out more and more about his daughter, he realizes that the years that he’s been away from her have not been kind, as she’s been involved with everything from kidnapping, to drug dealing and even prostitution. Full of angst and bitterness, The World of Kanako is film that showcases the worst in humanity and I’m forever grateful that someone like Nakashima had the audacity to be brave enough and make this.

The World of Kanako is akin to the films of Gapare Noe and Abel Ferrara, where humanity and its vessels display the worst of what we’re capable of. While there’s tons of blood and brutality on screen, Nakashima and his editor, Yoshiyuki Koike infuse an awkward sense of style at points, much like the quirkiness of Seijun Suzuki crime film, that manage to imbalance Kanako’s overall tone. While on the one hand we have some zany split screens and animations and on the other, we have characters diving into utter despair, which left me slightly confused as to what Nakashima was truly going for. Even with all of this, the material and story that Kanako dives into are just absolutely mesmerizing and pulls you into its complex web of deception.

I’ve seen Koji Yakusho in a bunch of films, but never has he portrayed a character like Akikazu before. His portrayal of the shitty dad/husband/detective is as much beautiful, as it is pitiful. As we witness him claw his way through the underbelly of society, one can’t just help feel bad for him, for even the sheer feat of doing so is admirable. Nano Komatsu is a marvel to witness, as the titular character of Kanako and it’s astonishing that we’ve never seen anything else from her by this point. Her portrayal is that of a prism, in that at any point we see her on screen, we must question as to who we’re really seeing, the true Kanako or the one that people wish to see. Some see a beautiful teenager, others see a manipulative monster, but anyone can see that it’s truly a nuanced performance that is one of the strongest I’ve ever seen in a Japanese film.

The disc from both Drafthouse Films and Cinedigm comes with exquisite video and audio presentations, as well as some fantastic extras that round out this release. The video is presented in an AVC encoded, 1080p transfer, with an aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The film contains rich contrasts, in that there are portions of a snowy hill, as well as dark alleyways that illustrate a rich and vibrant transfer on the disc. Whether its parties that Kanako goes to, to the neon filled streets of Tokyo that Akikazu wanders through, the visual never fail to astound and always make it a point to be as visceral as possible on this transfer. The audio on the disc contains a Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround mix that offers a robust listening experience.  There’s a great amount of dynamics in the film, from characters whispering amongst each other, to full on gunshots and shouting matches that illustrate the range of the mix. The surround mix is also exquisitely presented, by going into full on immersion during some of the intense moments and subtle, in order to enhance the location or the recreate the sound effects. The extras on the disc include a short making of, as well as an interview with Nano Komatsu, both before and after the project and an interview with original author Yoshiyuki Koike. The interviews add a good amount of depth to both the original source material and Komatsu’s thoughts on her character, that make them essential viewing after the film.

The World of Kanako is a no holds barred, kick in the teeth and one of the most audacious films to come out of Japan in a long time. It takes some serious guts and bravado to make a film like this and Tetsuya Nakashima has certainly made this film as an unforgettable ride from beginning to end. Recommended to those who dare…

The World of Kanako will be released on February 2nd from Drafthouse Films and Cinedigm.

About the Author:

is a graduate from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Audio for Visual Media. He works as a freelance location sound mixer, boom operator, sound designer, and writer in his native Chicago. He's an avid collector of films, comics, and anime.
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