A few quick notes about this film, Stacy takes place in a Japan of the near future where all the girls aged 15-17 throughout the world begin to die and return as flesh eating zombies. As the girls approach their deaths the girls experience a period of overwhelming joy and bliss known as Near Death Happiness (NDH), and once they return from death their bodies attract a bluish powdery substance known as Butterfly Twinkle Powder (BTP). A Stacy can be killed by most standard zombie killing methods but it takes several hours for a Stacy to die if she’s not “Repeat Killed”; To repeat Kill a Stacy and end her existence at once, she must be hacked into 165 pieces. Under UN and Japanese law a Stacy may only be killed by her loved ones or killed by the Romero Repeat Kill Troops (a group of government soldiers who travel around taking care of Stacies who aren’t disposed of by their families or loved ones). A single undead girl zombie is called a “Stacy”, and the plural of a Stacy are called “Stacies”.
This film begins with a group of young boys placing flower on a young girl named Kana (age 16) and asking when she’ll wake up, and when a lady stops by to thank Kana for watching her kids Kana awakens as a “Stacy” and begins to chow down on the kids. As all this is happening another cute schoolgirl who is holding a wind chime watches from a distance. Just as the police pull up and proceed to gun down Kana the scene switches to a television show where a mad scientist type explains to the audience about NDH and BTP. The interviewer tries to get the scientist to explain the cause of the Stacy condition and he tells the doctor that many people say that the UN and other experts have no idea what’s going on. We also find out that if you hack the Stacie up they’ll die after a few hours but if you perform a “repeat kill” and hack the bodies into 165 pieces they’ll die right away. Soon, the interviewer and scientist get in a fight over whether the repeat kill method is moral or proper.
Then the scene switches to a puppet shop that contains three guys and a woman who might be their mother or some other friend are watching television reports of the growing Stacy problem, and how the government might soon have to start drafting citizens because they’re not getting enough volunteers for the Romero squads. As the guys get ready to head off to work, the woman comments over and over that this is the apocalypse, and the apocalypse is here. Back at the Kana scene, one of the older soldiers comments on how in just 10 short years all the men in the world are gloomy and depressed because the only beautiful things left in the world are girls who are about to suffer NDH and become Stacies, and in those 10 short years the world population has been cut in half and dropping rapidly.
Then we see the one of the men from the puppet shop walking down the street listening to a neighbor yell at a young man for disposing of Stacy trash on the wrong day and the guy going off on the woman calling her a bitch and saying “I just had to kill my girlfriend and I don’t care what day trash pickup is”. Also, people are grasping at straws tying to save their daughters, even resorting to using unproven drugs on their daughters to try and arrest puberty. Later, the man hears a wind chime and see the young girl from earlier looking at him, and when he turns his head to see if she’s looking at someone else she disappears.
When the young man returns to the puppet shop where he works, he finds it empty and soon the girl from earlier enters his shop and starts talking with him. Her name is Eiko (written as eternity) and she’s going to become a Stacy in about a week and she’s chosen him to repeat kill her. She looks at his puppets and says they’re just like her wind chime, beautiful but sad. The man introduces himself to Eiko as Shibukawa, and Eiko decides to call him Shibu-san. Eiko says she can tell that because he makes puppets because he’s never comfortably with someone sleeping next to him so if he agrees to repeat kill her she’ll make sure he’s comfortable with her next to him.
Then the scene switches to a television commercial advertising the Bruce Campbell Right Hand 2, a lighter, more efficient tool for taking care of your Stacy problems. Then we see the two other guys who were with Shibu-san (Matsui and Arita) at a recruiting office for one of the Romero squads, they don’t seem too sure of joining the group but they do so anyways. Matsui gets assigned to the medical team and Arita gets invited to become the female commander’s assistant.
Then the scene switches to three cute girls (around age 16) who are wanted by the police for committing illegal repeat kills, it seems that they’re trying to earn enough money to be able to pay someone who’s cute and famous to repeat kill them when the time comes. They earn money by intercepting after hours calls to the official Romero squads and doing the jobs for money.
As we see Matsui performing his duties with the medical disposal team (burning Stacies), and we find out that the last couple of soldiers assigned to this duty committed suicide, we see Arita performing more pleasurable duties for the commander. She asks him why he joined the Romero’s , he tells her that his only sibling (Kana) became a Stacy and killed some kids and had to be put down by the Romero’s. Upon hearing this, the commander starts laughing at him and Arita gets flashbacks of him and his sister and a girl (Momo) she sets him up with. A few months ago Arita and Momo became pen pals and more, and now we see that Momo is a Stacy being held for experimentation at the medical facility. When Arita matches a picture of Momo and her friends to a Stacy in the medical facility all he can to sit and hold his head.
