CW: Gore, mentions of r/pe, assault, stalking
The Japanese horror art film Tag/Riaru Onigokko is an ode and apology to the survivor, though it has been written off as “strange” and “confusing”.
Although the Japanese horror/suspense film Tag was released three years ago, the beginning scene of the movie has recently circulated on social media: a high school girl, Mitsuko, is on a bus with her classmates, and drops her pen. As she bends down to pick it up, the bus, her teacher, and her classmates who remain seated are sliced in half.
This initiates Mitsuko running away from the force that is killing off those around her,and ultimately finds herself in situations where her identity and appearance constantly change. In each scenario, she is supported by a version of her friend Aki, who either readies her for combat or distracts her attackers, and in every scenario, she must flee while the surrounding girls are slaughtered in various ways.
Western audiences, as always, have written off the movie as “strange”, “weird”, and “makes no sense”, citing the “confusing” ending, the “unnecessary” twists, and the constant deaths despite it being a horror movie.
What hasn’t been acknowledged is the movie’s extended metaphor for the objectification of women, femmes, and other survivors, and how trauma is often not seen as a call for healing, but an opportunity for abusers and abuse sympathizers to continually control and manipulate survivors afterwards. With Mitsuko and her friends being used as characters in a video game, their bodies being presented on display behind a glass window, and the “Men’s World” that is the future where Mitsuko’s DNA is used for literal entertainment, the movie highlights the constant sexualization of women and femmes, and the absence of consideration for their livelihood.
Tag is an ode and apology to the survivor. To everyone that is here because they’ve died once already. That have been reduced to nothing more than a body. That still had to survive in what others have made out of their bodies afterwards. That had to escape to other worlds in order to stop witnessing their own bloodshed.
Even then, we find ways to take back and look after our own. We always find reclamation no matter how messy, violent, and non-linear it is. There is someone, often a woman or femme, who helps us save ourselves if not us.
Mitsuko’s refusal to succumb to the destiny presented to her is a reminder that we are not martyrs meant to die for the sake of our abuser’s enjoyment. What has been done to us is not the only truth that exists in this reality.
Regardless of any alternate universe where what happened to us happens or not, where anything we could’ve done to “prevent” what happened to us we do, where it all happens anyway, there are still constants. There is still the survivor. There is still a time and space after that the survivor has control of. There is still an attempt to make the survivor feel otherwise. There is still a ripple that has distorted our lifetime, but regardless, there is still us that continues on after.
There are no absolutes, even after death.