Day of destruction (2020) review [Camera Japan Festival 2020]

Introduction

Even though Toshiaki Toyoda already expressed his anger concerning the ordeal with his wrongful arrest in A Wolf’s Calling (2019), his thirst to criticize that what lies at the basis of the ills of contemporary society is not yet quenched – in fact, such thirst should in fact never be quenched. This thirst has now brought us the second chapter in what one could call his  ‘Olympic-series’: Day of Destruction (2020).      

Review

One day, Teppei (Kiyohiko Shibukawa) lets Mr. Shinno (Ryuhei Matsuda) enter the mines to see the monster. Since the discovery of the monster, a rumor of a possible epidemic outbreak has made people go crazy.

Kenichi (Mahi to the people), a young Shugendo practitioner, only started to believe in this rumor after his sister died from the epidemic. Since then, Kenichi, strengthened by his believe that Maitreya will soon appear on earth, started training (e.g. self-mummification) with Cressent Jiro (Issey Ogata) and praying to the extreme.

Day of Destruction (2020) by Toshiaki Toyoda

With Day of Destruction Toyoda offers an evocative and rather difficult to fathom narrative. One should, in truth, not except a narrative told in a consistent and straight-forward way, but a narrative that attempts, through its minimal narrative structure, to evoke a “half-hidden” political statement. The meaning that the narrative attains depends, in fact, on how one interprets the monster and the associated epidemic.

In our view, one does not need to look far to realize the identity of the monster. Toyoda does not really hide it for the attentive spectator. The identity of the monster, as the punk-metal song in the opening sequence vaguely indicates, is nothing other than the Japanese capitalistic societal system as such. The song, which beautifully communicates the very emotions Toyoda had when creating this narrative, is nothing other than a protest song, a song against merely submitting to the deathly infecting virus named the capitalism that structures the Japanese societal system – “If you think you are alive, prove it now”, because remaining silent is akin to submitting oneself and accepting one’s position as dead.

Day of Destruction (2020) by Toshiaki Toyoda

Another element that underscores our reading of the identity of this parasitical monster concerns the theme of Toyoda’s previous short film, A Wolf’s Calling (2019). In truth, one needs to read both narratives together. Not only are various locations and actors (like Kiyohiko Shibukawa) the same (e.g. the rooftop from where one can see the Olympic stadium, the Shrine complex), but the elements of the wolf and the Olympics plays a fundamental role in both. It is not difficult to notice that it is the wolf’s calling – a calling Toyoda takes upon himself via the medium of film – to purify all the kinds of disgrace and sin that structure society and to end the epidemic that one can call man’s corruption and greed. With his narrative, Toyoda powerfully states that we have the power to change the parasitical capitalistic demon that resides inside us and change, in a powerful rebellion, the societal field around us – in this film societal change starts with destroying, what we could call, the symbol of greed and self-interest.

Toyoda’s Day of Destruction is shot in exquisite monochrome colours as well as in colour. Even though Toyoda uses dynamic moments – a pleasing mix between following and spatial movement – to give his narrative a pleasing flow, the true visual beauty of Day of Destruction resides in its static moments. With his compositional talent, Toyoda not only succeeds in turning many of these static moments into visually impressive moments (e.g. the shot with the cut-off finger), but also visual moments that have the potential to haunt the spectator.

That certain imagery can visually impress the spectator is, in fact, not only function of the composition as such, but also function of the sound-design – a composition full of dull industrial sounds focused on creating a threatening atmosphere (Cine-note 1). One could even contend that certain moments, especially moments in in the monochrome part of narrative, are only able to visually impress because of the threatening atmosphere that the accompanying sounds evoke.

Day of Destruction (2020) by Toshiaki Toyoda

While Day of Destruction may seem like a badly developed narrative at first, spectators able to read the subtext – a subtext that becomes that much clearer if one has seen A Wolf’s Calling (2019) and knows some of Toyoda’s background, will easily see that that’s not the case at all.  With Day of Destruction Toyoda does not only offer a truly pleasing audiovisual experience but also a powerful poetic exploration of the ills of Japanese society and the need to change it for the better.   

Notes

Cine-note 1: Temporally long shots are, in our view, also used to further heighten the threatening atmosphere of the narrative.

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