“Why should I give my freedom to anyone but myself” the hero of Crazy Joe’s (Junpei Suzuki) Catharsis After the End (#ピリオド打ったらカタルシス, #Period Uttara Catharsis) asks himself, realising that his quest for internet fame has begun to erode his sense of self. Then again as he later admits, it isn’t video site New Qube or social media that have made him what he is, the darkness was there all along. A critique of the dangers of the age of the internet in which online approval becomes all, Crazy Joe’s highly stylised dramedy ironically finds its hero fulfilling his desires but only in the darkest of ways.
Hiro and his friend Hide are aspiring New Qubers trying to find fame and fortune through viral video but struggling to gain a foothold in the crowded space of online streaming. They start off with annoying public pranks and later find themselves drifting into an exploitative relationship with a homeless man who makes a habit of approaching men to ask if he can give them blow jobs while searching for new ideas to reel in views and subscribers which are all they really care about to the detriment of their other social relationships.
Hiro at least in one sense got into New Qubing as a form of revenge, secretly videotaping the boss who regularly assaulted him physically with the intention of uploading to the internet. Access to the platform is also a source power as much as it’s a dangerous drug that feeds on his need for approval. After a while he stops doing what he wants to do and finds himself preoccupied only with what other people want, what they think of him, and what he can do to gain their engagement. At one point he and Hide venture into a forest in search of a dead body, though it’s not really clear what they intend to do if they find one, but end up running into a dejected salaryman who just wants to die but can’t seem to do it. They end up asking him if he wants to make a comment on video before almost realising how inappropriate that is in the quality of the man’s refusal. Later a pair of New Qubers will ask Hiro the same question in a similar situation while he can only marvel at the irony of the situation in the rapid evolution of ideas he himself helped to breed.
In their ever increasing quest for success, the guys are roped into helping an intense old friend, Ryu, set up an account but he only posts inappropriate content including showing people how to waterboard or beating someone to a bloody pulp so all his videos are banned, yet Hiro still finds himself feeling jealous knowing Ryu is pushing boundaries in a way he’s failing to all of which leads him to his next evolution in creating crime duo Monolith which he intends to spark some kind of social movement among the young. But to his consternation there’s little interest in his crime spree while another old friend eventually steals his thunder by confessing to the crimes himself explaining that he did them because he wants to be “famous” before live streaming a murder to cement his notoriety. Running out of ideas in a continual game of oneupmanship, the New Qubers are left with nowhere to go other than increasingly bloody violence and cruelty while their followers egg them on from the sidelines crying out for pain and suffering.
Hiro’s quest for freedom ends only in further constraint, addicted to the artificial high of internet acclaim and willing to sink ever lower to gain it. The irony is that he wanted to create something from nothing and then see others build on what he’d started which is in a sense what happens but only in the darkest of ways. Beautifully shot and highly stylised featuring animation, on screen text, and moments of genuine horror in its ominous score and red/blue lighting, Crazy Joe’s darkly humorous exploration of the ills of the contemporary society in which nothing happens if it doesn’t happen online presents an incredibly bleak prognosis for the evolution of social media but nevertheless has sympathy for its “scum of the earth” hero who only too late begins to realise he’s lost touch with himself in his never-ending quest for the approval of others.
Catharsis After the End screened as part of the 2022 Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival.
Original trailer (no subtitles)