Tag Archives: 2018


366 Weird Movies may earn commissions from purchases made through product links.

DIRECTED BY: Toshiyuki Kato

FEATURING: Voices of Takahiro Sakurai; Landon McDonald (English dub)

PLOT: Manga artist Kishibe Rohan recounts macabre tales he has encountered while researching material.

Still from "Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan"

COMMENTS: Although this macabre miniseries stands alone, a small of amount orientation may be helpful for those (like me) unfamiliar with “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure,” the manga/anime from which “Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan” is a spinoff. “JoJo” is a series about… well, I’m not quite sure, but it has been running for about 30 years through various incarnations. My research suggest that, other than Rohan and perhaps a few other character cameos, there are no real links in this one to the main series. There is at least one thing it’s helpful to know: like many characters in the series, Rohan has a superpower (or “Stand”): “Heaven’s Door,” which allows him to pause time and turn people into books, whom he can then read to discover personal secrets (and, occasionally, to jot his own notes inside them, altering their history or behavior). Bizarre, huh?

Originally released as standalone manga, the stories here were made for the Japanese OVA (Original Video Animation) market, then picked up by Netflix. The order of the tales is arbitrary, and the episode sequencing Netflix uses is different than the order of the OVA release (but the same as the order they appeared in the original manga, although, confusingly, the episode numbers in the manga titles are assigned randomly). You can watch them however you’d like, but if you want a suggestion, I would start with either “At a Confessional” (Netflix’s first episode, the third OVA release, and my personal favorite) or “The Run” (the wildest and final story which, based on IMDb ratings, is the fans’ favorite). The entire series is short enough to watch through without feeling like you’re wasting your time, but sampling one of those two first may help you decide whether you want to continue.

The Italy-set “At a Confessional” is a Poe-like story of callous indifference, guilt, and revenge from beyond the grave, with a demonic tongue, a popcorn-eating trial, and a twist ending. “The Run” has a more straightforward narrative; it’s a satire of male narcissism, as an actor/model takes his workout regime to unhealthy, supernatural extremes. It also features the series’ most ambitious animation, with abstract, wavering backgrounds in crazy color schemes; split screens; almost obscene, anatomically incorrect musculature; and surrealish scenes like the one where the protagonist climbs down an apartment building, Spider-man style. The other two stories are equally fantastic: “Mutsu-kabe Hill” features an eternally bleeding corpse, and “Millionaire Village” begins with an interesting premise about an ultra-exclusive suburb, then incorporates local Japanese demigods and an extremely intricate test of etiquette.  Some of the stories have ironic subtexts, but the psychology never gets too deep; the stories are dark in subject matter, but light in delivery.

I have to confess that, after watching all four episodes, I’m not sure why Rohan is such a popular, breakout character. He frankly seems a bit superhero-dull to me. With his “Heaven’s Door” power, he’s too omnipotent; there is seldom much sense of him being in jeopardy. His major character trait seems to be mild arrogance and haughtiness, which comes through in his fey, aristocratic voicing (in both the original Japanese and the English dub). This makes him seem a bit unpleasant to be around, although other characters fawn over him regularly. Perhaps Rohan doesn’t get a chance to shine here, since he is only a narrator for two of these stories, and not really the focus in any of them. Still, because he’s mostly a framing device, Rohan’s lack of charisma didn’t effect my enjoyment of the series, which is not bad, and at less than two hours to take in the whole thing, worth a shot for the curious. It didn’t make me want to explore the wider JoJo universe, though—and if you want some freaky Japanese animated horror, I’d suggest checking out “Jungo Ito Maniac” (also on Netflix) instead.

(As an odd aside, the major characters in this series always have crazy hairstyles: once has four giant bent spikes of red hair, one has random bow-like protrusions growing out of his scalp, and Rohan himself wears a strange circlet that looks like an inverted crown and is mostly covered by greenish locks that jut several inches off the side of our hero’s head.)

We may not be done with Kishibe Rohan: there are plans for a live-action adaptation of the same material.


“…retains the straight-faced absurdity of its parent show… Its most tense and tragic stories hold a grim sense of humor—such as the various strange (bizarre, even) rituals throughout, tests of the mind and the body all tinged with otherworldly, life-and-death stakes.”–Kambole Campbell, Thrillist (contemporaneous)


AKA Deadly Lust

366 Weird Movies may earn commissions from purchases made through product links.

DIRECTED BY: Michaël Vermaercke

FEATURING: Charlotte De Wulf, Felix Meyer, Karlien Van Cutsem, Aaron Roggeman, Bram Verrecas

PLOT: Fleur lies in a hospital bed recalling her splintered memories of a drunken revelry as she attempts to get a grip on her trauma.

Still from Memento Mori (2018)

COMMENTS: The clunky phrase “frenetic incoherence” is the best one that springs to mind to describe this feature debut from Michaël Vermaercke. Whether this frenetic incoherence results from accident or by design is a question only briefly worth pondering, however, because on the whole, with some caveats, this thing works. Memento Mori is jumpy, unreliably told, and a bit macabre—not unlike the literal translation of the title, “remember that you must die.” Vermaercke obviously has a particular story he wants to tell with this film, and whether you like that story (and style) or not, I’m inclined to believe he succeeded in so doing.

Skittering between past and present (and again within skitterings), we piece together a horrible evening alongside Fleur, the tragic protagonist. Jules, her boyfriend of over a year, is desperate to have sex with her, and it seems to be agreed that they would try (again) at a big blow out held for Jules’ birthday. Among the attending crew of underage drinkers is Jules’ sketchy buddy Alex, who also lusts after Fleur. Alex’s girlfriend Valerie gamefuly ignores her fellow’s roaming eye—up to a point. Laying down the tracks that night, and possibly dosing the partiers, is “DJ Wouten,” a macho toughie with a deep-seated fear. As the music blasts and the kids slam back impressive quantities of liquor, a Death-like figure increasingly looms in the corner of Fleur’s eye.

On a smaller scale, Vermaerke pursues an atmosphere similar to Climax, which was made around the same time. Among the odd cuts and close-ups is the devouring of a rather plain looking cake, and while other elements are in the mix (I mention, once again, the staggering quantities of booze), it is only after this confection-cramming that the story slips from shaky to downright difficult to follow. Alongside Noé-style noodlings, I detected traces of in the form of the shrouded figure delivering comeuppance to various revelers. Eventually this looming form (seen only by Fleur) removes its masque, and…

Eh, I dunno. Memento Mori is heavy without feeling impactful, featuring characters who feel realistic without invoking much sympathy. Even Fleur, suffering from something psychological before the whole party nonsense, is too withdrawn to latch on to. I lament her fate, and commend her survival, but it may have been better to place a crack on her surface to let the audience in. The film’s grisliness leaves a mental mark, but the surrounding chaos is too tame for you to get lost in the intended nightmare. If Vermaerke tilts further into psychosis-on-celluloid, however, we’ll have a promising light to follow into the darkness.


Memento Mori ist ein kurzer, schneller, farbintensiver Trip in die jugendliche Psyche seiner Protagonisten. Dabei verschmelzen Realität und Illusion, Traum und Wirklichkeit. Zwar nicht frei von Schwächen, aber spannend inszeniert.” -Stephan Lydike, Years of Terror (contemporaneous)

(Translation: “Memento Mori is a short, fast, colorful trip into the youthful psyche of its protagonists. Reality and illusion, dream and reality merge. Not free of weaknesses, but staged in an exciting way.”)