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The Art of Japanese Death Game Films Through Analysis of As The Gods Will

The Art of Japanese Death Game Films Through Analysis of As The Gods Will

We’re excited that you’ve joined the conversation! At HMU, we want to continue the great authors’ conversations in a contemporary context, and this blog will help us do that. We look back to Aristotle and the early philosophers who used reason and discourse to gain wisdom and now we endeavor to do the same every day.


March 3, 2023

Thanks to Ally Zlatar, a 2023 HMU Fellow in Ideas, for today’s post.

Image Credits: Film Still, Miike, T. (Director). (2014). As the Gods Will. Toho.

Japanese death game films, also known as ‘Battle Royale’ films, typically depict a scenario where a group of individuals are forced to participate in a deadly game or competition, often with the goal of being the last survivor. Think of movies like Squid Game (2021) and Hunger Games (2012) but more grim. These films often explore themes of social critique, power dynamics, and the human condition.

As the Gods Will is a 2014 Japanese horror-thriller film that centers on this theme of human mortality. The film follows a group of high school students who find themselves trapped in a series of deadly games, orchestrated by mysterious, supernatural beings known only as the gods. Throughout the film, the characters are faced with the harsh reality of their own mortality and the fact that death can come at any moment.

From a philosophical perspective, Japanese death game films can be seen as allegories for the larger societal issues that Japan and other countries face, such as consumerism, conformity, and the loss of individual identity (Saito, 2015). In these films, the characters are often stripped of their basic rights and freedoms, and must fight for their survival in a world that has become brutal and dehumanizing. This can be interpreted as a commentary on the pressure to conform to societal norms, and the danger of losing one’s individual identity in a society that values conformity over individuality.

One of the main philosophical themes in the film is the idea of determinism versus free will. The characters are seemingly powerless to escape the deadly games they are forced to play, and their actions seem predetermined by the gods. This can be interpreted as a commentary on the idea that our lives are predetermined and we have no control over our fate. However, the characters’ persistence in trying to survive and their ability to form alliances and work together suggests that they do have some measure of control over their fate and that they are capable of exerting their own agency.

The film makes clever use of traditional childhood elements, such as toys and games, to bring out the fear and suspense in the audience. The games the students are forced to play are reminiscent of the games they may have played as children, but with a dark twist. This ingeniously creates a sense of familiarity and comfort for the audience, before abruptly ripping it away and replacing it with fear and dread.

One of the standout elements of As the Gods Will is its innovative use of survival game philosophy. The film takes the concept of survival games and turns it into a surrealist spectacle that makes the dystopian-esque school a nightmare for all who play the game. The characters are forced to face their fears and insecurities as they struggle to survive, and the audience is taken along for the ride. The film’s use of survival game philosophy is a clever commentary on the human condition and our constant struggle to survive in a world that is often cruel and unforgiving.

The film’s special effects are top-notch and the attention to detail in the production design is impeccable. The use of practical effects and prosthetics gives the film a grittier, more realistic feel, while the CGI effects are seamlessly integrated into the overall visual aesthetic. The film’s cinematography is also noteworthy, with some stunning shots that truly bring the world of As the Gods Will to life.

In conclusion, As the Gods Will is a well-crafted horror-thriller that explores the theme of human mortality in a unique way. The film’s clever use of traditional childhood elements and its innovative use of survival game philosophy make it a standout entry in the genre, and its top-notch special effects, production design, and cinematography only add to its overall impact. If you’re a fan of horror-thriller films, then As the Gods Will is definitely worth checking out and if you don’t like death games… RUN!

Image Credits: Film Still, Miike, T. (Director). (2014). As the Gods Will. Toho.

Image Credits: Film Still, Miike, T. (Director). (2014). As the Gods Will. Toho.

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