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Anime / After School Midnighters

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"Let's play again!"
Mako, Miko, and Mutsuko
After School Midnighters (放課後ミッドナイターズ, Hōkago Midnighters) is a Japanese CGI Horror Comedy film released in 2012. It developed from plans to make a few educational shorts starring an anatomical model set, Kunstlijk and Goth, into a non-educational film starring them and a whole lot of other characters.

There's a secret kimodameshi hosted by the spirits of St. Claire Elementary. Participants have to come to school at night and complete three challenges to earn three medals, which may be used to grant one wish. The hosting spirits are known as the Midnighters and Kunstlijk, a living anatomical model, used to be one of them before his perceived betrayal. At present, Kunstlijk and his pal Goth, a skeleton model, face extinction as the science room is set to be demolished come morning. They fetch three 5-year old girls — Mako, Miko, and Mutsuko — to win the After School Midnight Party before 4 o'clock so they can wish for the science room to be saved.

And that's the main but not the only storyline. Up until the final challenge, Kunstlijk actually tries to sabotage the girls because of earlier vandalism and because he believes he and Goth will just be taken to another school. Kunstlijk also revives three formalin-stored rabbits who turn out to be gangsters and who get very angry when one of them disappears due to one of Kunstlijk's inventions. There's a bathroom ghost in the Old School Building named Chablis that all of the Midnighters are terrified of. There's an honest-to-god alien roaming around. And there's a Time Machine that relates to Kunstlijk's "betrayal" forty years ago as well as several inventions more only a Mad Scientist would come up with. The film gets chaotic at times, but never muddled.


During production, plans for a sequel were prepared because there was good hope the movie would be a success. It only did okay and the sequel was scrapped. However, in 2016 the popularity of the franchise got a boost when SNS broadcasted the twelve 90-seconds shorts about Kunstrijk's and Goth's hijinks-filled lives that were originally made to promote the film. In 2017, a crowdfunding campaign was launched on Campfire for the creation of a second season of shorts. The goal was met within three months and the shorts were released in 2018. There's been talk of reviving the sequel since. A poster was released in 2019 with the elaboration that the sequel would involve another anatomical model from a closed school in a neighboring town coming to St. Claire Elementary, presumably to take Kunstlijk's place.


After School Midnighters provides examples of:

