In theory, to hear both, Hideo Yamamoto and Takashi Shimizu in a same sentence sounds like an exciting project with lots of potential and that’s what we have in here, sadly it’s only that.
Susumu Nakoshi is a homeless guy, who lives in his car, you can usually find him in a park in Shinjiku, close to a luxury hotel/restaurant.
Medical school student, Manabu Ito, takes interest in him, because Nakoshi lives right in between the two sides of a coin: luxury and poverty.
He offers him a new reason to live, to volunteer in a experiment where he could open his third eye through trepanation and be able to feel again.
After the surgery, he starts seeing people, only with his left eye, as monsters, as distorted humans.
Ito tells him that are “homunculus”, the visualization from deep within the mind, the darkest feelings they have and try to hide and he is able to communicate with them.
The cast and their performances are strong, cinematography it’s good and in general it’s a very stylish film, but we have two big problems here.
The first one, if you haven’t read the manga, time to time doesn’t make sense, feels rushed and without a proper storyline; just the plot and characters are all over the place.
It has too many plot holes, many questions with just a few answers.
The second, it does makes you feel that you must have to read the manga to understand some “whys” and to fill some of the plot holes, but sadly, if you know the manga, you are going to be extremely disappointed with this adaptation, because not only changes the essence of Nakoshi and Ito, but the whole point of this story.
“Homunculus” it’s a story heavy in the psychological and philosophical areas, it makes you feel disgusted, angry, sad, emphatic.
Humans are complex, to try to understand the very concept of this it’s really hard but trying to summarize it in 116 minutes it’s just crazy and that’s why we ended up with something that seems more of a soap opera drama than the very complex and rich artwork that Yamamoto delivered.
This had so much more potential to be a series, I hope someone else tries to do it again and without restrictions because, easily, 90% of the manga was censored.
As a fan of the manga, I’m heartbroken and as a fan of asian cinema in general, I’m confused and disappointed.
Hopefully when we hear these names again, they will be attached to a better project.
These are spoilers for those who have read the manga and want to know the biggest differences between them:
- Nakoshi is not poor, never goes under plastic surgery, it’s friends with Ken and it’s amnesic. Nanako and him were living together, he doesn’t go crazy with the trepanations and has a happy ending with a girl.
- Ito looks more like an idol, his only problem is with his father because his father loved more a gold fish. Crossdressing and transgender issues are nonexistent. Makes a huge experiment with Nakoshi and “Nanako” leaving both of them amnesic. He is the one who goes crazy with trepanations, sew his eye and commits suicide.
- Nanako and Nakoshi are a couple, they live together, she suffers a miscarriage and start fighting in the street where a car runs over her and dies. The girl in the car feels guilty, wants to forget and gets a trepanation, she and Nakoshi believed she was Nanako, after they found out the truth, decided to run away together and start knowing each other as Nakoshi and Chihiro; that’s the ending.