“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” I’ve been repeating this mantra to myself for the last ten minutes or so, but no matter how many times I say it, the message never quite sinks in deep enough for that thumbnail image to not fill me with dread. Everything about it is terrible – from the composition of the images that make up the cover, the font choice, the terrible picture of KOTOKO all the way down to the bloody song/movie’s title. I mean, seriously, “Real Onigokko” (リアル鬼ごっこ) literally translates as being “the real guy who got tagged as ‘it’ in a game of tag” (figurative/less wordy translation pending) – even taken independently of the film’s context, that’s a pretty dumb title. But, taking the movie’s plot into consideration, the bad title only gets that much worse.
Basically, from what I gather the movie’s plot is as such: it’s the year 3000, and everything’s bleak and dystopian because it’s a horror movie. As part of the unnecessarily cruel future dictatorship’s rule, or maybe just because they’re bored, a bunch of kids get involved in what’s essentially a ‘deadly’ version of that good ol’ game of tag. Now, I saw Battle Royale just like I’m sure we all have, and as such I can personally vouch for the fact that the whole ‘kids killing each other’ genre has a lot of entertainment potential – but just because you’ve set your movie 1000 years in the future doesn’t mean you have an excuse to rehash the plot of a much better film (in this case, Battle Royale) as blatantly as the producers have done here.
As something of a horror buff, I would like to note that the scariest movies I’ve seen have all succeeded through building atmosphere above all else. Having said this, the Real Onigokko single cover (which, I’m guessing, is probably very true to the movie’s aesthetic as well) completely fails to evoke any sense of genuine horror beyond the I’ve fan’s instinctive bracing for the upcoming fiasco of a single – an irritating lack of atmosphere her Geneon page’s new banner image with its calm, vaguely curious-looking KOTOKO only serves to perpetuate. Admittedly I wasn’t quite expecting I’ve’s notoriously untalented graphic designers to come up with a classic horror image on the level of, say, the original Friday the 13th poster, but what they have instead looks less like a professional single release and more like a hastily-photoshopped ‘album’ cover for some internet band that thinks having 12 friends on Myspace counts as making it big.
But what, you might be thinking, does all this have to do with the song? Well, therein lies the problem. While admittedly there’s known to be somewhat of a large gap in quality between an I’ve-produced single and the (usually terrible) anime or eroge it’s attached to, Real Onigokko seems to have more synergy with the title it’s connected to than most. Firstly, there’s the shared title – which was a great sign for Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, but a dire warning in the case of something this dreadful-looking. Second, the fact that the single cover’s “futuristic” graphics (which remind me of Escape From New York, but not in a good way) and uniform-style outfit for KOTOKO seem to be designed strictly to fit with the movie’s theme implies more effort than usual is being put into making sure the song and the film match up. Combined with Kazuya Takase’s disappointing performance as of late (the surprisingly beautiful ‘triangle’ notwithstanding), I think it’s fairly safe to say this next single is far from a guaranteed hit.