This is my review of the movie “Day of Destruction” which I saw at the theater with my wife.
In the future, the world’s Governments are not able to control the people and the people who are not being controlled are getting more aggressive. The ring of ownership has been expanded as the people are being controlled by a device that can increase their aggression. They are given several choices to either kill themselves or kill others in order to escape the pain that will come to them. Things will never be the same in this film.
CW: Mention of sexual violence
What happens when we lose our knowledge of the past?
What if we lose sight of what’s happening now?
Is something the matter?
Those are the questions Toshiaki Toyoda asks in his informal Wolf Mountain trilogy, consisting of the 2019 short film Wolf Call and the 2020 film Day of Destruction. Despite some common locations and actors, The Call of the Wolf and Day of Destruction differ radically in tone, plot, and social themes. While this is a testament to Toyoda’s versatility, there is unfortunately nothing to tap into the full potential of his plot.
A woman is searching the drawers of an abandoned building when she suddenly finds a gun in a box. Based on Toyoda’s own experience when he was arrested for possessing his grandfather’s weapons, Call of the Wolf explores the history of weapons in film through an extravagant music video style montage. With no dialogue, most of the short film focuses on assembling a team of anonymous samurai, played by some of Japan’s best-known actors (including Yosuke Kubozuka and Toyoda’s regular collaborator, Ryuhei Matsuda). Each is given a beautifully shot image as they make their way to the sanctuary of the ōkami (the now-extinct Japanese wolf), accompanied by an increasingly chaotic score of traditional Japanese instruments composed by the Seppuku Pistols. The choice of a traditional punk composer and the iconography of the wolf throughout the film intentionally reinforce a reverence for a perhaps forgotten past. Seppuku Pistols explained in an interview that the ōkami is a symbol of the lost traditions and culture of the Edo period during the modernization and westernization of the country. (Oh, and the group also claims to be the last surviving ōkami).
These contextual snippets are certainly interesting, and the build-up to an unexpected cameo and reveal is well done, but because the film offers so little plot or characterization, it’s hard to justify the length of this sequence for a message sufficiently conveyed by contemporary events.
If L’Appel du loup (The Cry of the Wolf) expresses the frustration of our ignorance of the past, Jour de destruction (Day of Destruction) cries out the anger of our indifference to what is happening around us.
In contrast to the darkness of Call of the Wolf, Day of Destruction impresses with its contemporary message. Seven years after the discovery of the pulsating, fleshy monster (the physical form may be a nod to the movie Akira, as Day of Destruction is about the postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympics), an epidemic breaks out in Japan in 2020.
The villagers are still wary of the epidemic, but it is clear that they consider themselves largely powerless to change its course and blame it on a literal monster. However, a Shugen-do follower named Kenichi (Mahito The People) believes he can cure the world of sin and disease by making a pilgrimage to the Wolf Resurrection Shrine (coincidentally, the same shrine as in the movie Call of the Wolf).
The relevance of the Day of Destruction outbreak story in this day and age is mind-boggling. The film’s crowdfunding page states that the story was originally intended to expose the ostentatious greed of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. But with the evolving situation of COVID-19 (the film was shot in 8 days with COVID safety in mind), the central sample analogy now better reflects the prolonged pandemic we currently live in.
From the opening credits, in which a song by metal rock band Gezan (frontman Mahito The People) screams lyrics like virus, virus, virus, self-control is in order, do you all know the identity of the monster? it’s clear that Toyoda is frustrated with the real world’s reaction to COVID. The most obvious is to point the finger at the government (The government violates all our senses…. It’s time to rage – says another lyric on the soundtrack). But unlike other recent works, such as the bureaucratic satire Shin Godzilla, Toyoda also turns his gaze to the audience, who look away from the crisis around them. In a similar sequence, worker Teppei (Kiyohiko Shibukawa) meets a businessman in a rice field who thinks the monster has infected us all and that I have done nothing wrong. Later, Teppey runs into him again and begs him screaming to let him into the locked building: Politicians, legislators, bankers and monks, you are all hiding from us! While this blatant use of already obvious metaphors involving selfishness and fear contributes to the film’s steady pace throughout its 60 minutes, we would have liked more subtlety. Toyoda doubles down on his efforts in an ending that ranges from motivation to patronage in his franchise.
On the other hand, the cinematography is surprisingly understated. Cinematographer Kenji Maki’s wide, symmetrical shots and use of progressive zoom, which depart significantly from the epic aesthetic of The Call of the Wolf, have a finesse that is sorely missed in the script. Even when Mackie experiments with more obvious stylistic elements, as in the first brutal black-and-white flashback with a shaky camera, it never feels awkward, but rather striking.
Toyoda’s staging of the double bill of human ignorance is admirable: One of the films was inspired by the director’s criminal past, who was blacklisted, and the other was shot during a deadly pandemic. But despite the stunning visuals, sound design and music, none of the resulting films are as exciting as the events surrounding them.