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Original Title:
Riaru Onigokko

Japan 2015

Horror, Drama

Sion Sono

Reina Triendl
Mariko Shinoda
Erina Mano
Yuki Sakurai
Maryjun Takahashi
Sayaka Isoyama
Ami Tomite
Aki Hiraoka
Makoto Kikuchi
Mika Akizuki

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Story: Mitsuko (Reina Triendl) and her class are on a bus on their way to a holiday camp. Everyone is already in a very happy mood and Mitsuko is writing a poem. When she accidentally drops her pen and bends down to pick it up this saves her life. In that very moment a sudden blade of wind cuts the school bus in half. All of her classmates are instantly dead. Mitsuko is absolutely shocked and runs away, because the wind seems to follow her. After the strange presence doesn't seem to be around anymore, she is suddenly approached by a schoolgirl, Aki (Yuki Sakurai), who introduces herself as her best friend. Aki takes her with her to school, but it isn't Mitsuko's school. The girls in class, who seem to be her friends, simply believe that she suffers from amnesia and Mitsuko can also slowly accept that maybe all of this was just a bad dream after all. But another tragedy strikes and suddenly the schoolgirl is in the body of Keiko (Mariko Shinoda), who is just about to marry. Nothing makes any sense anymore, but Aki appears once again and promises to give answers.

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Review: The joyful trip on a bus with a class of schoolgirls on a wonderfully sunny day oozes out so much lust for life that you are just waiting for something incredibly horrible to happen. And Sion Sono doesn't disappoint. Since his "Suicide Club" we haven't seen such a gory and brutal movie from him. You won't be able to erase the first kill scene from the beginning out of your head until the very end. And from that moment on the movie barely gives you a breather. "Tag" is an exploitation movie, filled with bizarre killings and many panty shots of schoolgirls. While you are desperately trying to find some sort of a red thread in this chaos, which doesn't seem to make any sense, you are taking a trip into a surreal world at which end a message awaits you that actually manages to give the film substance. Something you are normally looking for in the genre to no avail.

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I have to confess: I almost overlooked what kind of a small gem is hidden within this flick. Director Sion Sono makes it easy for us, though, to show him no goodwill in the beginning. While his other movies want to convey some sort of message with all the blood and despair from the very get-go "Tag" goes so much over the top that you can only desperately scratch your head. Female teachers who slaughter their students with a minigun? A groom with a pig's head? And even more panty shots? Nothing makes any sense here and we are almost angry that it will be impossible for the director to come up with a twist at the end which with one final puzzle piece ultimately manages to create a wonderful painting. No, Sion Sono doesn't succeed in doing that.

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However, he doesn't have to! Because the message he wants to convey is woven through the whole movie! Sion Sono is used to being crizicized for glamorizing his female heroines while at the same time portraying them as sex objects. Let me just remind you of "Love Exposure", a wonderfully moving and epic love story. But the panty shots? The director has a whole lot of fun taking a peek up schoolgirls' skirts, but that doesn't make him any different than most other guys. In "Tag" he indulges in his numerous passions once again. But this time his explorative shots stand as a caricature of themselves! Yes, "Tag" is a horror drama which denunciates society and accordingly itself for portraying women as objects. Women merely serve the purpose to be men's toys. They aren't free to choose their fate themselves.

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Consequently, Sion Sono's female protagonists are constantly running away. What Mitsuko is actually running away from is also quite a multi-layered subject. After all, it may be growing-up, which will force the role of a woman on her. And at some point it begins to dawn on us what's so odd about "Tag". Well, apart from the many absolutely obvious oddities, of course. Until the final act there are only women or those who are on the way of becoming one to be seen in the movie. And isn't it symptomatic that they have to fight each other in order to survive? And this even though the real enemy only becomes visible towards the end? Can Mitsuko stand her ground against that enemy? Without telling too much: "Tag" is very cynical and somehow depressing as well. The ending isn't really an exception. And isn't that fantastic considering that at its surface "Tag" looks like a simple fun movie with a lot of violence and gore?

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Apart from that Sion Sono tries to pick up on other important questions as well. Is our fate predestined? Maybe we just need to be completely spontaneous in order to free us of our shackles? The director throws some of these messages at us a bit too heavy-handedly and the twist is a bit awkward despite its intended surrealism. Wonderful to look at, on the other hand, are some of the scenes made by using drones which give the movie some nice energy. The handcamera shots manage to convince thanks to hd resolution and colors as well. Most of the cgi effects also don't need to hide. The only thing left to say is that "Tag" features a lot of the same madness and brilliancy that already characterized the aforementioned "Suicide Club". The film just doesn't reach the same level since we aren't that emotionally involved in the events. However, especially with its meta nature and its criticism on male-oriented society and himself as part of it (!) Sion Sono manages to impress once again.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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