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Film / The Dark Maidens

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Just your average literature club. note 

The Dark Maidens (暗黒女子) note  is a 2017 Japanese mystery/horror film, based on a 2013 novel, of the same name, written by Rikako Akiyoshi.

Itsumi Shiraishi (Marie Iitoyo), the president of the Virgin Mary Girls' High School's Literature Club, has just died in an apparent suicide. For the Literature Club's last meeting of the semester, the club's new president Sayuri Sumikawa (Fumika Shimizu) gathers the members and gives them an opportunity to share their stories and eat together. The theme of their meeting is Itsumi's suicide. Each of the four members — Mirei (Yuna Taira), Akane (Riria Kojima), Shiyo (Nana Seino) and Diana (Tina Tamashiro) — then proceed to tell of their experiences with Itsumi, as well as holding another club member responsible for her death.


This film contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Adults Are Useless: The most prominent adult figures in the movie are Itsumi's father and the teacher Hojo. Neither of them are completely aware of what's really going within the Literature Club, and are thereby unable to truly have any influence on its members.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Itsumi is ultimately poisoned by Sayuri after hearing of her plans to elope with Hojo and escape her father's clutches.
  • Arc Symbol: The lily-of-the-valley (鈴蘭, suzuran).
    • Itsumi was described clutching these flowers in her hand after she landed on the flowerbed.
    • According to Mirei's story, it's where the scent of Shiyo's French perfume comes from.
    • The design on Itsumi's hair clip in Mirei's possession features this flower.
    • The burn marks on Akane's arm supposedly looked like lilies.
    • It was one of many flowers planted in Diana's flowerbed, taken from her native Bulgaria.
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    • Itsumi wanted to name her unborn child after the flower, as suggested by her lover Hojo. Her story ends with the declaration that she laced the stew that the members were eating with it.
    • Sayuri uses it as a poison to kill Itsumi.
  • Art Shift: The beginning of Diana's story uses 2D photo animation to portray the scenes set in Bulgaria. It's almost a surprise when the narration reverts to normal once she arrives at the school in Japan.
  • Big Fancy House: The Literature Club has one specifically for their use, which includes a small but elegant salon used as a dining/meeting hall, as well as a well-stocked kitchen. Itsumi's house also counts as well.
  • Blackmail: How the Literature Club president asserts her authority over the members.
  • Clueless Mystery: There are bits and pieces of the truth within each of the members' stories, but not enough to piece the whole thing together.
  • Dark Secret: Each member of the club has one. Itsumi knows all of the four members' secrets, and holds it over them as leverage.
    • Shiyo: Itsumi repeatedly encourages her to translate her award-winning novel in English. Shiyo merely translated an obscure French book, and is afraid that her plagiarism will be found out if an English version is ever made.
    • Akane: A fire occurred at her family's house, though there were no apparent victims. She set the fire herself out of jealousy at her brother succeeding the family restaurant, which left her unable to realize her dream of becoming a chef.
    • Mirei: She had been secretly working part-time as a hospital caregiver, against school regulations, so Itsumi steps in to give her a job tutoring Itsumi's younger sister. Part of her caregiver work included illicit sexual services, through which she made more money on the side.
    • Diana: Her twin sister Emma applied for the foreign exchange program, which was tragically cut short when she died in an accident. Diana killed Emma and turned in her own application, allowing her to study in Japan.
    • Itsumi: She is in a relationship with the teacher Hojo. She got pregnant, and when her father discovered this, she was forced to have an abortion, and the teacher got fired and sent away. It turns out the other club members conspired together and revealed their relationship to her father so they could all get out from under her rule.
    • Sayuri: After Itsumi faked her suicide, she met Sayuri to talk about her plans to escape her father and have a family with Hojo. Out of sheer discontent at her story, Sayuri decides to poison and kill Itsumi using lily flowers. After killing her, she dismembered Itsumi's body and made a stew out of her organs, which she fed to the rest of the club members. Her actions ultimately allowed her to replace Itsumi as the new president of the Literature Club, holding the same power over the other members.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Sayuri remains completely unfazed throughout the entire movie, even as more and more shocking revelations come to light through the stories, and while the other members begin to panic.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Used heavily throughout the movie during the meeting scenes, as the room is lit only by very dim lamps while the chandelier is switched off.
  • Driven to Suicide: Itsumi at the start of the story. The exact reason for her death is a mystery to the club members, though each of them have their own suspicions as to why she did it. Ultimately subverted; she faked her death as part of her revenge against the club.
  • Driving Question: Who killed Itsumi Shiraishi?
  • The Dog Bites Back: Fed up with being under Itsumi's thumb, the four club members conspired to expose her secrets. Diana was able to get photographic evidence of Itsumi's relationship with Hojo when they were in Bulgaria. Mirei's hospital work gave her access to Itsumi's ultrasound pictures. Akane noticed the changes in Itsumi's body based on her food preferences. And Shiyo's friendship with Itsumi's father allowed her to tell him in person.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: Itsumi's true killer is none other than Sayuri, her best friend and confidant.
  • Downer Ending: Itsumi is killed by Sayuri, who now knows all of the club members' secrets. Sayuri becomes the new president and keeps it going for yet another school year, still together with the original four members. The movie ends with her inviting another student to join the club.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Subverted. Right before Itsumi can move on to her happy ending, Sayuri kills her because she thought it would be an unsatisfying climax to the intricately-woven plot.
  • Everybody Did It: Played with. As to the cause of Itsumi's suicide, the four club members were indeed directly responsible, though she didn't actually die. However, it's later revealed that Sayuri killed Itsumi, ultimately making all of them complicit in her death.