Then the scene switches back to Eiko and Shibu-san who’s putting on a puppet show just for Eiko that deals with love, loss, and reunion. When the play reaches the reunion part we can clearly see that there’s more to the play but he stops because Eiko very emotional over the reunion and wants it to end on a happy note. We now switch to the group of Romero’s who had to kill Kana cleaning up another job and one of the soldiers snaps and threatens the others soldiers saying how can you kill these young girls. Just as violence is about to take place, Eiko shows up and thanks the Romero troops, she tells them that we love you, and we would like you to love us, and when Shibu-san shows up she wants him to hack her up like they would. The one soldier completely breaks down, and another one says so this is what NDH is like? Yes, Eiko tells them, because we’re not angry, we forgive you, and we want to be killed by the ones who love us the most. Then Eiko and Shibu-san are sitting in a park with Shibu-san writing a play based on Eiko words, when she asks about this, he tells her that since her name is written as eternity once he finishes this she really will live forever, as they’re walking away Shibu-san and Eiko’s steps are in sync.
Back with Arita and Matsui we see that Matsui is working with the mad doctor from the TV show, and we also see that Matsui completely lost it, he says he’s in hell now, this is a living hell. The sick doctor has been able to tell that the Stacies do still have some brainwaves working, but the most interesting thing is the BTP. When the doctor begins to perform an experiment on a new Stacy with Arita’s assistance her vital signs and her BTP begins to react when she see a picture of Momo and Arita together. Her reaction also affect the other nearby Stacies, and it stops when the picture leaves her sight. As a Stacy that’s gotten free is about to get the doctor the commander steps in and kills her, the doctor tells Arita that the commander joined the Romero’s to kill girls who are younger and prettier than her, and the commander requests Arita’s services after he’s done in the lab.
The next morning Shibu-san wakes up next to Eiko, and he quietly watches her but becomes worried that she’s dead. Eiko soon wakes up to see a worried Shibu-san looking down at her and she asks him what’s the matter, and Shibu-san says he thought he lost her. Eiko looks up and smiles at him and asks Shibu-san to go shopping with her. When Eiko return to Shibu-san she’s carrying a wrapped box, he asks Eiko what’s in the box, and she says you shouldn’t make a girl tell, it’s a present, but she does spell out B-r-u-c-e. Eiko asks Shibu-san to take her to the nearby botanical garden and they head off together only to find the gardens closed.
Back with the other groups, we see that the Romero Repeat Squad is on the trail of the three girl illegal repeat kill squad, and we also see that Matsui has totally lost it and is heading towards the Stacy holding room. He says that we’re just all puppets and god is the puppeteer, changing the girls into zombies to make us suffer. Matsui uses a pass key and unlocks the Stacies; they swarm him and eat him alive.
The Stacies soon begin to overwhelm the military facility, Arita and the commander are trapped in her bedroom fighting off the Stacies, and at that very moment the three girls from the illegal repeat kill team arrive on the scene, it seems that they were hired by Momo’s parents to kill her because they feel sorry for their daughter. As the repeat kill team makes its way through the center the other survivors are cornered in a hallway, Arita and the commander leave to retrieve more ammo but she tries to runoff. Arita wants to help Momo so he fights with the commander and he shots her but he’s wounded in the process. In the hallway one soldier tells the other soldier (the brother of the commander) that he’s knows that the other guy loves his sister (the commander) but he really loves him, the brother says that he embarrassed but he grabs the other guy’s hand as the Stacies breach the barrier.
Meanwhile, Arita hears Momo’s voice calling to him as a group of Stacies approach, one of the Stacies (Momo) begins to emit BTP when she see’s Arita. The commander is soon caught and eaten by the Stacies, and Arita grabs Momo’s hand and flees with her to the medical lab. Arita muzzles Momo and is about to runaway with her when the repeat kill squad catches them; they tell him to step aside but he refuses. One of the girls makes fun of him for trying to save a Stacy, and he tells her Stacy or not, she’s still Momo. This causes some dissention in the repeat squad with one of the girls still wanting to kill Momo and another girl saying why does it matter we’re all dead soon.
