I promised at the end of my previous article that I’d review something worse than Violence Jack next, and today I will keep that promise. But what could be worse than Violence Jack? I present to you… Midori: Shōjo Tsubaki! Midori was adapted from a manga by Maruo Suehiro titled “Shōjo Tsubaki” or “Mr. Arashi’s Amazing Freak Show.” The man behind this adaptation is Harada Hiroshi, on whom I was able to find surprisingly little information. From what I can gather, Hiroshi is a recluse who animated this whole thing himself because no one else would agree to finance it. Their reluctance is unsurprising given the nature of the story being adapted. Hiroshi has referred several times to Shōjo Tsubaki as an unconventional romance; it’s not. Even after watching this thing I’m not sure I can discern any plot. Rather, things just happen because they disgust, and for no other reason.
The Little Camellia Girl
Midori is a name meaning “green,” in this case the name of our abused protagonist. From what I’ve read, “Shōjo Tsubaki” translates to something like “The Little Camellia Girl,” which is the Japanese equivalent to the Little Match Girl, only way, way more fucked up. I won’t blame you if you stop reading this right now, because this anime is among the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen. Bad animation won’t change that. Whereas you might have the luxury of being able to stop reading this, I wasn’t so lucky; I set out to review this crime against humanity so I must. The sooner we get started, the sooner we’ll be done.
The film begins with an assortment of random disturbing images. A narrator describes a bunch of disturbing images that aren’t even the ones we’re seeing on screen. None of this will have much to do with the plot, assuming there is one. Eventually the lines of narration start to sound like they might have something to do with what’s going on, as they at least mention camellias, but even though this is called “The Little Camellia Girl,” camellias have far less to do with the plot than matches do in the story’s western counterpart. I now present to you an assortment of the prologue’s irrelevant lines:
“Dog boiled in the cauldron of Hell!”
“Severed head boiled with bullrushes!”
“Blood spurts from the bulwark!”
Midori Joins the Fairground Entertainers
Midori, the eponymous “Camellia Girl” has to sell camellias on the street because her mother is deathly ill. She’s approached by a creepy, pedo-looking man who tells her to come to his address if she needs a place to stay. When she goes home, Midori discovers that rats have eaten her mother from the inside out. As grotesque as this sounds, it’s actually many times more grotesque, but I won’t go into details because it’s too horrible.
Midori goes to meet the mysterious man and discovers that his home is a travelling circus freak-show with an assortment of creepy freaks—not creepy because of the way they look, mind you, but creepy because they like looking up little girls’ skirts. It turns out they like far worse than that too, and they quickly make her their sex slave. From this point onward, the circus-freaks torture and abuse Midori, driving her deeper and deeper into madness. We see still frames of Midori being brutally gang-raped by the freaks, and I want to claw my own eyes out. Then Midori witnesses them having an orgy, and it’s as depraved as you’d expect.
“While I’m working, I imagine the happy faces in the audience.”Harada Hiroshi
Shortly afterwards, the abused Midori befriends a litter of puppies. Almost immediately one of the circus performers, a psychopathic girl called Kanabun, brutally slaughters the dogs, because that hasn’t been done to death in every story ever! I’m not going to show you any other images from this scene because firstly I’m not a sadist, and secondly Hiroshi clearly took far too much pleasure in animating puppies being crushed to death. That night after they’ve eaten, the freaks reveal what was in the stew—three guesses, people… then they laugh as Midori cries, because of course they do.
Midori tries to run away, but she’s stopped by the snake woman. One of the performers rapes her again. She discovers that Kanabun is a hermaphrodite, and it’s heavily implied that Kanabun rapes her. More rape happens, Midori sees some guy eating what looks like a cucumber, and then we get a scene of Midori writhing on the floor as what looks like a caterpillar crawls into her ear. She’s raped by the snake woman, who tells her:
“You’ll never know happiness as a human being.”
A Dwarf Emerges From the Dark
Midori falls ill. Meanwhile, the circus is losing money, and their only hope is a magician from Tokyo coming to join them. We’re told he does “western-style magic,” but we’ll soon see that this means he can do real magic. The magician is a dwarf named Wonder Masamitsu, and he and Midori seem to have a creepy attraction to each other. In case it’s not obvious from the picture, Masamitsu is an adult and Midori is a vulnerable child, hence why it’s bloody sickening. In their second scene together, Masamitsu kisses Midori on the cheek and asks her to kiss him, which she does. We then see them making out in a field of flowers, and then they talk about getting married. Midori points out that she’s not a virgin, as she’s been constantly raped by Masamitsu’s employers, and then he turns them both into dragonflies and they make out some more.
