The world is not beautiful, therefore it is; a thought-provoking proverb popularized by Kino's Journey that nonetheless leaves its trail in lots of anime. Midori is in this sense the ultimate combo breaker in its determination to depict a cruel world whilst rejecting the vaguest of indications that beauty may lie around the corner. Its unpleasant worldview manifests itself perfectly in young Midori who is taken in by a group of deformed circus artists after the death of her beloved mother.
Her various experiences with these individuals are as far from beneficial as they are from being mutual and the movie is eager to explore its grotesque combination of childhood innocence and sexual perversion in the most surreal ways imaginable. The titular character is not only physically, sexually and mentally abused by her colleagues but also finds herself in a frightening relationship with a dwarf magician whose affection mixed with terrifying abuse creates the foundation for a story that thrives on using jealousy as the ultimate plot device towards tragedy.
From the first two paragraphs you may have anticipated a disturbingly thought-provoking tale that borders on nihilistic in its repulsive take on a classic Cinderella story? Unfortunately, Midori is far too preoccupied in featuring as much twisted imagery as possible, whether or not it has any relevance. As the disturbing content escalates into an intense inferno of immensely haunting images of absolute terror, the narration loses its initially morbid flare to incomprehensive, yet interesting slideshows that make it painfully clear that Hiroshi Harada's true passion lines in twisted artwork rather than storytelling.
I'll be seeing more of Midori's imaginative and repulsive imagery in my nightmares. The director who animated the movie single-handedly does not hide the fact that he treasures grotesque visual expression over beauty but by no means does it change the fact that his work is memorable and disturbing.
Movement is limited due to financial reasons and nobody would ever mistake Midori for anything but an independent feature, but the stills are skillfully animated to repulse and shock, questionable tasks that they nonetheless succeed in.
Despite suiting the material relatively well, Midori's soundtrack is surprisingly forgettable. Furthermore, given the controversial content it's no surprise that Harada had to rely on voice actors whose experiences must be close or equivalent to none as the performances throughout the movie are passable at most.
Contrary to Tod Browning's Freaks which portrayed deformed circus artists in a fairly humane and positive light, the characters in Midori are mostly repulsive enough to really warrant the derogatory term "freak". As they disregard any form of mutuality or decency in their sexual activities they work surprisingly fine as the semi-antagonists who abuse the poor and innocent Midori to the borders of madness.
She herself leads a tragic existence. There are some optimistic parts of her life, but they all end up inevitably defiled by those around her and without anything worth enduring seemingly perpetual misery for, she ends up in a pedophilic relationship with a magician whose strange magic sends the story into a surreal and twisted world. The characterization in Midori remains unambitious but can also be described as simplistically sufficient.
The word "pretentious" is constantly misused to describe anything intelligent or artistic regardless of its execution. This is one of the cases where it actually fits as Midori seems to regard itself as a visually distinguished journey determined to expose the cruelty of mankind and the darker territories of love, whilst only managing to deserve the first description. Viewers looking for something disturbing and morbidly fascinating would be wise to give this infamous sleazefest a chance while any other form of audience should avoid it at all cost.