As the Gods Will Review (2014)

As the Gods Will Review (2014)

English Title As the Gods Will
Japanese Title Kamisama no iu Toori
Kana Title 神さまの言うとおり
Director Takashi Miike
Release Date 2014
Distributor Toho Pictures

As the Gods Will literally opens with a bang. Unsatisfied with his mundane existence, high school student Shun prays to the gods for something, anything to make life more exciting. Just moments later he arrives at school to discover an evil daruma has replaced his teacher which then proceeds to explode the heads of every one of his classmates. Followed by a game in which other fellow students are forced to dress up as mice for a giant maneki neko, it’s safe to say this isn’t the excitement he was looking for. Unfortunately for Shun however the games have just begun and he’s about to lose a lot more friends before it’s over.

The most amazing thing about As The Gods Will is that in 2014, a film in which a hundred school kids are murdered by childrens games is considered ‘safe’ and ‘mainstream’ by Japanese standards. When Battle Royale hit the scene in 2000 film fans across the globe were both shocked and impressed by its raw brutality and biting criticism. Fourteen years and dozens of me-too death games later however, the narrative fails to surprise or appear quite as creative as it once did.

As the Gods Will has an incredibly strong start with the daruma and maneki neko games. As violent as they are funny, early scenes work thanks to a strong sense of humour that unfortunately evaporates once the film expects the audience to take its characters and their emotions seriously. I understand the film is an adaptation of a manga property but the cut out anime characters that have embedded themselves in Japanese horror (and cinema in general) have run their course. Standout moments include a female character pouting as the group are menaced by a kokeshi doll because her crush held another girl’s hand, and of course, the patented ‘protagonist shouts something about living, god and doing your best or something’ speech. At best it’s derivative, at worst, adolescent. Without characters that feel like real human beings the As the Gods Will’s episodic structure quickly tires.

The performances don’t help to breathe much life in to these tropes either. Ryunosuke Kamiki especially turns in an embarrassing performance as class psycho Takeru Amaya; a copy of Battle Royale’s Kakihara without an ounce of the restraint or presence. Every moment of the film it’s as if he’s posing for a shampoo ad and his pretty faced grimace fails to menace.  I understand why idols such as him dominate Japanese cinema, but it’s a major reason why Japanese cinema has lost much of its footing to Korea, which whilst having its own idols manages to keep its fantastic film industry somewhat separate and prospers because of it.

The film also ends on quite the cliffhanger which will no doubt frustrate a good portion of the audience, especially considering that two years later we still don’t have the sequel. It’s a shame too, as Nao ‘Ichi the Killer’ Omori’s Takumi, a character teased as one of the protagonists for the next film, who captured my interest more in his 2 minute screen time than the other characters managed the entire film. At this point it’s debatable whether a sequel will ever surface, but for those wanting more can always check out the second series manga which started last year.

On the positive end, Miike’s now regular DP Nobuyasu Kita shoots the film with his usual colourful, creative flair. Lifting Miike’s output to new, polished heights starting with Crows Zero 2, his work continues to impress here as he creates a believable, stylish reality that could reasonably contain such murderous trinkets. That said the film feels very anonymous, baring very few of Takashi Miike’s hallmarks, which is in extreme contrast to his Yotsuya Kaidan adaptation, Over Your Dead Body, released in the same year.

With more visually exhilarating set pieces than most films As the Gods Will isn’t completely without merit. However, with its bland characters and equally uninspiring performances the film struggles to be anything more than a series of interesting vignettes. Ultimately if you’re looking for something new from the ‘death game’ subgenre of Japanese horror, check out Sion Sono’s Tag.

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Craig Hatch
Craig Hatch 41 posts

<p>Horror Japan is Craig Hatch, a Brit currently living in Tokyo, Japan. Horror Japan is a project that aims to review and collate media from all aspects of Japanese horror culture.</p>

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Editor review

Rating
3/5

3

Average
3
Summary

With more visually exhilarating set pieces than most films As the Gods Will isn’t completely without merit. However, with its bland characters and equally uninspiring performances the film struggles to be anything more than a series of interesting vignettes. Ultimately if you’re looking for something new from the ‘death game’ sub-genre of Japanese horror, check out Sion Sono’s Tag.