  • Beauty, Brains, and Brawn: Mako, Miko, and Mutsuko are a trio of girls that exhibit these qualities. The enviably energetic Mako is brawn, the well-educated and rich Miko who appreciates the finer things in life is beauty, and the quiet yet persistently curious Mutsuko is brains.
  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • The virtual ghosts Lumière and Dunkelheit respectively have the French word for "Light" and the German word for "Darkness" as their names.
    • Kunstlijk's name is an obsolete Japanese loanword from Dutch. It means "art(ificial) corpse" and up to the early years of the 20th Century was what the Dutch called an anatomical model. In the late 19th Century, the first Japanese classes in Western healthcare were handled by a Dutchman, P.J.A. Slüys, who among his tools had one of Auzoux's papier-mache models. And so the word "kunstlijk" came into use in Japan too.note 
  • Blank White Eyes: Kunstlijk's eyes roll back to hide his irises when Miko, instead of being impressed with the Time Machine, berates him for being an immature man. The eyes don't return to normal until Goth convinces him not to violently murder the girls. Similarly, Beethoven flies into a rage when the one melody of his the deuteragonist trio recognizes is recognized because it is the call waiting tune. This is paired with his eyes going all-white.
  • Body Horror:
    • Kunstlijk might be unsettling as he is a depiction of a human with the skin peeled off on one half, but he's still just an artificial body. The three rabbits are actual rabbits that were killed, half-flayed, and preserved in formalin for educational purposes. Kunstlijk revives them to do his bidding and they wake up screaming.
    • A case of "empathetic" body horror occurs when Kunstlijk enters a mannequin depot and stumbles upon a massive pile of mannequin body parts. They aren't alive like he is, but they are human models just like him and the screech of utter horror bordering on crying that he lets out defines the least comedic moments of the film.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: There are two: Mako and Mozart's portrait. They are the youngest of their respective groups, so no one takes issue with their unfocussed and carefree approach at whatever is thrown their way.
  • Creepy Child: Mutsuko's curiosity and observational skills occasionally dip into creepiness. She's not a bad person and doesn't seek to harm anyone, but she thinks of her own wants before realizing another's needs. For instance, she ties up Sonny and tribal-carries him around on a flyswatter, and she mercilessly hunts and re-hunts the fly despite it clearly not wanting to be around her.
  • Deuteragonist: The girls Mako, Miko, and Mutsuko are the deuteragonists. Kunstlijk is the center of the franchise and he's the one whose life is most affected by the events of the film, but it is the girls' actions and subsequent adventure that make the story.
  • Eerie Anatomy Model: Kunstlijk is an anatomy model and Goth a skeleton model. They are set to be disposed of when the science room gets demolished the next day, a prospect that terrifies Goth but doesn't bother Kunstlijk because he's convinced they'll just go to another school. When a trio of girls vandalize Kunstlijk, he has them brought back at night by a gangster trio of dead half-skinned rabbits preserved in formalin that he revived. Goth saves them from Kunstlijk on the argument that the girls should partake in the After School Midnight Party, a challenge of which the prize is one wish. The wish could be used to prevent the science room's destruction, but Kunstlijk is more interested in revenge. His tricks backfire, of course, and one launches him all the way into the town where he hides in a fashion mannequin depot. It's upon seeing the mountain of mannequin limbs that he realizes there won't be another school for him and Goth; they're over 40 years old and replaceable by the dozen. Setting aside his hatred, he goes back to ensure the girls ace the ASMP. They do and wish "to play again". Because this can only happen if the science room is spared, it, along with Kunstlijk and Goth, are restored to prime condition and the plans for demolition erased.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: The girls take to calling Kunstlijk "Mr. Naked", a name he is not happy with. Hilariously, any of the other ghosts they mention "Mr. Naked" to need a second tops to understand whom they are talking about and don't care to correct them.
  • Eyes Out of Sight: Mutsuko's bangs always cover her eyes. The few times the camera dips low enough to show her eyes, it's a moment of tenseness.
  • Flying Saucer: A flying saucer periodically shows up in odd places during the movie before the alien takes it back and leaves with it.
  • Four Is Death: Kunstlijk's Time Machine always ends up sending someone through time in relation to the number four. The fly and some junk get sent 40 years into the past, Sonny gets sent 4 hours into the future, and Mako gets sent 40 seconds into the future. It's evidently part of the horror theme of the film, but it's not clarified if this is a coincidence or if the time machine isn't capable of more variation.
  • Freddie Mercopy: Pinia's blue form is modeled after Freddie Mercury and his behavior is very much camp, although his feminine language is Lost in Translation. There also seems to be wordplay going on between "mermaid/man" and "mercury".
  • Killer Rabbit: Both Chablis and the formalin-stored rabbits are simple animals that due to circumstances have become the most fearsome creatures on school grounds. Chablis is a fly who's mutated to have a few more tendrils, but he's still just the size of a fly. He's very strong physically, has a death thouch, and can manipulate his surroundings to knock others down without even touching them. Also, he has a taste for human flesh. Meanwhile, the trio of formalin-stored rabbits named Michael, Fred, and Sonny are gangsters who upon revival promptly make clear to Kunstlijk that he's not the boss of them. Somewhere along the way they acquire guns and Sonny, the young one of the group, disappears due to Kunstlijk's time machine. From that moment on the remaining two hunt for Kunstlijk to get Sonny back or if nothing else avenge him.
  • Living Drawing: Four living paintings of famous composers make up one set of Midnighters at St. Claire Elementary. They are Johann Sebastian Bach, who won't let a single chance to call himself the Father of Music go unused, Ludwig van Beethoven, who is the passionate one, Franz Schubert, The Quiet One, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the young Cloud Cuckoolander. The deuteragonist trio knows little of their music, amusing Mozart and deeply angering Beethoven. The challenge the group sets for the girls is to compose a work that impresses them. Miko, who has a high class upbringing, wants to take it, but the midnighters are the ones who pick the challengers and they choose Mutsuko. By coincidence, her fly escapes and rests on the piano's keys. In recapturing it, she smashes hard on one of the keys. This display of minimalism is heralded by the paintings and they concede defeat.
