Inran Naru Ichizoku: Daini-shō – Zetsurin no Hate ni, 2004
The sequel can’t ever be an easy thing going into. They inevitably come with baggage: anticipation and trepidation in wondering whether or not they can live up to past glory. Some films would have you believe that bigger is better, while others prefer the simpler ethos of building upon the characteristics that made the former so successful in the first place. In rarer instances, there’s the back-to-back workflow, which capitalizes on prior success by ensuring that audiences hungry for more wouldn’t have to wait long for their next fix of epic adventurism.
The Japanese Wife Next Door – Part 2 is astounding in a sense that director Yutaka Ikejima not only made a damn fitting follow-up (shot back-to-back with part 1) but he did both flicks in the space of five days. That kind of output isn’t uncommon for a single Pink movie, but it only makes you wonder just what directors like this – who understand how to maximize a shoestring budget – could do if they had more cash. I imagine the film industry would be in a better place for it.
TJWND 2 is, in fact, a loose sequel, owing itself more to the “What if…?” parallel universe concept than it does in further developing an already established roster of characters and events.
Mirroring the first feature with its shot of businessman Takeshi Ichinose (Naohiro Hirakata) expressing his want of a happily married life, TJWND 2 swiftly sets up the main storyline with our downtrodden fellow finding himself at a bar-meet sandwiched between two lovely lass’s in the form of Sakura (Reiko Yamaguchi) and Ryoko (Akane Yazaki). Struggling to decide between the two, Ryoko takes charge of the situation by shooing away the aggressive Sakura before whisking Takeshi away to a quieter spot, where they soon get a little more acquainted with one another.
Six months later and Takeshi and Ryoko are now married. Takeshi has moved in with her family, the father (Koji Makimura) of whom is a bit of a conspiracy theorist and runs a successful business – of which he never truly discloses – while her mother (Azusa Sakai) happily picks up the chores. Her sister Mina (Lemon Hanazawa), however, has been left in a mentally unstable condition ever since the death of her biological mother, which leaves Takeshi feeling all the more curious as the days pass. With not a great deal to do, Takeshi soon tires of sitting around and asks to be involved more in his new family’s business, but first, he’s going to have to fill out a life insurance policy. Things are about to get very strange indeed…
Whilst thematically similar to its predecessor (I should note that both films came out within months of each other), TJWND 2 is quite different tonally. This time, rather than the estranged wife awakening the family’s innermost sexual desires, we’re soon made aware that Ryoko’s kin are already raging masochists. The follow-up retains the same levels of oddball activity present in Ikejima’s first tale, but it gradually descends into far blacker territory with its shades of Takashi Miike and Kim Ji-wun as it crosses that fine line of what constitutes taboo – more so within its familial context – and blurs it with often uneasy realism and comic surrealism. Of course, TJWND 2 brings with it a rather outlandish plot, but it’s one that’s focused with an uncompromised determination via its underlying themes of social paranoia and depraved sexuality.
Ikejima’s direction certainly feels fresh from a standpoint that here he takes his comedy of errors and builds it up around a horror-like narrative, which unfolds through a gratifyingly mysterious build up; while there’s an ominous vibe strung throughout – backed up by Hitomi Oba’s low-key but haunting score, and some terrifically voyeuristic compositions – it’s never quite clear as to where the feature will end up on account of the director’s constant teasing. Despite its strangeness, the character transitions and motivations feel credible enough in Ikejima’s hands, and of course, it helps that we’ve most of the same cast returning, each of whom put their chameleon-like skills into creating another unforgettable family of misfits.
A perfect companion piece to its progenitor, The Japanese Wife Next Door – Part 2 is a bold and brave shift in direction from Yutaka Ikejima, who proves he’s a bit of a dab hand at mixing up his genres. Bizarre, tragic and loaded with the kind of sex you expect to see, you won’t be forgetting this one in too much of a hurry.