Just as the group is about to kill Momo, the leader of the real Romero squad catches up with them and tells them to drop their weapons. Next, the crazy doctor also steps in telling everyone to be quiet because they’re disturbing his important work, he’s almost got it. The illegal hit squad changes its mind and decides to protect Momo and Arita but are all mortality wounded by the leader of the real squad. When he asks Arita what the story with his Stacy, Arita hugs Momo tight and tells him that Momo is his lover and the leader shots both Arita and Momo down. The only remaining mortally wounded repeat kill squad girl says that she always wanted to be held that way when she was dying, and she takes her gun and shots the other leader.
The wounded leader sits down and lights a smoke and tells the dead girls, the serial killer story he’s been speaking about throughout the whole movie, and one of the dead girls speaks to him in Eiko’s voice saying you did it, didn’t you? You must have been lonely? Did you love them, or did you want to love them? It’s OK, nobody blames you, and those girls probably loved you. Then all the dead girls tell him that they love him, and he goes insane, screaming and crying.
At that moment, the doctor has managed to survive the carnage; he grabs some computer printouts and says that he now understands what brings the Stacies to life! It can’t be this, but it has to be true. The Stacies are brought back to life not because of a murderous intent but a craving for love, and they devour people because they crave their love. A few seconds later the Stacies break into the lab and eat the leader than they turn towards the doctor, and he tell them that he loves them, he calls them his lovers and his beloved daughters as they emit BTP before eating him alive. He dies laughing and seemingly in pleasure as they tear him apart.
Back with Eiko and Shibu-san, we see that they have broken into the gardens and Eiko says they can stay until tomorrow, she says she used to come here with her twin sister (the girl who always wanted to be held at death), who was kind and beautiful, but no one noticed or understood her, she lived in a society where you couldn’t share your feelings or pain with someone. Eiko tells Shibu-san that he understands, he has to understand. Shibu-san and Eiko dance in the garden then Shibu-san hugs Eiko and doesn’t want to let her go. A voiceover asks if society has intimated you (man), you need to tell them what you want, tell them how beautiful her soul is, Shibu-san is a missionary, and he needs to teach them to tell each other their true feelings. All this is going on as Shibu-san is finishing a sketch of Eiko, then the voice of Eiko’s dead sister and the other Stacies tell Eiko it’s OK to walk around the park until dawn because the loneliness has melted away.
Then we see a glowing image of Eiko standing over the carnage in the medical lab where she leads the dead girls in saying that right now I’m at my prettiest, all the dead girls repeat this as tears flow from their eyes.
The next morning in the garden, Shibu-san looks down at a dead but stunningly beautiful Eiko, Eiko has cried tears of blood that sharply contrast with the white gown she’s wearing. Shibu-san is finally able to read the inscription the Eiko placed on the paper strip attached to the bottom of her wind chime, it says “thank you, I’m sorry, I love you”, earlier Eiko told Shibu-san that she wrote her wish on that paper.
Shibu-san carries Eiko out to the center of the park where he sits down and finishes penning in Eiko’s final words in the play he was working on. A few seconds later, Eiko begins to revive as a Stacy. Shibu-san opens Eiko’s gift, a Bruce Campbell right hand 2. Shibu-san tells Eiko that it was sad saying goodbye but they met again, he also tells Eiko “thank you, I’m sorry, and I love you”, and he keeps his promise to Eiko.
Then decades later we get an epilogue from Shibu-san saying that in the many decades since the Stacies first appeared, the Stacies stopped chasing people, and men learned to love the Stacies. The first children born of their union were unlike any children ever born to humans, and he tells us that this was maybe the final stage of human evolution, they took over the world. Now there’s this bible that has his and Eiko’s story mixed together with the original puppet story, it’s a guide to the future, a story of love. We now see that Shibu-san is a very old man and that a statue of Eiko as a puppet sits in the park, and from one of her hands dangle a bronze wind chime with her wish to the world written on it. Shibu-san now says that the world is bound by love. Well, that’s all for this movie.
On my blog I very seldom cover anything that’s not directly related to anime or anime culture. So with that being said, in this post I’ll be reviewing Stacy (2001), a Japanese schoolgirl zombie film where the social commentary packs more bite than schoolgirl zombies do.
Stacy is a Japanese horror film that was originally release back in 2001, it was directed by Naoyuki Tomomatsu (a Japanese AV film director who is known for having a stormy affair with one of his AV actresses who just happened to still be in high school at the time), and Stacy is based on a novel written by Kenji Otsuki (a former member of the band Kinniku Shojotai). Horror and science fiction films have always been known for taking shots at the problems and conditions in mainstream society that normal, more traditional media have been afraid to address or discuss. Examples of this are Night of the Living Dead (1968, racism), Dawn of the Dead (1978, consumerism), Them (1954, problems with atomic testing), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956, fear of Red influence in the US), and now I’ll add Stacy to this list as a movie taking a shot at the whole Otaku mindset of Moe and all it implies.
