Although they have not seen each other in years -- since the night he discovered the man she was having an affair with, crashed his car into their car, and mercilessly assaulted her lover -- Kiriko (Asuka Kurosawa) calls her ex-husband Akikazu (Koju Yakusho) to investigate the disappearance of their daughter, Kanako (Nana Komatsu). Akikazu, a bitter alcoholic, is still bursting with rage at Kiriko's infidelity and hardly knows anything about his daughter, but he agrees to find out anyway. Starting with a small tin of drugs, left behind in a purse, his search quickly begins to turn up evidence that Kanako was not just an innocent schoolgirl, but some sort of deranged mastermind, who not only dealt drugs but even pimped out fellow classmates, and had ties to the Yakuza. Before long, bodies start to pile up all over the place, and as Akikazu gets deeper and deeper into his daughter's whereabouts, he starts to lose his already tenuous grip on his own sanity.
There are many things to dislike about Kanako, but the filmmakers' repulsive treatment of women is the element laid on the thickest. Given Kanako is a critical assignment, I resolved to make it through to the end (an ordeal), but the moment when Akikazu rapes his wife and the filmmakers seem to present it as justified due to her cheating is definitely a point I would've given up on a movie I was watching casually and turned it off. Later, Akikazu manages to one-up himself by raping another man's wife in order to get to him (before his target ends up murdering her himself, because she has the gall to be furious at the situation he's put her in). Nearly every person Akikazu interviews in his search for Kanako is a woman, and he violently assaults nearly every one of them, and most of them end up getting brutally murdered as a result of his actions. Throughout, Nakashima seems to hope we will identify with Akikazu, sympathizing with his struggle.
At the center of this misogynistic atmosphere is the character of Kanako, who is slowly painted as a temptress who manipulates everyone around her to get her own way, and then gleefully disposes of them afterward, mostly at the expense of their own lives. A flashback sequence running parallel to Akikazu's investigation involves her stringing along a doormat-like student named Boku (Hiroya Shimizu), who is brutally and mercilessly beat up by every one of the school's bullies until she taps her yakuza connection and gets him some protection. He's desperately in love with her, so this act of kindness makes him extremely receptive to her, even though she frequently treats him like trash, laughing at the wounds his bullies give him and constantly comparing him to her ex-boyfriend Ogata, who killed himself. Eventually, Nakashima arrives at two reveals: the end of Kanako's friendship with Boku and a crucial moment between Akikazu and Kanako, one of his last memories of her. The first merely paints her as a next-level sex criminal on par with her father. The latter is even worse, arguably positioning Kanako as representative of a negative stereotype of all women, and again "validating" Akikazu's hatred of her in an incredibly gross way. Although I will not spoil whether or not Kanako is found, the structure of the film means we mostly see her through flashbacks, which allows Nakashima and his co-writers to paint a narrow portrait of her. Motivation is irrelevant (outside of general "female wickedness"), and she is never allowed to develop beyond being a caricature.
The film is ridiculously violent throughout, yet most of it is just an accumulation of blood and the generally scummy atmosphere of the film congealing rather than anything especially graphic (with the exception of a scene where a gangster steps on someone's exposed internal organs through a hole in their stomach). Akikazu starts out the day in a white suit that quickly turns into a blood sponge. The opening credits, with the cartoon font and blues-y theme music, suggest that Nakashima is yet another filmmaker influenced by Tarantino's blend of style and violence, but a scene where a woman's ear is being sliced off is of course shown rather than shifting away. For some viewers, this journey into depravity might be thrilling, darkly funny, or even moving in some sort of odd, deranged way. Personally, I'll leave the world of Kanako to them.
The Video and Audio
An original theatrical trailer and original teaser trailer for The World of Kanako are included in the special features under "Trailers." There are also trailers for Cheap Thrills, Graceland, Nothing Bad Can Happen, R100, and Why Don't You Play in Hell?.