Kids today! Fourth graders directing obscene taunts at their teachers, sixth graders are walking out of classrooms when they damn well please, schoolgirls are selling their bodies, schoolboys are maiming one another, students of both sexes are dropping out. As one classroom after another suffers complete collapse, reports Howard W. French in the Sept. 23 New York Times, educators fault parents, parents blame educators.
Now, with all due respect to the paper of record, NONE of this is news. For at least the past quarter of a century, Japan’s film studios have been trying to wake up this country with wide-screen evidence of an educational system in a permanent state of thumb-slicing, vagina-burning, poop-tossing chaos. For further details, read the synopses of the ten films below:
“Ai to Makoto: Kanket-suhen” (Ai and Makoto: The Concluding Segment), 1976. They called it puppy love, and you’d best believe the amorous, eponymous pups in the final installment of this three-picture series endure the equivalent of 40 whacks with a rolled-up newspaper. Among the extracurricular activities at the high school attended by sweethearts Ai and Makoto are stabbings, the graphic slicing off of a thumb and whippings, generally administered by a latent homosexual in a black eye patch.
As you undoubtedly surmised, the film begins with an extract from a letter written by Jawaharlal Nehru to his daughter, Indira Gandhi: “My child, please remember that love is not peace but a battle.” Somebody cue Pat Benatar.
“Pantsu no Ana” (Hole in the Pants), 1984. And you think Japanese junior and senior high schools are going down the crapper now! A tough-talking punk gets smacked across the face with a poop-encrusted mop, a diarrheic voyeur is entrapped in a girls’ changing room locker and rival aggregations of young boys engage in a feces-tossing free-for-all, after which they’re rinsed clean by a large water-spraying flying saucer. If it’s turds day, this must be Japan.
“V. Madonna Dai-Senso” (The V. Madonna Big War), 1985. High school students, besieged by a marauding motorcycle gang, take a page from “The Seven Samurai” and enlist the help of an all-female septet—ballistics expert, pro wrestler, movie stunt woman and motocross rider, who inspires her weak-kneed charges with periodic chants, in English, of “Go For Break (sic)!” Weak-kneed charges respond, in Japanese, with feminine whines of, “We’ll probably be raped” and masculine moans of, “The faggots will get us.”
Beatings, slappings, gouging and a satisfying instance of mutually assured destruction: hood who burns female genitals with lighter gets his own sliced off with razor.
“Be-Bop High School,” 1985-88. The accent is definitely on the frontal lobe-smashing “bop” in this six-feature series, which began with chopsticks being shoved up some poor student’s nose. Hiroshi and Toru, whose favorite sidekick has decorated the walls of his room with the Imperial Japanese Navy ensign and the Nazi swastika, spend three years proving to moviegoers that punch-ups are the only way to deal with frightening bully boys from rival high schools who sport heavily permed hair, prominent rib cages and arms thick as broom handles.
“The Samurai,” 1986. Modern-day, 17-year-old boy dresses and acts like a samurai, offers to commit honorable ritual belly-ripping at the drop of a fundoshi and attends a high school where students engage in a shoot-out with a gang of crooks. The shoot-out takes place in a school stairwell, under a sign reading, in English, “For All Wet Cunts.”
“Hyoryu Kyoshitsu” (The Drifting Classroom), 1987. A “time slip” hits present-day Kobe, transporting students at an international elementary school, along with teacher Troy Donahue, 10,000 years into the future, where they are pursued by basketball player-sized cockroaches, presumably time-slipped from present-day Tokyo.
“Bokura no Nanokakan Senso” (Our Seven-Day War), 1988. Junior high school students, wanting only to live their own lives as God and the NRA intended, help themselves to weapons at a conveniently located Self-Defense Forces installation. Debut film of teen idol Rie Miyazawa, later to appear in the photographic collection, Santa Fe, completely removing her shooters from their over-the-shoulder holsters.
“Kids Return,” 1996. Shinji and Masaru cut classes at their high school, sneak into showings of porn flicks and extort money from their classmates, one of whom gets a boxer from a local gym to exact revenge, thereby proving that some educational problems are best solved by the private sector.
“Gakko no Kaidan III” (School Ghost Story III). Unlike its immediate predecessor, in which the scariest sights were books tumbling from their shelves, worms dropping from the ceiling and blood streaking a computer screen, this film really convinced you that schools had gone straight to H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks: one of the students here looks and dresses exactly like Bill Gates.
“Battle Royale,” 2000. Junior high school students massacre each other. Not a documentary, unfortunately.