The Murder of Snow White
Title: The Murder of Snow White
Alternative Title: 白ゆき姫殺人事件 or Shiro Yuki Hime Satsujin Jiken
Country of Origin: Japan
Episodes: Film (2 Hr and 6 Min)
Genres: Whodunnit, Criminal Psychology, Vengeance
A young woman is found murdered in the woods . . . stabbed multiple times and the body badly burned.
Yuji Akahoshi is a neer-do-well reporter who is more likely to be found tweeting poor reviews of local ramen shops than digging up stories. But when a friend who knows the victim throws him some tips -- he quickly picks up what he hopes will be his big break into more serious news.
His foray into criminal detecting mainly consists of compiling interviews with dozens of colleagues, family, and childhood friends. Colleagues are swift to heap praise on the victim both for her beauty and her gracious behavior towards colleagues. But they are also quick to point fingers at another young woman – Miki Shirono. Miki, a seemingly anti-social and resentful colleague, comes from a dark past and is followed by harsh rumors.
Most agree Miki is the obvious suspect. . . but if she did it, why? And if she didn’t, why has she mysteriously vanished since that fateful night?
Ideas flow in from all sides. . . even online followers of the story on twitter. As dozens throw out their two cents and stories of Miki’s past are collected Akahoshi must sort through the interviews to identify whose version of events is to be believed – if any.
Shirono Miki - Inoue Mao (井上真央)
Akahoshi Yuji - Ayano Go (綾野剛)
Noriko Miki - Nanao Arai (菜々緒)
Directors: Nakamura Yoshihiro
Screenwriters: Hayashi Tamio
The film is based on the novel ‘Shiro Yuki Hime Satsujin Jiken‘ by Kanae Minato. She has written several works and apparently many of them have been turned into film, although this was the first of her works that I’ve seen. Minato is a rather popular psychological thriller author known as the ‘queen of Iyamisu’. Iyamisu is a subgenre of mystery fiction that analyzes the potential for evil and brutality amongst any one of us. These works tend to be rather dark and somewhat gory at times.
The Murder of Snow White’ fits this genre, although it’s not particularly gory – it does deal with the dark side of humanity. The primary theme is how people’s perceptions and interpretation of events may be skewed by their own biases
As the investigative journalist Akahoshi is warned – ‘People have false memories. They only tell things that benefit them.’ His investigation relies primarily on interviews with people who know or worked with Miki and Noriko. Although their stories seem initially believable, small inconsistencies slowly make themselves clear.
In an almost unnoticeable stroke of film-writing, this theme is cultivated not only in the more obvious lies Akahoshi notices, but also small mis-directions he overlooks.
First is the frequently changing reports about the state of the body appearing in the background. Initial images of Noriko’s body show perhaps 10 stab wounds and no burnt corpse. When the new breaks, they state the body was stabbed more than a dozen times and burned. Then later it becomes ‘dozens’ of times. The story changes with each repetition, but goes completely unremarked by the characters.
The second nod to the theme of biased perceptions is the confusion generated by the use of multiple Mi-chan’s and Miki’s. Miki Shirono is the main suspect, accused of murdering Miki Noriko. The frequent use of their mutual name Miki which raises questions regarding who is being discussed at any given time. Furthermore, both and another colleague are all nicknamed Mi-Chan adding to the confusion. Akahoshi himself only clarifies once, creating the perception that what they say may not be what you are hearing.
Throughout the film, there is a sense that each person describes the events from their own biased perceptions. Even Akahoshi is focusing on creating a shocking story that gets his name in the public eye more than he cares about finding the truth. Notably, the investigation is based purely on what he hears people say – hearsay. There is never any hard evidence.
This leads to the second theme – ‘The internet exposes the truth. The internet accuses falsely.’ This is something of an extension of the first theme – analyzing how personal biases and misconceptions are exacerbated where people receive and filter information through the internet and social media.
Akahoshi posts his findings in a stream of simultaneous tweets . . . sometimes his posts even overlap the interview itself as he posts while the person is still talking. In true internet style, he often publishes information intermixed with his own rapid-fire conclusions based on what he is hearing. He is the embodiment of fake or at least questionable news, growing with the commentary and assumptions of his readers.
Director Nakamura demonstrates the stream of conscious nature of the internet – producing accusations and claims moment by moment based only on questionable information available from biased sources. There is the potential for a covered up or overlooked truth to be revealed, as greater access to data provides the opportunity to catch Shirono. But there is also the potential for misdirection and false accusations or damage to the innocent. The truth needs to be revealed.
My overall rating of this show is probably a 3.5 out of 5 stars. I think it is definitely worth a watch, though I won’t say it’s among the top Japanese mysteries I’ve seen. It had a strong plot and I was genuinely surprised by the ending. That’s always great for a mystery fan!
If you like slightly philosophical crimes with social commentary thrown in, it’s a pretty good film. Check it out!
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