Urban legends. Everybody loves them. I love them, you love them. Tons of fun, scary as hell, often disgusting. Good times.
As I mentioned once before, people tend now to call them contemporary legends, because, for one thing, they often have nothing at all to do with urban environments. But more importantly, the only thing that really sets them apart from any other kind of legend–and even this is arguable–is that they happened much closer in time and space to the person telling them. The eternal Friend of a Friend is a major hallmark of contemporary legends, emphasizing how close they are (it could, and very likely will, happen to you).
And these things are scary, largely because they are contemporary. Contemporary just means “at the same time,” or, more commonly, “right the hell now.”
So now for a case study, sort of.
Evidently, hikikomori is a name for a relatively common condition among youngish Japanese folks. Think Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys (a reference which many among my generation, myself included, likely only know thanks to that awful Bare Naked Ladies song).
I had never heard of hikikomori until a year or two ago. Sometime in the dim reaches of like 2009, I came across a video on YouTube that I found to be a pretty cool exploration of Japanese horror. Before I go any further, here it is. It seems pretty polarizing: you’ll either find it scary, or you’ll find it ridiculous. Either way, hopefully you’ll enjoy it (this is part one of four).
When I first saw this I didn’t even realize that one of the central figures’ names–Mori Hikiko–was a play on the psychological condition mentioned above. It took my Japanese lady friend to explain that part to me, which didn’t happen for quite some time after my first viewing of the film.
I really don’t know what the connection is between this film, which seems to reference a “real” urban legend, and the actual condition that drives people to shut themselves away for months or years at a time. Better minds than mine will have to address that issue. But it is interesting that the film, at any rate, has all the makings of a contemporary legend, such as the contemporary setting, and the references to real social issues (domestic abuse, parental neglect, elevators, uh… breakfast cereals…?). It also fits in nicely with the larger J-horror niche of horror films.
I’m interested to know what you think of this film. Do you find it frightening or silly? I admit that the style of animation is perhaps too cartoony to be really scary, but something about it did manage to get under my skin.