Nearly a year ago I read several relatively recent translated novels of modern female Japanese writers, including Hitomi Kanehara's Snakes and Earrings, Ami Sakurai's Innocent World, Mari Akasaka's Vibrator and Randy Taguchi's Outlet, or Concent in the original Japanese. While of course vastly different than each other, each one of these novels brims with violence and sexuality. Some might consider these works to be quite banal; Kanehara's novella won the Akutagawa Prize, but is still seemingly vacuous, but they do show a bit of the expansiveness of women's literature in Japan for those who have primarily read Yoshimoto Banana in the West or maybe older writers such as Enchi Fumiko, Takahashi Takako, or Uno Chiyo.
While I enjoyed reading each novel to various degrees, Taguchi's novel stood out the most because of her acute descriptions of violence, including domestic violence, and contemporary social ills such as hikikomori, 引き篭もり, or shut-ins who have cut themselves off from the world and live a solitary life in their rooms within their parents' homes. The main character of Concent, deliberate misspelling, is the sister of a hikikomori.
Yuki, Ichikawa Miwako, is a freelance finance writer whose love of stocks does not equal a love of money. Completely willing to admit that she is a loose woman, Yuki sleeps around quite a bit and infatuates the men who become intimate with her, but holds them at a distance once the deed is done. After one such lovemaking episode, Yuki receives a call from home informing her that her brother Taka has killed himself. However, after talking to her abusive father and emotionally wrecked mother, Yuki learns that her brother did not kill himself in a conventional way. After renting a new apartment, Taka seemingly gave up on life and spent his remaining days consuming junk food and reading manga unwilling to make the effort to live. When his body was discovered it was already in a state of advanced decomposition. Yuki and her father travel to the apartment and they see clotted mass of blood and maggots where Taka's body had decomposed. There, of course, Yuki is overwhelmed by the great stench of death and has a hard time of cleansing herself of the smell. However, it is this episode that triggers visual hallucinations in which she begins to see her brother Taka and even their old pet dog Shiro who had been killed by her father with a baseball bat. Another important event that occurred at the apartment was that Yuki noticed that her brother had left the vacuum plugged in. The vacuum had never been used as if Taka had given up on life after this last action.
Having hallucinations and now able to smell decay and disease on people, she is able to tell that her cameraman Kimura has cancer in a very early stage of the disease, Yuki seeks the help of an old professor named Kunisada with whom she had a relationship that was far from just professional. Through a series of flashbacks the viewer learns more of Yuki and Taka's past and how these events of the past created the broken lives of a sister and her older brother.
While I did enjoy the novel of Concent, the film fell pretty flat because it seems to jump from scene to scene without really tying them together which makes the movie seem episodic instead of one cohesive whole. While this could be a viewed as being more artistic in some films with this film it comes off as a bit heavy handed. Characters are introduced randomly and are pale comparisons to their novelistic counterparts and some seem to have no other purpose but to be sex partners with Yuki. A pretty bland film overall, Concent, in my opinion, should be passed over for more worthwhile films.
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