Recapped!: “Tokyo Noir” (2004)

“A Day in the life of those alone and repressed…”


words: Desmond Childs

As I was watching the three different tales unfold on-screen, I kept trying to remember what it meant for something “noir”. I listen to a lot of podcasts based on movies and even when someone used the term “noir” to describe a movie; I only sort of understood what they meant. The image that always comes to my mind when I hear the word “noir” is of like some detective (probably Sam Spade) sitting at his desk, with his legs propped up, waiting for business. I actually use to think any movie from Hollywood that used black and white was a “noir” film. At the time I was in elementary and I thought the term was some fancy way to describe old, ugly-looking movies. After the movie ended, the first thing I did was look the darn thing up on Here it is for all of you still not in the know on what “noir” means:

Noir : crime fiction featuring hard-boiled cynical characters and bleak sleazy settings

Interesting right? The characters in this movie, Tokyo Noir, are not involved in any crime. However, I do believe the women depicted in the film are in their own ways, “hard-boiled”, and they most certainly live in bleak, sleazy settings.

“You know what they say. Two outta three ain’t bad, right?”

The mega-city of Tokyo serves as the setting for the three stories in this movie:

The first story deals with an aging, women working for what looks like an internet service provider. She seems to work for the marketing department and serves as the chief. At least that’s what gathered. She still had only one person to answer to so maybe I’m off on her real position in the company. Anyway,  for the majority of her life (she’s in her late thirties) she has had “tragedies” happen on her birthday. And not even just tragedies, but things that were already bad and made worse by occurring on her birthday. Her father runs off and later declared dead because he’s been missing for so long. Her dog/cat(?) dies. She talks about things of this nature happening and basically making her a miserable person inside. She’s also a virgin. Which wouldn’t really matter except the doctor mentions something to her about needing to have sex so she doesn’t get cervical cancer? Yeah, I dunno, that was weird. She finds a “hole in the wall” beauty shop where this guy (on her birthday) makes her look very beautiful. Like “several years younger” beautiful.  She leaves the shop and heads home and is ogled at by every guy she passes for looking so attractive. I also forgot to mention earlier, but before she goes to the beauty shop she tries a little experiment. She simply applies lipstick on while at work and a potential client can’t keep from staring at her while she’s trying to present her product. She wipes off the lipstick later, no doubt full of shame, but also intrigued at the hidden potential she held inside. I guess.

I don’t want to spoil the entire first-third of the film, so I’ll talk about what the story of “Birthday” seems to be getting at. I think it’s about the past. Or rather, letting the past find your future for you. By allowing the past to continuously demoralize her, this woman looked toward a future of annual disappointment. The beauty shop she begins to frequent represented a way out of her “trap”. It symbolized another path she could take toward living the life she maybe wanted to live all along, but was afraid too. The fear she had of her own birthday blocked this woman from savoring life. Going out. Meeting new people. Falling in love. Having a family. That sort of thing. I don’t equate having sex to “freeing yourself” to a new world. But it happens here. The movie wants us to see the women as a new person, one not afraid of the challenges life sends her way. Which I like the message. And I kind of liked the tone of this third of the movie the most as well. I even thought it was interesting how rape was used in this story. It really made me think about the old idiom, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”.

 The middle story, which I submit is the less coherent of the two I saw, centers around a college student who lives a double life as a host club celebrity. She’s known all over in the gross, seedy business district (^_^) of Tokyo. She goes to school and has a small but close group of friends. Then later heads on over to the other side of town to entertain clients and make a substantial amount of money. And for those of you who are curious about the way host clubs work, check out my review of The Great Happiness Space here. The story then becomes really convoluted in the way certain characters are introduced and used in the last act. The girl’s boyfriend desperately wants her back and she vehemently refuses him. Then they have sex. And then she refuses him again, kind of? Or maybe she accepts him but doesn’t really seem to want to change her life. Anyway, I won’t ruin the ending. What I got from this story is a little tougher for me to transcribe. I think the most I could get out of this had to do with the girl herself. She wanted to find someone she could be loyal to, even if that someone (or something) ended up being bad for her. The story itself is a fleshed out example of this lesson.

I’m surprised to learn that there is in fact a third story in this movie. I watched it on a widget-site on my Roku player. Apparently the story is also a sex-laden tale of some women’s want to experiment sexually. Sounds like something Amanda would review. But not me. Regardless, even the theme of the third part of this movie seems to line up with the other two tales. Sexual freedom. I have to frank, watching a movie containing a plethora of awkwardly filmed love scenes did not make this movie any more entertaining. I, like many people, believe in the “less is more” approach to scenes of the sexual nature. Tokyo Noir is not choice material I’d recommend to a friend or cousin. The sex is actually filmed tastefully. But the purpose behind this film is clear. Directors Masato Ishioka and Naoto Kumazawa seem to want “sexual freedom” as the greatest escape for all these repressed women. For a little more information, including a lot of spoilers, click here for’s article on Tokyo Noir.

4 thoughts on “Recapped!: “Tokyo Noir” (2004)

  1. Pingback: Recapped!: “Bullet Explosion” (2004) | Screened Vision[s] Movie Blog

  2. Pingback: Recapped!: “Tales from the Dead” (2008) | Screened Vision[s] Movie Blog

  3. Pingback: Recapped!: “The Great Happiness Space” | Screened Vision[s] Movie Blog

  4. Pingback: A Wedding and a Funeral (2004) | Screened Vision[s] Movie Blog

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