The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials


Title: Midori aka Shoujo Tsubaki
Genre: Drama/Horror
Format: Movie; 49 minutes.
Date: 2 May 1992

Synopsis: In order to support her ailing mother, Midori sells flowers on the cold streets of industrialized Japan. One day a kind gentleman offers to buy all of Midori’s flowers and offers to help her in the future should she face trouble. After her mother’s death, Midori finds the business of the man she met earlier where she is raped and enslaved by the “gentleman” and his freak show performers.

The Highlights
Imagery: Creative, freakish and unforgettable.
Characters: Believable but not likable
Story: Could have worked in a serious live action movie if anyone had the balls to touch it.

Shoujo Tsubaki is one of those anime I really wish I did not have to rate. The show is so aberrant that it eludes any real benchmarks and subverts the notion of the rating system as a whole. Unless you are a depraved sadist, this 49 minute movie is impossible to consider “entertainment” and falls into some tenuous, bastard category of art. While a part of me wants to liken this to a Hollywood torture porn production, the movie manages to transcend its freak show roots with its psychotic visuals and haunting story.

Horror is certainly not in my niche, but I admit that I have a voyeuristic relationship with the genre. There’s something oddly captivating about what atrocities man can do onto his fellow brother, and the animated medium allows sadists to refine their art without fear of getting thrown in a white room. Unlike many other genre pieces, what makes Shoujo Tsubaki truly chilling is not deformed monsters crashing through the closet or an ominous creatures lurking in the shadows, but rather the sheer believability of it all. This anime follows the stories of young Midori who watches her mother die, gets raped by circus freaks, becomes a slave of said freaks, and falls into a pit of despair.

Though much of the horror in this anime is psychological, there’s a good amount of genuinely freakish visuals to accompany the neurotic story. This movie is born from the labors of a single man who spent five years animating each and every single cel back when computers were still a luxury item. Because of this, most lip flaps are not animated and many in-between scenes are simply skipped; however, since this is an independent production, there’s also a great amount of creativity in displaying how the human body can explode. In both the horror and the everyday scenes, expect to see imagery that borders on the avant-garde.

Despite the low production values, the seiyuu is adequate and the music is effective, but for me, there’s a more fundamental problem with the anime which boils down to “why should I care about the characters?” Most of them are creepy, lowlifes of society who are pitiable as they are repulsive. I would sooner make a deep, emotional investment on Nello and his dog Patrasche (Dog of Flanders) than Midori. Sure, those two freeze to death in a church but at least the story is about the ups and downs of the boy’s life. Midori’s life is portrayed as a string of misery that has a grand total of one uptick, which is quickly snubbed out by even more misery.

Shoujo Tsubaki is tantamount to having a horse’s testicle along with your buttered bread of action and harem salad. It’s certainly won’t suit everyone’s tastes, but for those willing to take this leap of faith, it certainly does leave an impression.

The Rating: 6

Reviewed by: Shadowmage

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