When I first watched this film back in late 2001, the copy of the film I saw was of very poor quality and had a poor fan translation, but I was quite shocked at the brutal attack this film launched at the part of Japanese male culture that began to value and desire the image of pure innocence schoolgirls over the reality of actually trying to meet/talk with/date/ love the real thing.
What actually cemented this evaluation in my mind was when I read the liner notes to the 20003 DVD release of Stacy, they were written by Patrick Macias where he directly introduced the idea that the director was taking a shot at the whole concept of Moe and its followers.
So, here we go with the review of Stacy.
Stacy is set in a Japan of the near future where about 10 years prior to the start of the film all girls between the ages of 15-17 started suffering from a condition called Near Death Happiness (NDH), when a girl comes down with NDH she experiences overwhelming happiness and bliss that lasts for a period of up to one week. Once a girl reaches the peak of NDH, she quietly dies, and then after a short period of time she reawakens as a zombie (a Stacy) that craves the flesh of the nearest living creatures. Stacies like most other zombies in this type of genre can be killed by normal zombie slaying methods, but in order to dispatch a Stacy right away you must chop/slice/dice/shoot the poor girl into 165 pieces.
Needless to say, the events in Stacy have caused a sense of depression and impending doom to spread throughout the population. One character in the film expresses the thought that there’s no joy left in the world because the most beautiful things in life are about to die and become flesh eating zombies. The world population has already dropped by 50% in just 10 years due to falling birthrates and the killings caused by the Stacies. The Stacy problem has grown so large that military squads have been formed just to deal with the Stacies, and under Japanese and UN law a Stacy may only be killed by her loved ones (her family or lover) or the military squads.
While the special effects, cinematography, writing, and acting in Stacy maybe over the top, and extremely campy this film contains real social criticism of otaku/Moe culture. Moe and Moe culture as described by Patrick Macias is, “an obsessive love and devotion to imaginary characters and ideals that do not, and could not, ever possibly exist……fresh-faced sailor-suited school girls are merrily prancing through the streets. You want to talk to them, proclaim your undying love to them. But largely owing to the fact that you’ve become more accustomed to dealing with anime characters of late, you can’t do anything but stare” So, Stacy is the nightmare tale of how young women who are entering sexual maturity are perceived by a certain segment of the Japanese male population, and while Stacy is a gory, nilelistic, and depressing it does offer a hopeful path to the future through the relationships of Eiko/Shibukawa & Arita/Momo.
While most of the primary and secondary characters’ lives and stories are interlinked in one way or another the main thread is how Shibu-san (a man with mildly antisocial traits) learns to fall in love and accept the companionship of Eiko (a teenage girl entering the NDH phase of becoming a Stacy). The Shibu-san character in Stacy is a stand-in for male otaku society, a man who will socialize with other people, but, prefers the company of, and feels most comfortable in the presence of his puppets. Eiko represents all young Japanese girls who are leaving their childhoods behind and are becoming young women who desire love, companionship, and sex.
One might ask, “Where did the Stacies come from, or what’s causing the Stacy problem?” The Stacies are creatures that only exist in the mind of the otaku, and they’re born as a self-protection mechanism that only reinforces the okatu’s unnatural fear of rapidly maturing girls. Many times in the film the young girls express the thought that they’re becoming their prettiest as they approach the NDH phase of life, and at this point the young girls are shown expressing the desire to have boyfriends, be held, and be told that someone loves them. While these girls are leaving behind their childhood and beginning to feel the joy in their newly approaching womanhood, this is viewed by the male as NDH and the harbinger of doom for the girls. At moment when the girls switch over from the cherished innocent schoolgirl that the male watches from afar to a maturing young woman is the point where the girl dies in the males mind and awakens as a flesh craving Stacy.
The males in the film see the girls in NDH as a source of infinite sadness while the girls experience the condition as joyful. There’s a point in the film where Eiko comes upon a Stacy killing squad where many of the members are experiencing a almost PTSD reaction over their latest dispatch of a Stacy and she merrily prances around the group laughing and chatting away with them, and when one of the soldiers asks her if this is what NDH is like? Eiko responds with yes, we’re not angry (her and the Stacies), we’re happy, we love you, and we know that you really love us too or want to love us. Eiko answer confirms to the viewer that while a Stacy wants to love, and craves love, the males view the Stacies as horrible monsters. The reactions of the males to the Stacies is quite similar to the reaction that General Jack D. Ripper from Dr. Strangelove has towards a woman’s sexuality, he feels that women are trying to rob him of his life essence, so he views women as life sucking monsters, OPE, POE.
