Love Japanese High School Dramas and Anime? Then Take Note of These 9 High School Thrillers!

  • CULTURE
  • If you have a thing for Japanese school uniforms you will surely be familiar with Japan’s sweet and cheerful daily school life themed Japanese dramas. But there is more, be sure to check out the Japanese movies listed below, it will surely be a breath-taking experience for you by combining the high school and thriller genres!

    1. Battle Royale (2000)

    Imagine you were a ninth-grade student sent off to an island with other students to join a battle with the mission to kill each other. There are only a few minor rules and you have to play the game to the death until only one survives – or all will die. Some fellow players are your classmates, some are not. In that case, what would you do? Decide to participate in the battle like Kiriyama and Mitsuko, or join the group of Shuya, Noriko, and Kawada who try to find a way to get off the island without using violence?

    The film was either banned outright or excluded from distribution in several countries because of its controversial theme for both domestic and international audiences. There are many people who hate the film because it looks like the kind of movie that will trigger teenagers engage in violence and gun shootings. But the film itself is not meant to encourage school shootings and youth violence. Rather, it’s an example of the lengths that a government will go in order to discipline youth, and you can already guess, it is a ludicrous idea.

    2. Suicide Club (2001)

    It must be noted that this is NOT just any horror film. Suicide Club is disturbing, thought-provoking, and not for those who are new to thrillers. As the name of the movie already suggests, there are chains of suicide cases that strike Japan. The movie follows the efforts of the police, and 3 detectives in particular, who are trying determine the reasons behind the strange things that are happening.

    Japan is one of the countries with the highest suicide rates, so suicide is one particular problem in Japanese society. However, when watching the movie, you may see the problem of the society actually is not suicide, but suicide is the solution for society’s problems, which just leads to other problems. If you want to think critically about this movie when you watch it, I’d recommend you to pay attention to the relationships between the characters, particularly related individuals in the movies.

    If you have an interest in learning Japanese through songs, then you should listen to the lyrics of the songs that appear in this movie!

    3. Confessions (2010)

    Confessions is about a teacher whose young daughter was murdered by students in her class. The moment she resigns from her position at her school, the true nightmare of her students begins.

    The movie is not simply about a mother who turns into a cold-blooded killer to take revenge for her daughter’s death, it is rather about the confessions of a group of people. After each confession, a new detail is added to the story until it becomes a complete story in the end. Although the movie is dark and disturbing from the beginning until the end, I bet that once you finished the movie you cannot completely hate any character in the film, you may feel sympathy instead. Another point to make this movie dark albeit beautiful is its excellent plot, as well as the great acting work!

    4. Tomie: Unlimited (2011)

    This movie belongs to the Tomie horror movie franchise, which has been running in Japan for quite a while. It’s okay however if you didn’t have the chance to watch the other films yet because this isn’t a saga, instead, it is just a showcase of Tomie’s independent killings. This movie is about a girl named Tsukiko whose sister Tomie died in an accident, but her spirit keeps coming back for revenge.

    There are lots of blood and horror, and although most reviews for the film are not very positive, Tomie still boasts a very original plot and great imagery with clear and sharp frames. It starts as a pretty serious story with an emphasis on suspense, but then it turns into something else entirely. This is where the problems begin with the horror part of the film…

    5. Another (2012)

    The movie is based on an anime with the same name. It is about a student named Koichi Sakakibara, who after a chain of deaths at his junior high school moves to a new school. Here he meets a mysterious girl with an eye-patch. He doesn’t feel comfortable though because all of his classmates and even his teacher act like the girl doesn’t exist.

    Although the movie is made with a low budget it’s still nearly as good as the anime. But if you already watched the anime and you’re a big fan, this adaption might disappoint you a bit, especially because the story is presented in a different order. Also, many things about the main characters were changed which makes the film less scary than its anime equivalent.

    6. Lesson of the Evil (2012)

    The movie is about a popular high school teacher who concocts an extreme plan to deal with the rise of bullying and bad behavior by the student body.

    Just like any other Japanese thriller and horror movie, Lesson of the Evil also received mixed comments for using graphic violence against school kids, and a disturbing similarity to real-life events. There’s also some dry black humor which could offend some viewers. In any case, the finale is still entertaining and exciting.

    7. Kawaki (2014)

    Known as “The World of Kanoko”, the movie is about Akikazu, a former detective who is asked by his ex-wife to look for their daughter Kanoko. She is a nice high-school student who went missing. Akikazu starts a desperate search for Kanako using any means, but during the search he has to face his mental illness. Especially the moment the truth about this daughter revealed is beyond his imagination.

    You can’t define good and bad sides in Kawaki, even though the representatives of each side are police or drug dealers. In general, the films depicts a spoiled society where people betray, kill, and abuse each other easily and where pure communication simply doesn’t exist. In this world, your children easily lose their way. Every detail of the film is pushed to its limit in an extreme way, so brace yourself before watching because there will be lots of blood, beatings, and torturing.

    8. As the Gods Will (2014)

    Based on manga ‘Kamisama no iu tori’ (translated as ‘As the Gods Will’) is a story about a group of high school students who are forced to play a series of deadly games, without knowing who is behind the games.

    The movie is directed by Takeshi Miike, who has proved that he is very capable with such a theme, and he has created a fascinating, occasionally humorous, and gory adaption of the manga. ‘As the Gods Will’ has been produced recently so it has a cool and outstanding cinematography as well as great visual effects especially in panoramic frames. As for the bloody part of the manga, its movie counterpart uses a more comical effect without neglecting the intensity of the scene. I hope you guys can understand the movie, which it’s simply about the human race’s demise, but is demonstrated with vibrant colors, ironic humor, and healthy horror!

    9. Tag (2015)

    This movie is about a high school student named Mitsuko, whose life cascades into chaos as everyone around her suffers a gruesome fate while she herself becomes less and less certain of who she is and what kind of a world she lives in.

    After the first time watching the movie, I though this is just like any other weird, crazy, makes no sense whatsoever bloody and creepy Japanese movie with a cute main actress. But here’s a hint, if you watch the entire movie carefully and pay special attention to the dialogues, in the end, you may realize the movie is more than that. It is full of philosophical and psychological questions of determinism, power, fear, reality, and identity.

    What other thrilling Japanese movies with or without a high school theme do you know? Please comment and share your opinion!

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