Masamitsu and Midori perform together in front of a crowd, and the others become jealous of his popularity. The pedo-couple get their picture taken together, and the dwarf reveals that his magic is apparently real. The freaks beat the living crap out of Midori despite her threatening to tell her, umm… husband, but Masamitsu uses his magic to turn Midori into a giant. Masamitsu then insists the other rapists be paid more. Then one of the pedo freaks professes his love for Midori, making her pedo husband jealous. Masamitsu kills the other pedo by making him sink into quicksand. Midori sees him do this and runs from him, but he convinces her to keep quiet.
The Cronenberg Scene
Soon after that, a filmmaker comes to offer Midori the starring role in his new film. Because this is a contrived device in the most disturbed anime I’ve ever seen, he promises to set her up with a big house, that she’ll eat well, and that people will be nice to her. Of course her pedo husband tears up the business card and tells the filmmaker to go away. Midori tries to put the pieces back together, but he finds out and beats the shit out of her against a mirror, eventually imprisoning her in a small glass bottle. That night, as Masamitsu performs alone, the crowd pisses him off so he transforms them all into cronenbergs.
After text on the screen informs us that the spell to turn people into cronenbergs came from China, Masamitsu decides to take Midori and leave the circus. As they’re leaving, all the other performers are suddenly all friendly as they say goodbye. It’s almost as if we’re meant to feel sorry for them now that they’ve run out of money, but may I remind everyone that these people are all rapists! Midori waves a fond farewell and expresses her hope to see them again someday.
Under the Cherry Blossom
Masamitsu tells Midori to wait for him while he goes to buy food. As he’s returning from the shop, a mugger (or maybe Kanabun) stabs him and he dies. Good riddance! Midori goes looking for her pedo husband, and this is where the plot becomes really confusing. Suddenly she sees all the circus performers—including Masamitsu—standing together and laughing at her. This drives her off the edge into madness, and she beats them all to death with a stick. They each explode into a cloud of either cherry or camellia petals (both are mentioned), and Midori is left standing alone on an infinite white plane. Then we’re shown a few more still images depicting whatever disturbing things the writer could think of (complete with unrelated disturbing narration), and that’s the end of this abomination.
The Worst Anime Ever
Disgust can be a useful emotion for storytellers, but this story has little purpose other than to be disgusting. That Hiroshi apparently considers this some sort of love story is infinitely worse than his insistence that the animation is “top-notch.” Yes, he said the animation in this thing was top-notch. It seems to be quite common for people to mistake works for “romantic” even when they’re clearly not supposed to be about love (just look at all the people who play “Every Breath You Take” at their weddings), but Midori is among the worst offenders. The worst part about all this is that the few people who actually like this abomination tend to sympathize with the freaks in spite of their being pedos, animal-abusers, and almost every other horrid thing you can think of.
Shōjo Tsubaki vs. Game of Thrones
There are very few elements of Midori that aren’t worse than Game of Thrones, but there are a few such elements. For one thing, Midori is only about fifty minutes long. For another, Shōjo Tsubaki at least seems to understand on some level that rape has a deep and damaging psychological impact, which isn’t nothing. Unfortunately the fact that fans of this are able to sympathize with the rapists represents a failure on the part of the storyteller(s) to portray rape as sufficiently sickening, particularly as Midori easily outmatches the depravity of Game of Thrones. At least when George R. R. Martin tried to make his rapists sympathetic he did so by throwing in tragic backstories. In Midori, the rapists fall on hard times partway through the film, and we’re meant to feel sorry for them now that they’re strapped for cash; never mind that they’re raping a little girl.
A Passion Project
The hideous animation, somewhat lacklustre voice-acting, lack of plot, unlikeable characters we’re meant to root for, and grotesque images speak for themselves. Even that doesn’t really describe what’s so wrong with this anime. Maybe it’s got something to do with the fact that this isn’t just some focus-group exploitation-fest like Game of Thrones that doesn’t care about art, self-expression, telling a good story, or even teaching a moral; this was a passion project by one man. Someone put his entire life’s savings into animating dogs being crushed to death, a young girl being repeatedly raped and otherwise tortured, and a bunch of spectators being turned into cronenbergs. And even with all this, Hiroshi expected to see “happy faces” in the audience! What else is there for me to say? Of course this is worse than Violence Jack! Midori: Shōjo Tsubaki is by far the worst anime I know of. It’s hard to imagine anything being worse.