Fantasia 2015 Review: Sono Sion's TAG, Sure There Are Lots Of Japanese Girls In It, But...
Sono Sion's Tag opens with two busloads of Japanese school girls on a trip. It's all soft focus sweetness and light until the buses are attacked by an unseen force - literally a killer wind - and shy teen Mitsuko finds herself the lone survivor, running for her life. Every person she encounters in flight meets the same bloody fate from this fatal wind until Mitsuko stumbles onto some school grounds where she meets Aki. She is apparently her friend despite Mitsuko being unable to recall anything. Everyone presumes that she has experienced some kind of amnesia. When she skips first period with the girls one of them suggest that maybe Mitsuko is travelling between parallel universes. Food for thought.
But when they return to school another massacre of teenage girls begins and Mitsuko flees and finds herself in another one of these universes, though she is now Keiko and she should be at the church preparing for her wedding day. Then after another assault on women begins in the church Keiko flees and becomes track and field runner Izumi. And because we are sensing a trend here the runners of this race get attacked and Izumi eventually flees into a cavern where she reverts back to Mitsuko. There Mitsuko discovers what is really happening around her and is left with only one devastating course of action in response to this revelation.
Around the 45 minute mark I realize, wait a minute, I have not seen a single male character yet. Each world or reality is populated predominantly by teenage women. The first male character we see comes in the second act. It is Keiko's groom to be and he has a grotesque pig head on, presumably giving us a heads up on what is to come. More male characters will come in the third act - a decrepit old man in the cavern and a handful of men hanging out in an alley, looking at a poster of our three girls, some fondling themselves, and that is when Sono will reveal his supposed social commentary.
The gist of Sono Sion's Tag is this. As a woman, you are a man's play thing. You exist solely for male pleasure. And if you don't like it, kill yourself. Women cannot overcome any act of objectification by empowerment, only by a cowardly act of ultimate surrender. Now it becomes really difficult to defend this film because honestly, how can you even begin to defend that worldview?
If intended as satire, Tag is hamstrung by Sono's own well developed tendencies towards fetishizing women. This feels more along the lines of an apologetic than a criticism, with everything leading up to the revelation at the end of Tag aimed at the pleasure centers of creepy dudes. It has loads of stylish violence, all of it against women. There are a ludicrous number of up-skirt shots in the first act and a church full of underwear laden beauties in the second, all of it culminating in references to gaming in the third act, which, in the past year and a half alone, is an industry that has had its image tarnished by a few meatheads, or, has been exposed for its overall poor attitude towards women.
If this was meant to be satirical then Sono implodes on himself in such cowardly fashion with an enormously unsatisfying ending.
Tag is ultimately Sono Sion's bastardization of Yusuke Yamada's novel "Real Onigokko" for the purpose of perpetrating his own worldview, something that you can see throughout his body of work. The use of telekinetic powers to lift skirts and personal masturbators in his recent television series All Esper Dayo! for one, to say nothing of the general prevalence of rape fetish through a large handful of other titles (the recent Tokyo Tribe). It's the glibness to the worldview that's the most troubling thing here ... women are ultimately disposable and not worth considering? Sure, but wheeee! Looking up their skirts sure is fun!
You know the saying 'two steps forward one step back'? For every 'one' step forward that Sono has taken this year, Love & Peace was a huge favorite at Fantasia this year though I don't share nearly everyone's enthusiasm for it, he's taken 'two' steps back with Tag.