There’s at least two points in the film where the director takes shots at the otaku habit of collecting and cherishing statues/figurines more than the real deal. The funniest one is when a television infomercial crew is pitching the Bruce Campbell Right Hand 2 chainsaw and one of the additional special bonus items is a free special edition figurine of the pitch girl holding the chainsaw and one of the pitch guys says that he’ll just take the figurine and the pitch girl gives him a dirty look that basically says you’d rather have the figurine over the real deal that’s standing next to you. The other shot the director takes at the figure culture is when Eiko sees Shibu-san’s puppets and makes the comment that she can tell that he’s more comfortable around the puppets than real people. Eiko then goes on to comment that she can tell that Shibu-san has never been comfortable with the thought of having someone (real) sleeping next to him.
While all this discussion of doom and gloom might discourage you from watching the film, don’t be totally depressed, the film does end on some hopeful notes. The film does show the males the way out of their self-created nightmare world. Firstly, Arita seemed to have cracked the riddle of the Stacies, when Arita first saw Momo as a Stacy he was repulsed by her appearance and Momo acted like a normal flesh eating zombie, but when Arita comes to the conclusion that he still loves and cherishes her, Momo is drawn to Arita and her TWP reacts to his love, it seems that Arita’s love for her has quelled her flesh craving. Arita also shows his love for Momo when he chooses to stand in the way of the military officer who wants to shoot her, he tells the officer that he doesn’t care if she’s a Stacy, she’s still Momo and he’s her lover, Arita and Momo die together in each other’s arms under a shower of bullets. A dying girl who’s in her NDH phase (Eiko’s sister) witnesses the couples’ death and comments that she always wished she could be held like that, in a lovers’ arms.
Also, males are shown the path out of the darkness by the relationship that Eiko and Shibu-san develops. Both Eiko and Shibu-san have needs that can only be filled by developing a relationship with each other, Eiko who’s in her NDH phase needs Shibu-san to love her, she needs to be repeat killed by a lover when she becomes a Stacy. Shibu-san as Eiko can recognize is more comfortable with puppets and he needs to learn to how love and enjoy real human contact with a woman. So, Eiko makes a deal with Shibu-san by getting him to agree that she’ll make him comfortable with having another human sleep next to him and he’ll do her the honor of being the loved one that’ll repeat kill her, thus begins their dance of life, love, death. At first, Shibu-san is put off and somewhat perplexed by the strange creature that’s now filling his life, and as Shibu-san begins to listen to Eiko’s hopes, dreams, feelings and joins her in conversation he gradually loses his fear of her. At this point Shibu-san still views Eiko as a creature beyond his reach, he’s always several steps behind her, more like an observer of a rare object than her lover. But, as times passes, Shibu-san and Eiko spend more and more time together and a strange thing happens Shibu-san is soon walking next to and in step Eiko. By the next morning we see that Eiko has kept her promise to Shibu-san, he awakens next a sleeping Eiko and she’s no longer an object of mystery but a beautiful young woman that he touches and caresses and doesn’t want to lose. Eiko in her short stay with Shibu-san has taught him that while human contact might be scary and uncertain it’s much better than being surrounded by puppets.
While things might be looking up for Shibu-san we can see that this isn’t going to end well, Eiko kept her promise to Shibu-san, and he’s going to have to keep his promise to her. But, this wasn’t a simple love story of boy meets girl, Eiko chose Shibu-san because he’s a puppeteer, a storyteller, she acts as Gabriel to Shibu-san’s Muhammad, she came to teach Shibu-san how man and the Stacies can coexist and save the future. She asks Shibu-san and society as a whole what happened to create this perverse system, has society intimated man? The answer is simple, tell them how beautiful their souls are, and tell them how you feel, tell them what you want, tell them that you want to love them, because they want to love and be loved. After Shibu-san keeps his promise to Eiko we see that he’s spread to word, man’s learned to love the Stacies, and the Stacies no longer chow down on people. The children born to the union of men and Stacies now are the dominate population; the circle of life goes on.
The main message in this film is when you see the real thing sitting there by herself don’t just stare and run back to your room and frap to the latest Moe anime, get some courage up and walk over and say hello, chat with her for awhile, because Stacies may be scary but they want to love, and be loved too.
Save the future by loving a Stacy.