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Manga / Mr. Arashi's Amazing Freak Show

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Midori, a little girl from a run-down family, sells paper flowers in the streets. She wishes that if she makes enough money, she can perhaps join her classmates in the school picnic. Late one night, she returns home to find her ailing mother dead — what's more, rats are gnawing at her private parts. With no one to turn to, she tries the address one customer gave her — and comes to a seedy freak show run by a money-hungry Mr. Arashi. Midori is degraded, brutalized, and forced to perform fetishistic acts on stage, until a midget illusionist named Wonder Matsumitsu comes along and takes Midori under his wings. Will Midori at last find true love and happiness? ... Nope, not in this kind of story.

Based on the iconic 1930's Kamishibai story of the same name, Shōjo Tsubaki (少女椿), also known as Mr. Arashi's Amazing Freak Show, is Suehiro Maruo's most famous manga. First published in 1984, it is the work that has cemented his reputation in the west. A crude but very faithful animated adaptation was released in 1992, made over the course of five years through the efforts of one single person: Hiroshi Harada. The film was a heavy subject of censorship in Japan as a result of its graphic content and explicit depictions of child molestation and animal abuse, to the point where the master reels were outright confiscated by the Japanese government. They were eventually recovered in 2013, and a new print and digital transfer was made for new screenings, with a Blu-ray release of this transfer being planned for 2020. A second film adaption of the story was released in 2016, combining live-action footage with the grotesque and surreal designs of the original manga and cartoon.


This work provides examples of:

  • '20s Bob Haircut: Midori has one typical of schoolgirls at the time.
  • Art Shift: Midori's fever dream is partly rendered in a rounded, simplistic style common in girl mangas. The shift is quite noticeably disturbing.
  • Adaptation Name Change: In the 2016 live action film, Midori says her last name is Hanamura.
    • The snake woman is revealed to be named Benitsu, and the strong man is called Akaza.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Justified, since the original was meant to look grotesque while the live-action film is meant for a more mainstream audience. Special mention to Matsumitsu (who is played by Shunsuke Kazama) and Muchisuke the Mummy Man, played by Daichi Saeki, whose attractiveness wasn't hidden by the makeup job and bandages.
  • Adaptational Backstory Change: In the live-action film, Muchisuke was burned and lost his arms in a fire, whereas in the original manga he has leprosy. Assumingly, this is due to Japan's uncomfortable history with victims of leprosy.
    • Matsumitsu's reasons for police being after him are changed too.
  • Benevolent Boss: Mr. Arashi is this on a good day. He did let Midori have a day off when she was sick, and does pay the freaks well when they actually make money, though it does take goading from Matsumitsu. Which makes him running off at the end with all the money all the more shocking. In the live-action version, Matsumitsu takes the money when he isn't looking, replacing them with paper camellias.
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  • Berserk Button: Matsumitsu goes berserk when the audience calls him small, leading directly to the most visceral and horrifying scene of the movie.
  • Blood-Splattered Innocents: The notorious chicken scene.
  • Casting Gag: Model Risa Nakamura had previously modeled for an event featuring Suehiro Maruo's artwork in early 2015, and one promotional image shows her dressed in Midori's outfit. In 2016, she is cast in the live-action film as Midori.
  • Circus Brat: Midori is accused of being one by neighborhood children in the live-action film, though she's far from it.
  • Darker and Edgier: The original kamishibai play is nowhere near as dark and depressing as the manga and anime. For example, this Midori is sexually abused on stage, while in the original story, she sings kitschy sentimental songs.
  • Defiled Forever: Midori herself believes this when she tells Matsumitsu, "I'd marry you, but I'm not a virgin anymore." For all things considered, Matsumitsu doesn't seem to mind this. This is omitted in the live-action film.
  • Downer Ending: Midori and Matsumitsu leave the freak show for good. But he is later stabbed to death by some street punk when he goes looking for food. An anguished Midori searches for Matsumitsu, but when she cannot find him, she believes he has abandoned her. She then has a vision of the members of the freak show and Matsumitsu laughing at her. This proves to be the last straw for her and she has a vision of herself killing them. She is then left in despair, crying all alone. The song over the end credits imply that Midori committed suicide afterwards.
  • Ethical Slut: Benitsu Really Gets Around, but she draws the line at involving Midori, who is 12 (14 in the live-action film).
  • Flower Motifs: The original Japanese title "Camellia Girl" comes from a Japanese kamishibai play, where a young flower seller ends up singing in a revue show to pay her father's debt.
  • Gainax Ending: The 2016 film ends with Midori asking Matsumitsu to give her his powers, which he agrees, but he drops dead in front of her before this can happen. She begins to hallucinate about the freaks laughing at her and her attacking them like the source material, but the stick phases through them and memories leave her body in bubbles before she exclaims alone in a white room. Midori then uses her new powers, apparently from the midget, to end the movie.
  • Gorn: It is actually quite tame by the standard of Suehiro Maruo.
  • Gossipy Hens: A particularly cruel version in Midori's old neighborhood, who have nothing nice to say about Midori's mother, and generally not caring her child is an orphan now.
  • Hermaphrodite: The boy-girl, Kanbun, one of the members of the troupe.
  • The Ingenue: Midori fills this role, still being kind and idealistic after all the abuse she suffered because of the freaks.
  • Important Haircut: After Mr. Arashi abandons the freak show, Kanabun cuts his hair so short that Matsumitsu doesn't recognize him. In the live action film, he only cuts of the ponytail, leaving the front intact.
  • Innocent Flower Girl: Midori sold paper flowers (the titular camellias) so she and her sick mother can get by. She is implied to give sexual favors in the original manga, but these hints were removed in the anime and live action films.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Benitsu is cruel to Midori, but when other members want to lay hands on Midori, she makes sure they keep their hands off. Indeed, most people in the troupe are not irredeemably evil; their hearts are merely hardened by the harsh circumstances.
  • Kick the Dog: Literally: not only kicked, but stepped on and cooked.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Muchisuke gets this in the live-action film, since he is the only one who raped Midori in this version, and he is killed by Matsumitsu like in the manga.
  • Lighter and Softer: The 2016 movie; justified as it is meant for a more mainstream audience than the source material. Midori isn't fetishised on stage, seems to be just their chore girl and is (mostly) left alone or ignored, the puppy stomping isn't shown on camera, and Midori gets to be an actress like she wanted.
  • Madonna–Whore Complex: Midori and Benitsu. While Midori is timid, idealistic and her sexual experiences were forced upon her, Benitsu Really Gets Around, is often topless, and generally has a cynical bitchy attitude.
  • Master of Illusion: Matsumitsu is this. He can use it for awesome tricks, or for making people pay for making him angry.
  • Parental Abandonment: Midori's father has walked out of the family long before the story starts.
  • Pet the Dog: Everyone has their kinder moments in the 2016 film.
  • Public Domain Character: The story is actually just one of many variations of the stock character of "The Camellia Girl". This version happens to be the most famous one outside of Japan.
  • Rape as Drama: Midori was raped several times by Muchisuke before Matsumitsu showed up.
  • Rail Enthusiast: Midori becomes on after she joins the freaks (if she wasn't already), and spends whatever free time she has watching them.
  • Retro Universe: The live action film. One example, despite being set in the Showa era (1926-1989), the freaks' main mode of transportation is a modern van instead of a cart like in the original manga, among other things.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: After Matsumitsu makes everyone hallucinate about becoming deformed, Mr. Arashi decides the freak show isn't worth it and takes the money and runs off. In the live-action film, Matsumitsu catches on and replaces the money in the bag with paper camellias.


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