  • Everyone Is a Suspect: Each of the four storytellers points to another club member as the reason for Itsumi's suicide.
    • Mirei thinks Shiyo is having an affair with Itsumi's father.
    • According to Akane, Mirei is stealing Itsumi's possessions.
    • Diana is convinced that Akane is poisoning Itsumi through the food she makes for the club.
    • Shiyo is terrified of Diana and believes that she's casting a curse on Itsumi.
  • False Friend: Nothing binds the Literature Club together except for Itsumi, who possesses all of their secrets and keeps them close as underlings. Her only real friend is Sayuri, whom she's known since childhood and stays by her side as a confidant. And yet tragically, she's the one who ultimately kills Itsumi.
  • Foreign Exchange Student/Token Minority: Diana Decheba from Bulgaria.
  • Framing Device: The mystery of Itsumi's suicide is explored by way of each Literature Club member taking turns in telling short stories that they wrote. The unraveling of the plot is told through Itsumi's side of the story, which Sayuri narrates to the unsuspecting members. The final truth is explained directly by Sayuri at the end.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Akane ties her hair this way.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: Near the end of her retelling, Diana tells Akane in Bulgarian, «Не мога да приема», later translated as "I will never forgive you." note 
  • Here We Go Again!: The Literature Club continues for another school year, this time led by Sayuri.
  • Hope Spot: When Sayuri finishes telling Itsumi's story, she reveals that Itsumi only faked her death, and that she gave Sayuri her story that morning. Sayuri then reveals that she killed Itsumi.
  • Japanese School Club: A Literature Club that also discusses Western books, translates works into other languages, and even has an aspiring chef making unique pastries and treats for the members.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Sayuri appears to be an impartial observer in all the stories told by each club member, and doesn't play much of a significant role in any of them. This lasts until Sayuri admits to killing Itsumi, and then takes it further by telling them the true contents of the stew they had just eaten.
  • Karma Houdini: Only two people are punished for their deeds in the movie. Itsumi is killed before her final revenge could be enacted, and Hojo is sent away from the school for his relationship with Itsumi. The rest do not suffer any overtly dire consequences. Except for whatever physical conditions they may have contracted from eating a stew made out of Itsumi's body, their secrets remain intact, although one wonders how long they can keep up appearances among one another, especially as Sayuri continues to invite new people to their club.
  • Keeping the Enemy Close: Not exactly enemies, so much as making them into her underlings. After revealing her knowledge of their respective secrets, she then invites them to her Literature Club, and makes them part of her entourage.
  • Meaningful Name: If you know Japanese, specifically hanakotoba (Japanese language of flowers), Sayuri's name (小百合) actually has more meaning to it. "Sayuri" is the Japanese name for the orange lily, which in the language of flowers means "hatred" or "revenge." As Itsumi's best friend, she knows all of Itsumi's schemes, and is entrusted to enact Itsumi's final revenge against the conspirators who exposed her and killed her unborn child.
  • Mockstery Tale: The movie starts out as a multiple-perspective mystery before turning into a horror story by around the latter third.
  • One-Gender School: The Virgin Mary Girls' High School.
  • Outside-Context Problem: Sayuri. Being Itsumi's sole confidant, it stands to reason that she knows everything that Itsumi has done. And she is later entrusted with Itsumi's last act of revenge.
  • Posthumous Character: Itsumi's story is told through that of the other club members wanting to know why she killed herself.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Each storyteller claims their innocence within their own narratives, as they each accuse another member of driving Itsumi to kill herself. Only Itsumi and Sayuri have no illusions of being moral as their stories are revealed. The only thing that matters to them is being the lead character.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: Each successive story casts a previous event in a different light.
  • Red Herring: Each mention of the lily-in-the-valley in the club members' stories has nothing to do with its true significance to Itsumi. It was the name Hojo gave to their unborn child.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: In her story, Mirei says that Itsumi was like the sun, with Sayuri being the moon. In general, Itsumi is exuberant and loves interacting with other people, while Sayuri is content to sit alongside Itsumi without feeling the need to make her presence felt. Their flower motifs also exemplify this trope in a sense; the lily-of-the-valley stands for purity and sweetness, contrasting the orange lily's meaning of hatred and revenge.
  • The Resenter: Sayuri, once she realized Itsumi wanted a happy ending for herself and not just to take revenge on the club members.
  • School Festival: Each of the narrated stories come to a climax during the school's Easter/Pentecost Festival.
  • School of No Studying: Very few scenes actually take place inside a classroom, much less actually showing any glimpse of the club members' intra-curricular lives as students.
  • The Secret of Long Pork Pies: The stew that the members have been eating throughout the movie was made out of Itsumi's organs, which Sayuri made after killing her.
  • Stepford Smiler: Every member of the Literature Club hides something behind all their smiles and laughter.
  • Summation Gathering: The movie is basically this for each of their characters, taking turns with their own respective summations.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Itsumi and Hojo.
  • Thanatos Gambit: Itsumi's ultimate plan was to fake her suicide, escape from her father, start a new family with Hojo, expose all the Literature Club's secrets, and leave the club members to die inside the salon. However, Sayuri kills Itsumi before this could come to fruition, after which Sayuri makes her own move to take control of the story.
  • Unreliable Narrator: It becomes abundantly clear that none of the storytellers plan on telling the whole truth.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: It's never revealed what happens to the teacher Hojo, or how Itsumi's father copes with her death. The school lives on, with only the Literature Club seeing any change at all.