Are there some desires so taboo that they can never be spoken of even if they cause no harm to others? Adapted from the manga by Usamaru Furuya, Hideo Jojo’s To Be Killed by a High School Girl (女子高生に殺されたい, Joshikosei ni Korosaretai) is indeed about a man fixated with the idea of being strangled by a teenage girl but one who also embodies the inspirational teacher stereotype planning to leave behind him a kind of manifesto instructing his pupils to live their lives to the full while remaining true to their authentic selves in the knowledge that their lives will be defined by the manner of their deaths.
Subverting a trope from shojo manga, Higashiyama (Kei Tanaka) is the hot new teacher at school proving an instant hit with most of the girls in his class but he’s come with an ulterior motive in that his ultimate fetish is being murdered by a high school girl. Even so, he claims to feel no attraction to his teenage pupils and is sickened by teachers who abuse their position later revealing he orchestrated his predecessor’s downfall by accelerating a complaint that had already been registered against him for inappropriate contact with students. His fetish lies solely in being overpowered by someone he would ordinarily perceive as being weaker than himself after fighting for his life with all his strength.
Then again, as Satsuki (Yuko Oshima), a councillor brought into the school following a traumatic incident who also happens to be Higashiyama’s uni ex, points out his techniques for manipulating the girls are little different than those of a predatory sex offender grooming their prey. He figures out their weaknesses and goes out of his way to make each of them feel special while simultaneously provoking a sense of jealousy so he can bend them to his will in enacting a plan that will eventually lead to his murder in the middle of the school cultural festival. On the other hand, he crafts his plan in such a way as to protect his killer, his fetish won’t be fulfilled unless it’s a perfect crime, and because of the nature of the girl he’s selected he’s confident she won’t even remember having killed him and therefore will remain largely unaffected.
Higashiyama doesn’t give much an explanation for his fetish save an allusion to having been born with the cord around his neck, a sensation he claims to remember only later admitting that he “recovered” a memory of it after his mother described the event to him. He later says something similar to Satsuki after suffering with amnesia, claiming to remember how he ended up in the hospital but then confessing that Satsuki had explained it to him on a previous occasion. He claims that he’s not suicidal but continues to fixate on death as force which gives life meaning, paradoxically insisting on living with all his might while otherwise drawn towards mortal extremity and fearing a “bad” ending such as being pushed off a cliff or poisoned with carbon monoxide neither of which would satisfy his fetish in their distinct lack of romance.
Even so as another pupil suggests is he just a regular “pervert” after all despite his rather high minded-view of his proclivities? Despite all his manipulations, the various girls which he targets all seem to begin making progress in their lives, an angry judo enthusiast kicking back against a boy who’d long been bullying her, a shy theatre kid turning popular girl, and a young woman beginning to overcome her trauma thanks to the power of unconditional friendship. His replacement, a middle-aged man with a bad wig, is completely ignored by his pupils hinting perhaps that Higashiyama’s teaching practice was effective no matter now uncomfortable if not quite inappropriate some of his conduct may have turned out to be. After all he argues, he’s not a “pervert” just someone who wanted to be murdered by a teenage girl insisting that his fetish is essentially harmless because he has no sexual interest in the girl herself yet as we later see it does indeed involve inflicting violence on her.
Playing with a series of B-movie tropes aside from Higashiyama’s taboo fetish from multiple personality disorder to premonition, traumatic memory, and fatalistic obsession, Jojo’s approach is arch in the extreme fully embracing the outlandishness of the material while both lending the troubled Higashiyama a degree of sympathy and hinting at the buried darkness beneath his handsome facade even as that darkness is essentially directed within, his death dictated by the circumstances of his birth as he “remembers” them. Occasionally shifting into the realms of giallo with creepy spiders and ominous red lighting, To Be Killed by a High School Girl never takes itself too seriously but revels in the inherent absurdity of its premise while remaining strangely respectful not only of the hero’s unique dilemma but of the ordinary problems among the otherwise besotted teens.
Original trailer (no subtitles)