Saying Japanese Movies are weird and then acting like it’s the biggest discovery in the world is a pretty stupid thing to do because that’s already a given. Most popular Japanese Movies in either the Mainstream or Cult Departments are chock full of some of the craziest shit ever put on film and that’s why Japanese Movies are awesome. Whenever you feel the need to have the best of both American and European cinema in one place, Japanese Movies never fail to deliver both the popcorn entertainment and the reflections that the aforementioned kinds of cinema hold respectively. But there are times when the weird shit gets way too ahead of itself and fucks things up for the movie, case in point AS THE GODS WILL, which was based on the manga of the same name that I never read.
The movie starts off with the Obligatory Bonkers As Fuck Premise that a lot of Japanese Movies begin with, and sure enough AS THE GODS WILL fires its gun blazing right at the fucking start with a pretty damn creative starting point for the story: For reasons that will be revealed later on, the entire student body of a Japanese school is forced to play a supernatural BATTLE ROYALE kind of game where they must win to survive and move on to the next round. With that obvious comparison being made, one would expect the same amount of character depth and humanity the previously mentioned movie that stupid people think ripped off HUNGER GAMES had to be present in AS THE GODS WILL but that’s not the case. Instead of having Human Beings fight for their lives against the backdrop of some of the craziest shit seen in a movie from the year 2014, AS THE GODS WILL instead puts a Cast of Anime Stereotype Rejects at front and center while the crazy shit goes on as planned.
Now the obvious defense here would be that this movie’s based on a manga so what the fuck was I expecting, right? To be fair, I never read this particular manga but I’ve read my fair share of Japanese Graphic Story Telling and I know damn well what a fucking Overused Stereotype smells like. Manga roots aside, AS THE GODS WILL never took the chance to edit these stereotypes that plague the medium and this ended up screwing up any semblance of humanity these characters could’ve had.
Here, our main character is the typical Misunderstood Loser With No Personality (let’s just call him Loser for short) who somehow gets all the girls to like him and becomes the fucking linchpin of the story despite the fact that he is nothing but a blank slate. Speaking of which, did I mention that Loser just so happens to be a motherfucking prodigy of sorts? It’s not even simple street smarts at work; the dude somehow figures out a lot of shit in the snap of a finger even when previously, he’s shown to be a fucking Slacker at academics. He’s not completely stupid or dumb but it’s pretty fucking hard to buy the idea that someone who sleeps through all his classes can somehow figure out the patterns behind the Life Or Death Game he’s in while running around and dodging deadly attacks from massive foes. All he lacks is a Hero Complex the size of the fucking Tokyo Tower and he could have his own Harem Anime.
Surviving with him are a pair of Potential Love Interests who have somehow fallen for Loser, some Expendable Noise Makers that only bitch throughout the duration of their scenes and the Required Murderous Philosopher seen in every fucking anime/manga storyline that deals with philosophical themes. Why writers always feel the need to shoehorn some Invincible Pretentious Motherfucker who can only speak in shitty monologues derived from college Philosophy 101 classes about how life is shit or how killing is fun is beyond me but whatever the case, if you’ve seen this kind of idiot in an anime you saw before, you’ve seen all of them. In the case of AS THE GODS WILL, Required Murderous Philosopher tries to pull a Col. Kurtz on Loser by claiming that they’re one and the same: killers in disguise who want the world to be as fucked up as possible. He goes on throughout the movie being the same one-note wanker he was from the very start, always fucking shit up because he gets a hard-on and blabbing about how cool killing is. If the writing was tighter and more intent on showing a fucked up and deranged human being like the Joker from THE DARK KNIGHT instead of making a Walking Mouthpiece for all the misunderstood Nietzsche lessons the writers remembered from their good old days, maybe Required Murderous Philosopher would’ve been a more interesting character but instead all we have is an idiot that deserves a truck up his dickhole for every time he spoke in the dialect of Pretentious Shit Lecturing. Even if the movie was supposed to be the kind of story where the scenario only serves as the driving background element to make the viewers examine the characters similar to what CUBE did, AS THE GODS WILL has a cast of blank fuckers whose interactions with each other (even if engaging at times) is not enough to salvage the fucking movie.
While its Cast of Morons is enough to tank the damn story into Forgettable Territory, the most gaping hole in AS THE GODS WILL is the mystery. There’s no denying that the build up and mystery behind the games are done well but the final payoff is completely pointless. I won’t spoil jackshit but the movie doesn’t even bother giving a proper explanation as to why things happened in the first place and just what the fuck is the importance of winning the fucking games in the first place, rendering two hours of leads and questions null and void since there isn’t even a proper answer waiting at the end. I’m not looking for an easy answer nor do I want Miike to spoon-feed the audience with some hamfisted pretentious social/life commentary in the vein of SUICIDE CLUB but even a HINT of why the fuck these bloody games occurred in the first place would be a hell lot better instead of the cinematic version of “Whatever.” A good Mystery/Thriller would give a semblance of an answer even if all the pieces aren’t in place but what AS THE GODS WILL gives is a meager one letter clue written on a shitty piece of paper that’s causing the fucking ink to fade away. It’s as if the writers were too busy making the games as crazy as possible that they forgot to make the characters believable and throw in a fucking ending while they were at it. And by judging the final product, that idea isn’t too far off.
AS THE GODS WILL has its moments, though. Thanks to the distinctly fucked up visual style of Miike, there are some scenes that range from darkly humorous to outright disturbing but Miike being Miike thankfully never goes overboard. While it can be considered “safe” when compared to more brutal shit like ICHI THE KILLER, AS THE GODS WILL still has some memorable scenes that will make you wonder just what the fuck the original manga’s writer was smoking when he thought it would be a fun idea to make people’s faces explode into red marbles. The games themselves are a blast, as shitty as the participants are. Twists and turns come out of nowhere so even if you know how certain character arcs would end two seconds after the damn thing’s introduced, you’ll always be left guessing who’s going to die next and how the cast will beat the game currently in front of them. Leave it to Takashi Miike (the man behind SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO and ICHI THE KILLER, just to name a few) to keep the thrills and adrenaline pumping for two hours with no breaks in sight even if the final product isn’t really worth wasting two hours for.
There are better things to do with two hours of your life than watch this piece of shit waste of time so do yourselves a favor and go look for Miike’s other works, like AUDITION. That movie aged a bit but even if it’s not as jarring as it was when it first came out, it’s still a fucksight better than watching this useless montage of noise and shit.