A man returns to his past as a detective when he's desperate to find his missing daughter. His search leads him to friends and acquaintances of her, and unveils a hidden side of his daughter. The simple task of finding his daughter leads to violence, drugs and depravity.
After seeing Tetsuya Nakashima's "Confessions" a few years back, I knew this was a force I had to get familiar with. Standing alongside directors like Takashi Miike, Sion Sono and even Park Chan-wook in his brutal, stylized mayhem, "The World of Kananko" certainly gives you what you expected. What could have been a slow detective thriller turns into a montage of cruelty, never giving you a second to rest.
Akikazu is desperate to find his missing daughter. Thanks to his detective roots he is not afraid to look everywhere and go to any extreme to get results. But what he finds is that there is no telling who might be behind her disappearance because everyone is... completely out of their mind. That's not to say that Akikazu is a man known to keep his cool. When one aggressive father has to plummet through all the horrible people that stand in his way, violence is the only tool.
What sets "The World of Kanako" apart from other movies like it, is because the movie forces you to keep up. It jumps in timelines and characters, which can confuse you if you just look away for a second. It was a bit hard to puzzle things together as the movie started, but it made certain things clear from the start: everyone is bad. Akikazu, the loving father, is an absolute maniac with nothing stopping him. The teenagers at the daughter's school are even worse. Even the people you'd think are completely innocent are probably not. And if they are innocent, then you can be sure that they will be punished anyway. I'm not one to often use the word "nihilistic" but that's something that comes to mind here.
Despite "The World of Kanako" being very violent, bloody and often perverted, the movie also has a confusing stream of comedy to it. It fits, but just because it's used in such a strange manner. There are weird bits that feel like happy, poppy bubblegum music. The opening credits feel like they are making fun of movies in the same genre by being oddly stereotypical grindhouse-esque. The movie constantly jumps in emotions, just as much as it jumps in time. Its soundtrack is impossible to pinpoint by a style, as the music is everything from former mentioned pop music, to more classic songs, to Christmas songs. I have not read the novel that the movie is based on, but Tetsuya Nakashima has created a movie that is both confusing and compelling at the same time. It repulses you as much as it pulls you in.
The biggest issue with "The World of Kanako" for me was that it jumped between characters and timelines so much, that it was difficult for a good chunk of time to separate who is who, and who did what. Intentional as it might be, it dragged down the beginning of the movie quite a bit. Once you get past that and you're right there by Akikazu's shoulder, then you're too enthralled to be confused.
Like "Confessions", "The World of Kanako" is as stylistic as it is brutal. There are several shots of the movie that as simply stunning. The lighting in most scenes are fantastic and you sometimes forget that you're watching a brutal crime movie. The movie starts with shots of a town on Christmas Eve, and it's captured so well that it'd be worth more to watch this opening every Christmas than your random family Christmas movie for that lovely Christmas feeling. That's just proof of how wonderful the cinematography and lighting is in this movie. But it's never style over substance, and it never feels like an arthouse movie. This is a raw crime thriller and that's not being covered up by fancy techniques or pretension.
Kôji Yakusho is perfect as the father/detective with no boundaries. He reminds you of the very best in Japanese cinema in his role as Akikazu. Nana Komatsu as the daughter, Kanako, is such an oddly performed character - as is intended - that you can't help but admire it. Her character jumps between sweet and innocent, to plain awful, and messes as much with the viewer and it does the characters. I could probably bring up a ton of other actors in the movie, but these two stand out not just because they are the main characters, but because they fulfill their perspective roles perfectly.
"The World of Kanako" is an evil movie. There are very few good people in the movie, and everyone is sent to hell. Good, bad, it doesn't matter, there's violence coming for everyone. Nothing matters as Akikazu tries to find his daughter. It might be a bit much to some, but because Tetsuya Nakashima knew exactly what he was doing, you can expect no apologies. It's not the most gory movie out there. Even in its genre. But it's extremely dark and punishing, and blood spews from every wound. Add to that the beautiful photography and you have yourself a very worthwhile movie.