I’m very much torn when it comes to modern Japanese trash-cinema. I hate how forced it all feels as it desperately panders to Western audiences who gag and beg for their dose of Japan’s signature weirdness. There’s generally a soullessness to its heavily graded footage and often digitally enhanced or entirely digital effects. That said, I often have a guiltily good time with a handful of these sorts of films, and I can’t help but respect the skills of someone like Yoshihiro Nishimura. Nishimura has an overwhelmingly enormous list of films to his name as a make-up artist. He has worked on films as mainstream as Attack on Titan (2015) and as odd as Rubber’s Lover (1996). As a director and writer, he began as a teenager and has delivered some of the most recognisable Japanese genre films of the 2000s and 2010s: Helldriver (2010), the fun Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl (2009), and, most famously, Tokyo Gore Police (2008). His segment (the concluding “Z”) for The ABCs of Death (2012) was easily one of its better shorts. Though Nishimura represents everything that troubles me about modern Japanese movies, I, very much hypocritically, get a decent-sized kick out of his films. Let’s turn back the clock a couple of decades and see what Nishimura was making in his late twenties…
original title: 限界人口係数 (Genkai jinkô keisû)
Japan, 1995, Yoshihiro Nishimura
The source material for Nishimura’s more widely known Tokyo Gore Police, Anatommia Extinction is very much a film of its time portraying claustrophobia and misanthropy in a way only 1990s Japan knew how to deliver. We follow a bleached-blonde, stressed out salaryman (Kisei Ishizuka), who is later referred to as “the Engineer”, as he slips into the hell of an overcrowded, near-future Tokyo. A wave of killings have started to spread across the city — something television news programs laud as an excellent approach to population control. In amongst reports of overpopulation, our heroic salaryman begins to receive messages both from television and a marauding maniac encouraging him to take matters into his own hands. With a bit of prodding and some body horror lunacy, the Engineer begins a violent career in crowd control bringing destruction to the human “rats” that populate the streets of Tokyo.
There’s nothing subtle about Anatomia Extinction, nor is it particularly intelligent. Unlike the films of Tsukamoto, its commentary is not in the subtext but relentlessly punching you in the face, every second of its running time. But I have to respect its commitment, and I do have a certain penchant for this kind of bleak Japanese futuristic hand-wringing.
Anatomia Extinction, running at a meek fifty minutes, is surprisingly slow, but it does contain flashes of brilliance. Though it apes Tsukamoto shamelessly with its sped-up footage, mixture of video and film, and blue-tinted imagery, Nishimura and cinematographers Yûji Kojima and Toshihiro Nakane undoubtedly have talents in the sound and vision department. Derisive though it may be, it mostly works.
Then there’s the special effects, executed by Nishimura himself. The gooey, gory effects are awesome. One choice moment where a skinned girl, dangling upside down, sucks the finger of the Engineer (a throw back to an earlier scene) even made me feel a little ill. The Cronenbergian body horror stuff is also excellent. Anatomia Extinction is like Videodrome fan fiction that goes much further than its source material, into the realm of the absurd and stupid, with spongy body parts flying out of fleshy weapons. It’s pretty great.
Even its CGI, which shows up in the opening sequence and in a few cutaways throughout the film, is quite fun. The animation is not attempting to portray any kind of realism and has an almost artful quality to it. I’m no fan of digital effects, but here the CGI is kept far away from the practical effects — far from the modern day Japanese genre film, which leans more towards digital in the gore department.
Anatomia Extinction is difficult to recommend. It certainly shouldn’t be anybody’s introduction to this particular breed of Japanese cinema. It’s slow, unoriginal and clumsy. But I liked it. I liked it a lot. It has an aesthetic that I’m naturally drawn to, and no matter how many similarly themed, nihilistic 90s Japanese films I watch, I never seem to get sick of this type of movie. You can probably tell from the screenshots alone if Anatomia Extinction is for you, but even if you don’t dig it, it’s only fifty minutes of your life. Give it a shot if you can find it. Sadly, it’s never had an official DVD release, so keep your eyes on YouTube for it to rear its ugly, goo-spattered face.