12 Suicidal Teens: Japanese Movie Review

12-suicidal-teens.jpgI was immediately drawn to 12 Suicidal Teens (Jyuni Nin no Shinitai Kodomotachi) when I first saw its trailer because it is so timely. With suicide rates at an all-time high because of mental health issues, I was interested to see a film that revolves around a bunch of teens planning to end their lives together and wondered how the movie would pull it off.

Synopsis: Twelve teenagers sign up for an assembly to commit suicide at the basement of an abandoned hospital. Unlike any suicide attempt though, the assembly needs the consent of the entire body before they can proceed with the plan. Before they can even begin however, they find that another person has beaten them to the punch. They begin to suspect that a murderer is among them and they team up to unravel the mystery behind their uninvited guest.

I liked the gloomy vibe that 12 Suicidal Teens had throughout the film. It was like a shroud of depression that refuses to lift, setting the tone for the stories of these 12 troubled teenagers who felt the need to end their lives. From the very beginning, the film effectively set up for the mystery surrounding the 13th participant, and as they peeled off the layers, the film also managed to focus on these 12 teenagers who were struggling with their own demons.

There was Satoshi (Mahiro Takasugi) who organized the assembly because he was fascinated by death and his own father’s suicide;  Kenichi (Yuto Fuchino) who was constantly bullied at school;  Mitsue (Kotone Furukawa), a cosplayer who wanted to follow her beloved idol to the grave; Ryoko, a model who is tired of living her life under the limelight; Shinjiro, who suffers from a terminal illness and wanted to end his life in his own terms.

There was also Meiko (Yuina Kuroshima) who wanted her parents to be indebted to her after her insurance money saves their business; Anri (Hana Sugisaki), who believes she should never have been born; Takahiro (Riko Hagiwara), who relies on meds to seem normal; Nobuo (Takumi Kitamura) who suffers from the guilt of killing a classmate; Seigo (Ryota Bando) who wants to spite his mother who took out an insurance policy on his life; Mai (Ai Yoshikawa), a victim of sexual abuse and Yuki (Aisa Takeuchi), a survivor of a an accident.

12 Suicidal Teens gave equal attention to telling all of their stories and provided audiences with an avenue to hear the problems that compelled these teens to end their life. A lot of these problems are relatable and realistic and could serve as a wake up call for audiences to listen to what is not being said by their own loved ones, friends or acquaintances.

As the teens begin to build a connection as they go about their investigation, they find kindred spirits in each other and begin to realize that they are not the only ones suffering in the world. It was quite touching when Seigo volunteered to deal with Kenichi’s bullies or when Mitsue just jumped and hugged Ryoko towards the end.

While the film had a very similar approach to Detective Conan with Shinjiro’s deductive skills (he also looked a bit like Shinichi), I liked that the mystery served as a separate layer to make the teens realize the magnitude of their final decision. Sure, there were attempts to fake out the audience by planting doubt against some of the characters based on their acting but I liked how the film consolidated the two plotlines.

All in all, 12 Suicidal Teens could be described as a boring film for some because of the lengthy dialogue and the general quiet atmosphere, but for me, it was a major success. The film managed to develop all 12 characters in the space of 118 minutes, making audiences care enough about how each of them ends up. It made them pay attention and listen, engaging them in thoughts about issues that are taboo in society. I was a big fan of what this movie was trying to say. Free of artifice, it was scary because it resonates with anyone who has ever suffered in life. 12 Suicidal Teens had no love story, no kawaii subtext but the journey of these teens in one afternoon, could just as well be anyone’s journey.