  • Lovable Alpha Bitch: Miko is from a rich family and used to the finer things in life. She takes a leadership role in regards to Mako and Mutsuko and is kind to them, but the monsters suffer her demanding, disdainful, and haughty behavior on several occasions.
  • The Mafia: The rabbits form the Mafia. They're fiercely loyal to each other, violent to everyone in their way but willing to make worthwhile deals, and their leitmotif is stereotypically Italian.
  • Minimalism: An in-universe example occurs when the deuteragonist trio has to compose a melody on the piano to impress the composer portraits. Mutsuko, in trying to recapture her fly, smashes one of the piano's key with full convinction, generating a B flat that resonates through the entire building. The portraits go wild about this fresh sense of minimalism and give up their medal.
  • Mistaken for Betrayal: 40 years ago, Kunstlijk was hit in the back by junk (from his own Time Machine he'd create decades later) just as he held up the last medal the past-girl had yet to earn. Knocked forward, it looked like he gave it to her out of sympathy for her wish and she happily ran off with it. Ever since, the other Midnighters have viewed Kunstlijk as a traitor who'll just give away the precious medal entrusted to him and he's been kicked out of the organization.
  • Monochrome Past: The flashback to Kunstlijk's and the past-girl's encounter 40 years ago is shown in muted blue tones.
  • Monster Mash: While stuck in the city, Kunstlijk breezes through his first encounter with humans because he happens to sneak by a truck with depictions of Frankenstein's Monster, the Wolfman, and Dracula on it. The couple think Kunstlijk is dressed up in a silly zombie costume and move on.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Louis Thomas Jerome Kunstlijk is named after Louis Thomas Jerome Auzoux, who in the 19th Century made fame with his highly detailed anatomical models.
  • Opposites Theme Naming: The virtual ghosts Lumière and Dunkelheit respectively have the French word for "Light" and the German word for "Darkness" as their names.
  • Pistol-Whipping: Fred pistol-whips Kunstlijk when he doesn't immediately answer what happened to Sonny.
  • Plot Tailored to the Party: Played with. Mako, Miko, and Mutsuko are Brawn, Beauty and Brains and it just so happens that each challenge requires another of these three skills. However, it is up to the Midnighters to decide who gets to challenge them and while the girls each time propose the most logical candidate, none of the Midnighters agree. Mako is put forth to swim against Pinia, but Pinia wants Miko to try because he hates haughtiness and wants to teach her a lesson. Mutsuko is put forth to tell Lumière and Dunkelheit something new, but they want Mako to try because they identify her as the least intelligent and therefore an amusing easy victory. And Miko is put forth to compose a melody on the piano that impresses the composer portraits. She is refused and by accident Mutsuko partakes before the portraits have made their choice, but they accept her bid nonetheless.
  • The Quiet One: Schubert's portrait prefers not to talk and does so only once in the film when he throws Goth out of the music room so he can't interfere with the third challenge. Goth expresses surprise Schubert's portrait can talk.
  • The Seven Mysteries: Invoked. The monsters present take from the Gakkou no Kaidan collection — Beethoven's portrait, the pool ghost, the library ghost, the anatomical model (set), the bathroom ghost, the alien — but they don't form one set and there's no seventh. The titular Midnighters are only three in numbers (matching the medal count) and Kunstlijk is a former member. The bathroom ghost and the alien are independent monsters.
  • Shout-Out: Pinia seems to be a homage to Pinya, a fish-like Ultra Series villain for which the suit was made, but which wasn't ever used on the show. The suit was later reworked into a new villain: Lady Pinya, which would explain Pinia's feminine manner of speaking.
  • Sinister Silhouettes: Kunstlijk's reveal to Goth that he was once one of the Midnighters comes with a shot of threatening silhouettes of the Midnighters. At this point, Kunstlijk and Pinia have already been met and can be identified but the other two groups are still a mystery.
  • Spanner in the Works: The library ghosts' challenge to tell them something they don't know yet is not impossible to win, but the odds are stacked high in their favor. They have access to all knowledge that's up on the internet and they get to scan their challenger's mind before the challenge starts. Like all other Midnighters, they also get to pick their challenger if there's a group of them. Mako is their pick, which should've made for an easy win because she's not all that bright. But Mako proves that much of a Cloud Cuckoolander that she rattles off a stream-of-consciousness story that not even the library ghosts can get a grasp on — try as they might — and on the verge of a brain melt they accept defeat.
  • Theme Initials: The trio of girls are close friends even before their midnight adventure. Coincidentally, they have matching names: Mako, Miko, and Mutsuko.
  • Toilet Humour: Around a third of the film's comedy relies on jokes regarding bodies, bodily functions, and bodily products. There's the many jokes about Kunstlijk walking around naked, one joke regarding Pinia's junk being injured, Chablis (a mutant fly) being offered high quality poop if he won't eat the girls, and a breast joke where Kunstlijk is in a mannequin depot while one of his eyes is still at school. He still sees through it. He ends up groping the breasts of a mannequin when he tries to reach for the two medals the deuteragonist trio have already collected.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: Kunstlijk's second encounter with humans in the city area doesn't go so well, as he's mistaken for a streaker (although one guy does realize even his intestines are showing). The humans form a mob and go after him, but Kunstlijk manages to ditch them and return to school grounds.
  • Virtual Ghost: Lumière and Dunkelheit are digital sages, ghosts composed of data with full access to the whole of the internet. It is hinted they used to be librarians at St. Claire Elementary before dying.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The same elixer that turned the fly into Chablis was used earlier to turn a tulip into a Man-Eating Plant. It's not revealed what happened to it.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Miko is terrified of bugs, which is why she has the hardest time when the girls are dropped into the cave beneath the school that's teeming with crawly things. It comes up again when she enters a swimming competition against Pinia. She shouldn't have won, but Pinia gets held up by one of Kunstlijk's inventions while a stray butterfly motivates Miko into swimming for her life with a speed that would've outdone Pinia's.