japanesedream_72: (melfina)
As most everyone knows by now, I have a deep, abiding affinity for any & all lore, literature, & cinema regarding vampires. In my heyday, I even wrote about them myself. So it stands to reason that I’ll watch pretty much any film on the subject. And with my fetish for Asian cinema, the chance to see a Japanese vampire story was one I just couldn’t pass up. Especially when the stars of said story are two of Japan’s most popular singers, Gackt & Hyde (both solo artists, & former frontmen for well-known bands Malice Mizer & L’Arc-en-Ciel, respectively).

Having read a couple of reviews for “Moon Child” (http://imdb.com/title/tt0365514/), one would think it’s just a flash-in-the-pan film, slick & glossy (particularly since Gackt co-wrote the story), with perhaps a bit of style but lacking anything major in the way of substance. Indeed, after a bittersweet opening scene, it did seem for a while like that was the direction it might be taking. But it isn’t terribly long before “Moon Child” turns completely serious, gets a lot more interesting, & ends up not so much a film as a debilitating emotional experience.

Made me wonder if they were watching the same movie I was.

It’s the eve of the Millennium, 12/31/2000, Tokyo. Two vampires fleeing from unseen human pursuers take refuge briefly in an alley. The elder vampire, Luka, professes to his worried fledgling, Kei (Hyde), that he is tired & wants to give up, to give himself to the sun. Wearily, he says he’d like to see the ocean one last time. Reluctantly, Kei takes him to the shore...

Some time passes (several years, in fact), & Kei is alone in a place called Mallepa. A fictional city somewhere near the Chinese border, Mallepa is largely populated by Japanese immigrants who were unable to cope with the economic downslide of their native land (bringing to mind the plot of Takashi Miike’s “Dead Or Alive”, & its depiction of the tense relationship between Chinese & Japanese cultures). The despondent Kei sits in a derelict building, caring little if the sun takes him. It is here that he meets a young boy named Sho, who, with his brother, Shinji, & friend, Toshi - all of whom are orphans - has stolen a suitcase full of cash from what I believe is a Chinese mafia big-wig. Shinji is shot & wounded when the victim of their thievery tracks them down, but Kei saves the boys from further harm by feasting on the bad guy. Shinji thinks Kei is a monster, but Sho - who earlier saved Kei from burning to ashes in the encroaching daylight - is unafraid.

And so their bond is cemented.

Flash forward several years. Sho (Gackt), Toshi (Taro Yamamoto, one of the participants in “Battle Royale”), & Kei comprise a gang of their own. (Shinji, who still has the limp from his childhood wound, hangs out on his roof, getting high & talking to the imaginary fish floating around his head. Sho has to bail him out when he can’t pay off the local syndicate.) They’re a little slice of crazy cool in leather jackets & tight trousers, dodging bullets & engaging in some fancy gun-work - especially Kei, whose vampiric reflexes allow him to have a sort of “Matrix” moment. (Toshi just delivers the drugged pizzas, to knock some of the opposing team out.)

During one particular shoot-out, Sho & Kei meet Son, a young Taiwanese who’d shown up to avenge the rape of his quasi-mute (she just stopped talking when she was a child) artist sister, Yi-Che. Afterwards, the little group - Sho, Kei, Toshi, Son, & Yi-Che (who tends to those wounded in the battle) - seem to be becoming fast friends. But for Kei, the fun he has with this happy contingent is as painful as it is enjoyable, & he begins pushing Sho away, urging him to live his own life.

Over the course of the film, years pass, tragedies strike (in droves!), situations change, alliances shift, & the dynamics of the relationship between some members of the group are altered forever. Yet through it all, the bond between Kei & Sho remains unbroken. And Kei’s struggle with immortality continues.

This is a truly remarkable & utterly heart-wrenching film, a visually striking piece that weighs heavy on the heart & lingers long in the mind. The acting all-around is great (J-horror lovers will no doubt recognise “Audition” & “Suicide Circle” alumnus Ryo Ishibashi in a cameo appearance as a detective), but at its core, it’s all about Gackt & Hyde, & these two are nothing short of fantastic. Their ability to evoke powerful emotions with their music (listen to something like L’Arc-en-Ciel’s “Finale”, the end title song to another tragic, beautiful film, “Ring 0”, & you’ll see what I mean) really shines through into their “Moon Child” performances as two connected, tortured souls. American singers-turned-actors rarely, if ever, pull off something so compelling.

Never, & I mean NEVER, have I cried so much during any movie, even the ones that left me in Blub City. Minutes into the Kei/Luka scenes, I was teary, & got misty-eyed several more times during the first portion of the film, crying a bit during one very sad scene. But before long, I was openly weeping at literally every other moment, reading out the subtitles (my grandpa, who watches all my movies with me, has trouble seeing the words sometimes) with tears streaming down my face, often with a sob in my throat, & quivering lips to boot. When it was over, I broke down & wept even harder.

And I loved every minute of it.

August 2017

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