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Idol is Dead (2012) + Idol is Dead: Non-chan’s Great Propaganda War (2014)

February 18, 2014

A brand new blood soaked idol society

Idol is Dead (2012)
Idol is Dead: Non-chan no propaganda daisenso (2014)

It is always a pleasure when the latest idol film, seemingly made to promote an up and coming sweet girl band, turns out a splatter movie!

Idol is Dead doesn’t quite follow the usual idol film format. The film kicks off with its protagonists accidentally killing an amateur idol group. To hide their crimes, the girls bury the bodies and steal their identities by becoming idols. They name themselves BiS: Brand New Idol Society. Music and more bloodshed ensue as the girls soon find themselves in an idol event where few walk out alive.

Director Yukihiro Kato’s film shows promise! It’s messy, clumsy, and all-around cheap, but it’s also got something most of his competitors lack: a vision. Unlike much of the new Japanese genre cinema, Kato seems to constructing a world of his own. This involves not only lengthy music performances filmed with the unashamed dedication of a true fan, but cyberpunk –style mutants and severed heads that fill the rest of the film. Effects are old school as well – no CGI. Self-irony is wisely kept understated; the audiences worshipping the idols are like a mixture of zombie army and Japanese otaku.

The 60 minute film hugely benefits from swift spacing which detracts from many of the flaws, such as frequently horrible acting from some of the supporting cast. The leading girls – consisting of members of the real life band BiS – are as energetic as ever. In fact, their name “Brand New Idol Society” would also make perfect title for this trashy vision of idol world gone mad.

The film premiered in 2012. Those who follow the music biz probably knew BiS already enjoyed a reputation as the punk rebel among idol groups. In late 2012 they teamed up with the noise band Hijokaidan to form BiS Kaidan (though they also continue performing as BiS). Reportedly it didn’t take long until one could see the sweet girls screaming and throwing severed chicken heads to the audience on their new gigs.

Fast forward to 2014 and BiS are back on the silver screen with a 90 minute sequel: Idol Is Dead 2: Non-chan’s Great Propaganda War, which sees the girls facing a challenger: Electric Kiss.

Unfortunately the film is a disappointment.

BiS’s new direction with Hijokaidan is hardly visible in the film, save for the loud and very catchy opening scene aside. The film turns out, instead, a far more restrained band product than its predecessor. The frantic pacing of the original is gone, with scenes now running too long and lacking punch. The sequel also tones down the splatter and replaces it with Noboru Iguchi -style wacky comedy, including a bulimia side-plot, and corporate conspiracies. Electric Kiss doesn’t make much of a memorable opponent either.

On the positive side, tech credits are now much better, with solid camerawork and even a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Strangely enough, dialogue occasionally sounds very muted.

The film only redeems itself with a fantastic final performance, in which both BiS and filmmakers get to shine. It’s a nice payoff, but one can’t help but to wonder what happened with the rest of the film? Director Kato managed to overcome most of the original film’s problems, but also introduced a whole load of new ones and lost much of the energy in the process.

That being said, he’s certainly a name to keep an eye on.

It should be mentioned as fun trivia that before Hijokaidan found their new partner in BiS, the noise band considered teaming up with Momoiro Clover – a sweet teen girl band know for their cinematic accomplishments in fake horror doc Shirome (2010) and arthouse film Ninifuni (2011)! All of a sudden idol film industry seems more interesting than in a long time!

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