Representations of Suicide in Japanese Cinema

Jim Harper jimharper666 at
Fri Feb 27 07:03:46 EST 2009

As well as Sono's Suicide Club, there's also Osamu Fukutani's Suicide Manual and Yuuichi Onuma's Suicide Manual 2: Intermediate Stage, but neither of them actually has much to do with the subject of suicide. There's a few interesting hints here and there, but they're lost under layers of sub-par Ring and Pulse-derived material. Despite the appropriation of the title of Wataru Tsurumi's book, the films seem to have deliberately avoided anything that might cause the same controversy as the book.

--- On Fri, 27/2/09, Fergus MacDermot <macdermotfergus at> wrote:

From: Fergus MacDermot <macdermotfergus at>
Subject: RE: Representations of Suicide in Japanese Cinema
To: kinejapan at
Date: Friday, 27 February, 2009, 11:17 AM

#yiv168148722 .hmmessage P
#yiv168148722 {

Seppuku (harakiri) is the other obvious classic to watch.

Date: Thu, 26 Feb 2009 21:52:33 -0500
From: murphy7312 at
To: KineJapan at
Subject: Re: Representations of Suicide in Japanese Cinema

Dear Edel,
You might try Suicidal Narrative in Modern Japan, by Alan Wolfe (Princeton UP, 1990)  Though this book is about literature, it includes extensive discussion of the sociological literature on suicide from Durkheim on, and reflection on the way changing representations of different kinds of suicide in Japan (aestheticized, alienated) by western writers served to position Japan within different historical narratives in relation to the west. You may find that it lays some critical groundwork for you. 
I also recall when Koreeda Hirokazu's Maboroshi no hikari won multiple prizes at the Venice International Film Festival in 1995, an Asahi Shinbun interview where he discussed encountering the European critical stance that there was something "beautiful" or aestheticized about the suicide in it.  He rather felt it represented the facts of alienation and depression and didn't understand what was beautiful about it.  There may be an intersection there, between the sociological facts of suicide and artistic depictions, and between Japanese and European interpretations, that you can use to spin the problem out.
J. Murphy

On Feb 26, 2009, at 6:48 PM, Edel Quinn wrote:

Hi there,

My name is Edel. I'm a Masters student at the Huston Film School, in  
National University  of Ireland. I am in the early stages of  
researching my thesis on Representations of Suicide in Japanese  
Cinema. The extent to which suicide is mentioned and depicted in  
Japanese arts has always interested me, especially since,  
statistically speaking, Japan's title of being one of the world's  
'suicide nations' has only in recent years been warranted.   With this  
in mind I am looking at both contemporary and classical films and  
emphasis will be placed on how representations are made and whether or  
not there are links between cultural depictions and sociological  
trends.This will involve a discussion of traditional forms of  
committing suicide such as seppaku. Also Shinjyuu, the form of suicide  
committed among couples, to forms of familial suicides such as boshi- 
shinjyu along with more contemporary trends amongst young people in  

I am also considering cross cultural analysis comparing western  
representations of Japanese suicide with Japanese depictions.

However, I am having great difficulty finding resources on my topic.  
Obviously the fact that I am limited to English resources makes  
everything more difficult. I would be most grateful if anyone has   
encountered interesting texts, studies and films that deal with  
suicide in film generally and particularly within the Japanese context.

If anyone has any thoughts, opinions or ideas on how I should go about  
this study they would be most welcome! As I mentioned I'm in the early  
stages of my research so I'm still figuring out what direction to take.

Thanks so much for your time.

Regards, Edel Quinn

delquinn at

May I commend Kine Japan organisers and contributors on continually  
insightful discussions!

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