When director Toshiaki Toyoda was arrested in April 2019 for unlawful possession of a handgun many thought, following the voices of the media, that his career would be over for good. Eventually, it become clear that the handgun was be a non-functioning WWII keepsake from his grandmother and he was released without any charge. Nevertheless, the whole ordeal left a bitter taste in Toyoda’s mouth and fed his anger against the Japanese state. This anger, now, finds his expression in a more symbolic object, i.e. the creation of a short film.
One day, upon searching the attic of her parental house, a girl discovers an old handgun in a wooden box. Upon admiring the old gun, she suddenly feels transported to the bygone era of samurai.
What does this short film evoke? How does it translate or transform Toyoda’s experience of being wrongly being arrested for the unlawful possession of a handgun? The narrative only attains meaning as a reworking of his experience if one understands that the character played by Kiyohiko Shibukawa is a direct representation of the director himself.
If one takes Kiyohiko Shibukawa’s character as a representation of the director, one can see that Toyoda frames the honorable samurai as an outlaw ever in conflict with the larger Japanese societal system with its army-like persecution. He does not only evoke the support he received by other people, people who stood by him, during this ridiculous ordeal, but also his desire to take a stand against the problematic functioning of Japan’s police and law system – Toyoda would, in fact, not hesitate to call the Japanese state a fascist state. The reference to the Olympics, in this respect, must be read as a subtle evocation by Toyoda of the possible societal reason for the increasing activity of Japan’s police forces.
Toshiaki Toyoda has not only crafted a visually compelling composition – a composition full of aesthetically powerful imagery and pleasing fluid and spatial movement, but also, by allowing the mesmerizing musical accompaniment by the Edo punk band Seppuku Pistols dictate the cinematographical flow, a composition that is enticingly atmospheric. In short, Toyoda’s refined visual composition grips the spectator’s attention from start to finish.
Toyoda’s A Wolf’s Calling is, in short, a fabulous short. The splendid visuals and the extra-ordinary musical accompaniment elevate the minimalist narrative into a powerful subjective statement against the prowling nature of the Japanese police. Moreover, Toyoda’s short musical narrative is a master class in showing how easy it is for a structure of signifiers, i.e. a narrative structure, to evoke through association more meaning than it at first glance brings into play.