Daijiro Morohoshi – Weird Manga Hero

Daijiro Morohoshi諸星大二郎)is definitely a weird precursor of Junji Ito but, unfortunately, very difficult to find in English (and even in Chinese). His most famous work is the Yokai Hunter (妖怪ハンター) series of the 1970s-80s.

A good overview of his stuff can be found here (Big5), along with a selection of “four favorites” (Big 5). Not altogether unrelated, some good horror manga recommendations from Silberstein here. Ito isn’t the only one who owes a debt to Morohoshi, legendary anime dude Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke borrows heavily from the sylvan tribes of Mud Men.

Capsule review: “The Tenants Downstairs” (2016)

But we can, you know we can
Let’s lynch the landlord
Let’s lynch the landlord
Let’s lynch the landlord man

Although it’s a pretty big generalization, Giddens Ko (九把刀) is something like a Taiwanese Stephen King–which is to say a highly prolific author who works in different genres and has comparable name-recognition for Taiwan (and a lot of people dislike his celebrity). I read his novel The Tenants Downstairs 《樓下的房客》 in Chinese a few years ago and remember being really impressed with it (maybe it’s a problem of my tastes being too whimsical but I rarely run across page-turners in the Chinese language). I was delighted to hear that it was made into a film (in 2016), even though it starred Simon Yam (任達華) as the psycho landlord and not a local actor. >image –>

The book, written in 2006 while Ko was still a student at Tunghai University, is about a creepy landlord who, living on the top flour of a 5 story gongyu (公寓) begins to spy on his tenants–some of whom turn out to be far creepier than him. One thing I loved about the book was that it was an unpretentious misanthropic dig at some of the seedier aspects of Taiwanese society while also lampooning its college students in some pretty hilarious scenes. In contrast, the film, though it wasn’t awful wasn’t nearly as suspenseful or interesting as the book (surprise!). Simon Yam does a good job of bringing the uncle weirdo landlord to life, but for some reason HK actors often seem to be parodying the characters they play.

Acting aside, the first big let down is that they radically spruced up the setting of the story by making the old apartment building into a posh old 1930s hotel with hardwood floors and paneling along with warm, subdued lighting in every room. Needless to say, that’s not what your average Taiwanese gongyu looks like and if you’ve ever lived in one you will know how absurd it is to alter the setting that much. Another distraction was the fact that the first 10-15 minutes of the film is devoted to showing us how the landlord “discovered” the surveillance equipment his dead uncle set up in all the apartments. In the book it’s a non-issue, but you can see the director/producers were going out of their way to not show a protagonist setting up spycams in his tenants’ rooms.

And that, in capsule, is my review. I give the film 3 1/2 aliens.