Japan certainly has its intriguing fascinations, and one of my favorites has to be guro manga. It’s an intensely graphic, perverted form of comics that combines extreme violence with sexual sadism for a truly grotesque reading experience (I’ve written about it in more detail over at Guts & Grog). Luckily, the guro genre isn’t strictly limited to manga either, because Mai-chan’s Daily Life: The Movie takes Waita Uziga’s original story and adapts it to the screen in a film that doesn’t technically reach Category III levels but still manages to include bodily fluids, lots of blood, and quite a few surreal visual techniques.
Most of the films in Redemption Films’ oeuvre tend to be older horror releases, but Mai-chan’s Daily Life: The Movie is relatively new, released in 2014 in Japan. Sade Sato writes and directs this adaptation, although Uziga’s influence is certainly all over this release considering he supervised its creation. Surprisingly, this is the first and only film attributed to Sato – which may actually be a penname considering Mai-chan‘s subject matter.
The film follows Miyako (Miyako Akane), a younger woman who seeks a job as a maid for a man known only as Master (Shogo Maruyama); of course, because this is Japan, the maids are all measured nude to ensure properly-fitting maid attire. Miyako quickly meets Mai-chan (An Koshi), another maid at the household who has apparently been fetishized as part of her job – Kaede (Soaco Roman), Master’s right-hand woman, forces her to drink milk from the floor like a cat in front of Master just for the pleasure of it. Most sane people would rather quit their job than submit to that kind of punishment, but Miyako kind of likes the taboos associated with working as a maid, and she stays on to experience all kinds of horrors in the house.
While Japan has its fair share of over-the-top Category III films, Sato’s Mai-chan doesn’t get that explicit, and it’s much more tame in comparison to Uziga’s manga. Instead, Sato focuses more on nudity – An Koshi in particular, who is naked for a majority of the film – and odd visual footage that attempts to imitate the off-kilter feeling that guro manga can provide, as though the storyline takes place in an alternate reality. It’s an interesting approach, with colorful imagery and heavy contrast that blurs the footage, but it also often becomes too off-putting to the viewer and adds little to the plot itself.
Mai-chan’s Daily Life: The Movie is short, so it doesn’t take long for Sato to get to the meat of the story. Mai-chan has some strange metabolism that allows her body to regenerate no matter the kind of injury, and so her primary use at Master’s house is as a human experiment. Master and Kaede get pleasure out of torturing her body, and Sato doesn’t shy away from showing the pain Mai-chan experiences day to day. But the real theme here involves Miyako, a relatively normal girl exposed to this crazy scenario who ultimately gets sucked into the masochism as well.
This is what guro manga does best; it takes a fatalistic view of humanity and puts it on display in an over-the-top, often humorous manner, reveling in violence and absurdity. Reading guro gives a weird feeling; it’s inappropriate but alluring, focusing on the darkness and obsession present in humanity. Mai-chan does the same, showing how even the most normal people on the surface can harbor darkness underneath; it normalizes masochism, even going so far as establishing a relationship between torturer and tortured.
Mai-chan’s Daily Life: The Movie is never able to achieve the same effect that manga-ka like Uziga or Shintaro Kago evoke from their drawn works, mostly because it isn’t able to explore the surrealities of pen-and-paper imagery. Sato’s work could use a bit more editing; even at only 63 minutes, it’s a little too long in its opening scenes, and the plot works better when the viewer doesn’t have any connection to the strange characters.
Still, fans of ero guro will find things to like about the film even if it’s just because it’s adapted from Uziga’s infamous manga work; the gore and body effects are fairly well done despite the film’s low budget, and An Koshi, Miyako Akane, and Soaco Roman are good sports about the atrocities they’re forced to endure. Mai-chan’s Daily Life: The Movie isn’t the best adaptation of guro manga, but it’s serviceable enough to recommend to those interested in the format.
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