Japanese horror films are known to break ground with their dark and violent content, but pics with gruesome content were unwelcome in local theaters following the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami that caused the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster.
However, on Nov. 10, Toho released “Lesson of the Evil,” a Takashi Miike pic about a psychotic teacher who turns a shotgun (legally obtainable in Japan) on his class of junior high schoolers, killing most of them one by one over the pic’s final 40 minutes.
The film has earned nearly $24 million after seven weeks in release. The Miike pic made its world premiere at the Rome Film Festival in November.
Following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, entertainment news and gossip site Nikkan Cyzo speculated that Toho might pull the pic, but a Toho rep denied that was being discussed.
Meanwhile, on 2Channel, a message board site where posters can vent anonymously about any topic under the sun, there has been much back-and-forth over a statement by Yuko Oshima, a member of the popular girl group AKB48.
She said she found the Miike pic “detestable” after she bailed on a stage event for star Hideaki Ito, who plays the teacher, on Nov. 19.
The thread’s header read, “Yuko Oshima was right — the elementary school shooting incident is too tragic.”
Added another, “The trend of the times is on her side.”
While Japanese media have covered news of the shootings extensively, editorials have been rare, with most pointing to the U.S. gun culture as the real problem rather than films, TV shows or videogames.
And many commentators were skeptical that the incident would do much to change that gun culture. “Any law they pass will end up full of holes,” one said.
Many in the local media focused on the Sandy Hook students who were children of two Japanese mothers. They were in school the day of the tragedy and narrowly escaped with their lives.
“My children might have become victims,” Junko Fischer told the Kyodo news service. “When I think about the feelings of parents who lost their children…”