An environmental analyst is asked by the police to determine if two deaths by hydrogen sulfide poisoning are an accident - or a murder. But when he meets a young woman at both sites, a scientific mystery begins.
I had my doubts about this TV series before watching it, but I managed to pluck up the willpower to sit through 3 hours plus of Miike's take on the schoolkids-go-crazy genre. The first thing that struck me was that it was a comedy, rather than a straightforward horror. Instead of splattering noxious Japanese teenagers all over the walls like Battle Royale, or intellectualising the angst like Lily Chou Chou, Miike just sets about the conventions with a pickaxe handle. He seems to know instinctively when the sugar shutdown is approaching, and how to kick-start the adrenalin rush when the pace starts to flag. Sharp direction that works well in the TV medium. I would guess that this series was popular across a fairly wide age spectrum in Japan. The kids because the teen cuties get to kick plenty of tender parts and giggle a lot, and the adults for the undercurrent of sly dark humour and nifty dissection of Idol culture. 500 days might seem like a lifetime when you're young.
Overall, it flags a bit in the middle section, but picks up nicely when Miike brings out the coloured filters and bizarre sfx for the last act. I love that Yokohama big wheel, and I guess Miike does too, because it got a starring role in MPD Psycho. Some of the offbeat stylistic touches from Tennen Shujo Mahn seem to have been taken to their natural conclusion in the MPD series. The digital snowflakes, the coloured skies, and the heavily treated piano music being prime examples.
It's not great, compared to the majority of Miike's back catalogue, but it's fun to watch, whether you have a thing for asskicking teens in sailor suits or not. The two female leads are decent actresses, and considering that most of the cast were making their screen debuts, they all turn in fairly decent performances. One or two toe-curlingly awful transformation scenes notwithstanding.
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