MPD-Psycho - The Complete Series (2000)
By: Julian on September 29, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Siren Visual (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 1.85:1 (Non-anamorphic). Japanese DD 2.0. 342 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Takashi Miike
Starring: Naoki Hosaka, Tomoko Nakajima, Ren Osugi, Rieko Miura
Screenplay: Eiji Ootsuka
Country: Japan
External Links
Purchase IMDB YouTube
Having Takashi Miike direct something for television must be an absolute nightmare for Packeresque bigwigs – sorta like giving Gerry Damiano creative license for his guest spot on Neighbours. But before he got himself banned from cable TV with the 'Masters of Horror' episode Imprint, Japan's loveable screwball adapted Eiji Otsuka's controversial manga into a six-part miniseries. MPD-Psycho ('MPD' an acronym for 'multiple personality detective', which should give you a bit of an idea what's going on here) is typically offbeat, with Miike experimenting with different film styles and some terrifically grisly set pieces – sadly, the best of which were heavily censored in production.

The titular 'multiple personality detective' is a fella by the name of Amamiya Kazuhiko, who is called out of early retirement (because of his condition) to solve a series of bizarre murders. The killings, which include a macabre scalping ritual, stealing the newborns of young women and murdering the mothers, and a mass schoolyard shooting and group suicide baffle the police, shown here as bumbling incompetents.

The first episode Drifting Petals/Memories of Sin introduces us to Kazuhiko and his homicidal split personality. Kazuhiko, convinced he can reign his Mr Hyde persona in, is assigned to a case where people are being turned into 'human flower pots'; the tops of their skulls lopped off and a flower popped in their grey matter (you can see this, uncensored, on the startling cover art of this disc). Kazuhiko tracks the killings to a mysterious cult who idolises pop star-cum-terrorist Lucy Monostone whose followers are identifiable by a barcode tattooed to their eyeball. Also investigating the cases is Sasayama, a grizzled but fundamentally hopeless detective whose hilariously inappropriate police procedural work is to the constant chagrin of his superiors. The murders continue across the subsequent five episodes in various different ways, and Kazuhiko is forced to delve into his innermost personality, which includes plumbing the sordid depths of his dangerous alter ego, in order to bring the killers to justice.

Look, this really is confusing as all Hell, so it's not unlike any other Miike film – except if you fancy a revisional re-watch (which I had to), you're looking at close to six hours. I really find Miike hair-tearingly terrible when it comes to churning out something coherent, and this is especially frustrating in the first two episodes, with the third instalment – Life is a Constant Double Helix – meshing everything together and paving the way for the second half of the series. MPD-Psycho works best when viewed as a fantastical horror film, not necessarily a detective thriller because it fails abysmally on the latter level. Miike's unorthodox approach to that genre though makes for some hilarious and intentionally camp moments – the running gag of the overzealous copper bringing out a diorama to represent each murder and the banners declaring the purpose of each unit (with a very funny 'opening ceremony' in the fourth episode) are great. Perhaps less intentionally amusing is the dialogue – Eiji Ootsuka's screenplay has moments that are hammier than a butcher (and even hammier than that pun), and it's about as funny as a snake bite.

I haven't read the manga, so I can't make any comparison between the two here. My understanding of it though is that the manga was considered potently controversial, so much so that one of the characters directly comments that it 'should be banned' as Sasayama reads a copy in episode one to 'keep with the trend'. According to the Anime News Source, there are twelve volumes of MPD-Psycho, the first of which was published in 1997. English translations for the first five have been released in 2007 and 2008. Miike's no stranger to manga adaptations – Fudoh and Ichi the Killer, two of his most successful films in the West, were based on manga novels and lend a certain surreal, frenetic quality to the picture itself, because Miike doesn't just base his films on manga, he films them like a manga. There's lots of exaggeration, and this is clear in MPD-Psycho – raindrops are Kryptonite-green, blood showers predict Ichi's most inspired moments and the offbeat mob of characters are textbook deviants and bizzaros.

This 'exaggeration' leads us quite nicely into the censorship in MPD-Psycho. Every scene of gore, though not blood, is censored by pixellating the offending scene – not the entire frame. No actual footage has been excised for censorship purposes. I emailed Siren Visual about this, and they stated that the censorship was carried out during production, and the Japanese producers claim that every master in existence was censored in this manner. At once it's a disappointment, because it's very clearly not Miike's stylistic choice – Japan is notorious when it comes to enforcing optical censorship (Miike's 2001 film Visitor Q was censored in such a manner), and a television miniseries would have required action to be taken on a greater scale than cinema or made-for-video films.

Takashi Miike could very possibly lay claim to being one of the most prolific directors operating in Japan today, having helmed some seventy-five titles in the past seventeen years. His rationale for this is simple – directors don't make as much money in Japan, so he films for his bread. He's certainly iconic in J-horror and yakuza pics, particularly with 1999's Audition, and his work with the Masters of Horror series is a testament to his high-regard. With MPD-Psycho, Miike has consolidated his position as a horror filmmaker, though he doesn't necessarily bring anything new to the table. I liked it reservedly – when it made sense, it was brilliant; when it didn't, it was dreck. Not making sense, though, isn't to be confused with surrealism, and Miike really is a master of the surreal.

All things considered – recommended.
Video
All episodes are presented in a non-anamorph 1.85:1 aspect ratio. It's not that good, really – colours are dull and there's a fair bit of grain in the blacks.
Audio
Japanese Dolby 2.0 for all episodes, with accompanying burnt in subtitles.
Extra Features
Trailers on disc two and three for other Miike releases (Ichi the Killer, Fudoh, Visitor Q, City of Lost Souls, Dead or Alive and its sequel).
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Miike's the kind of director I slip into my DVD player when I feeling like an anarchic jolt to the heart. His movies make no sense to me whatsoever, but they are without a doubt the most delirious and hysterical movies I've seen. MPD-Psycho is no exception, though it's a poorer example of his best work in the genre. Fans of the director should revel in this – but it's far from an ideal Miike starting point.
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