“That’s not pig, it’s human!”
In the tenth dream in the filmic adaptation of Natsume Sōseki’s “Ten Nights of Dreams,” Yūdai Yamaguchi employs his unique combination of comedy/horror/gore/manga stylistic techniques to tell a pedagogical moral tale. Though Yamaguchi’s crazed and ludicrous visuals at times stray from the original text’s purpose, it is still clear: there is an inherent evil in narcissistically gazing at women. However, Yamaguchi problematizes this gaze throughout his short film, redefining, reconceptualizing, and reinventing it to empower Shōtarō’s nemesis. I would assume that this visual adaptation of Sōseki’s short piece cannot be used for its pedagogical function in its telling of a moral (at least, to a young audience), but its commentary on vanity, consumption, the gendered gaze, and pigs provides a plethora of insights to make sense of the frenetic action.
The film centers on Shōtarō, a young man who spends his days gazing at women – who, in turn, only venture to the village to look at him. Defined by the narrative as an attractive fellow, he is able to disrupt the active/male and passive/female split that Mulvey theorizes in her “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Shōtarō is both subject and object – he occupies his time actively judging the looks of his female visitors, who bring him gifts as tokens of appreciation for his universal beauty (his visitors’ unattractiveness is emphasized, as well as Shōtarō’s disgust of them). Though we are only given access to Shōtarō’s response, the fact that these women who “come for miles” to visit the village solely to see him points to their pleasure in gazing at him as well. However, we soon discover that Shōtarō’s disgust is not just at the surface level, as his utopian vision of a land with only beautiful people is carried out by the brutal murders of his “ugly” patrons. However, his goal of ridding the world of ugliness does not go unnoticed, and (finally!) an attractive guest, Yoshino, convinces Shōtarō to come along with her. Certainly not expecting to be forced through trials of different forms of torture, he becomes a consumer of what he despises most.
Visiting at first what appears to be an innocent restaurant, Shōtarō soon discovers that the food is made from all-natural human ingredients. Gifted with a Willy-Wonka-esque tour through the restaurant’s labyrinth, Shōtarō is forced to witness, firsthand, what he consumed only minutes ago. Composed of sweat, the best slices of human flesh, and some other vulgar constituents, he literally consumes the ugliness that he so vehemently opposes. Yoshino also reveals herself to be a pig in disguise, creating an interesting correlation between definitions of ‘pig,’ as well as further turning Shōtarō’s distaste for repugnance on its head. Combining the literal definition of pigs as swine, a pig as an excessive eater, and a pig as Shōtarō’s male chauvinist personality, many iterations of ‘pig’ are present within the film (although I argue Yamaguchi could have thrown police in the mix somehow…). The method for defeating Yoshino, in her final master pig form, is to beg for forgiveness, as Shōtarō does once becoming aware of his wrongdoings – not simply murdering his ugly visitors, but also for criticizing them out of vanity. This apology turns into a mock-WWE finisher move, as his lesson learned turns into, quite possibly, his life-saving defeat of Yoshino. Though Shōtarō’s status of living is at question at the film’s conclusion, it is certain that he has learned his lesson – gazing at women, and judging them based on vain conceptions of beauty, is wrong. Although Sōseki’s original short piece shares this sentiment, adding Yamaguchi’s trademark style provides a fresh perspective on a moral tale.