With a love for the sick and twisted, Midori holds the tempting promise of a tale built entirely from the perplexing macabre of manga artist, Maruo Suehiro’s, crazed mind. The allure from comments of the show being the most depraved and vile animation to surface from Japan piqued my curiosity with their forbidden promise.
Opening in a dark and depressing rundown suburb, a young girl called Midori sells flowers to raise money to feed herself and her sick mother. Pursued by the owner of a travelling circus, she is offered a better life in which she will be cared for and able to live comfortably. Events take a swift downturn, and the true guro nature of the creator's freakish nightmare is revealed; the psychological devastation of Midori within the freak show will have a varied reaction, depending on how tolerant the viewer is to cruelty. Leaving no subject taboo, Midori depicts graphic rape, violence and sexual fetish that will appeal to an extremely small minority of the anime community. Much of this horrendous spectacle will remain with you for a long time – the eyeball licking scene has become infamous for this exact reason.
With the initial disturbing events out of the way, Midori reveals a vaguely interesting plot with an unlikely love story at its heart. The young heroine finds herself drawn towards the newest member of the circus – a midget wizard named Wonder Masanitsu who can contort himself through the neck of a bottle; with a mysterious past and dangerous magical power, the dwarf is intriguing but shows a softer side to Midori. The introduction of this new character causes some interesting jealousy to propagate throughout the rest of the troupe, especially when he proclaims Midori as his own. A twisted relationship blossoms – almost to the point of being creepy, with the implied age difference being significant – and the two start to plan a contented future together.
Sick and twisted does not breed happiness, and so the show concludes with a visually perplexing montage of symbolic tragedy. I can’t pretend to understand the ending, or the rest of the show for that matter; Maruo’s gruesome creation weaves together a confused assortment of old reel films, postcards and explicit sexual violence. Only the most astute and devoted viewer will fully appreciate Midori – taking it at face value will causing analogies to be missed and much of the directors intentions to be lost. As cleverly obscure this show is, I found the repugnant imagery to be too distracting, leaving me feeling unsettled and a sick to the stomach.
Described by some as a kami shibai or paper play, the traditional Japanese influences are apparent throughout the show, especially in the characterisation. Mixing together different styles and creative ideas from the original manga works, the entire movie was created singlehandedly by one man over five years – a feat which deserves recognition. The contrast of bold colours and delicately detailed artwork is genuinely stunning, probably to a fault, as the horrific contorted forms of victims of the circus take on a life of their own.
The unusual soundtrack of the show is very fitting with an atmospheric feeling of a carnival Wurlitzer serenading the freakish performers. Although structurally simplistic, it is not memorable and does not suit the unusual artwork. Suffering from poor recording quality, the voice acting has some very apparent flaws; sounding hollow and tinny, it has a reverberating echo that attests to the limited budget. The amateur cast struggle to bring alive the characters, adding to the sense of “wrongness” to the overall audio.
Midori is weak and helpless; used for pleasure by others and having her dreams trampled to satisfy the jealousy of her lover, you never see any development or backbone as she is subjected to ritual humiliation. The fear of abandonment keeps her tied to the circus, and with no future or happiness on the horizon, she clings to the next best thing – a menagerie of freakish human beings, but the closest thing to a family she has. From the snake-like contortionist, to the gender bending gymnast, they are all depraved individuals who thrive on the suffering of others.
By far, the most intriguing individual is Masanitsu, the dwarf. I still have mixed feelings about this character – on the one hand, he uses cruelty to keep Midori by his side, but at the same time he shows her love and grants her peculiar but blissful visions. Using his dark magic to control people, he bestows love on those he believes worthy and causes sickening nightmares for those he doesn’t. The supporting cast's vicious and despicable treatment of Midori leaves a bitter taste in the mouth – the explicit and vulgar acts come as second nature, but will probably alienate the viewer from the peculiar onscreen happenings.
Regardless of stunning artwork and fascinating characters, I still found myself walking away from this show with nothing but the graphic violence and tormented visions. Maybe I “didn’t get it”, but a show that relies on degrading sexual deeds and outlandish carnage to gain reputation did not deserve concentration and focus to unravel the knotted plot. Outstanding for many reasons (some of them not good), Midori could have been a lot more, but the frequency and intensity of abhorrent scenes will not sit well with the majority of anime lovers.
I just HAD to ignore your warning and watch it for myself.
I just watched this and I actually liked this movie quite a bit. Not enough of the freaky stuff is animated nowadays, whether for good or bad is really up to the anime fan. Me, I like freaky shit to be animated, saves me the trouble of being emotionally scarred by live action horror movies. I read the source material --Mr. Arashi's Freak Circus or whatever--beforehand so I knew what was going to happen more or less.
I actually found the relationship between Mananitsu and Midori to be oddly ...cute. I mean at the point that he arrives in the story Midori has been used and abused so many times that the fact that she doesn't consider sex with him to be dirty and repulsive is kind of remarkable inofitself. It's still wrong, I know, but it's the late 1800s, and he genuinely cares for Midori and protects her, and despite the age difference I can kind of let it slide because of those factors. He's basically her adoptive father and lover, and that kind of support is obviously absent from her life.
I'm just amazed that this whole thing was finished by just one guy over 5 years. Thats some dedication.
I just re-read this great review. And once again, totally agree.
I'm going to check this out. I think somebody who is offended by any kind of media should not review it, though. That casts a negative light on anime for people who may actually be able to stomach the graphic scenes, and not everybody who watches things of a grotesque nature from time to time is a monster. Curiosity doesn't always kill the cat. For some of us, it opens our minds to a greater level of understanding and openness towards all kinds of narratives.