Have you seen Kate yet? Folks in Japan have, and they have opinions. Let’s have a look!
The Netflix original debuted last Friday. Set in Japan and starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, it tells the story of a deadly assassin out for revenge. Internationally, the reviews for Kate have been not great. As of writing, the film holds a 43 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Generally, when Hollywood or other film industries portray Japan, they tend to get a bunch wrong, or drag out old, tired clichés and stereotypes. Hello, Kate.
It can be easy to pick apart these films, kick the legs out from underneath them for all they do wrong, but it’s also equally fascinating to see how Japanese domestic audiences respond.
This is the latest in a long-line of women assassin movies, a subgenre defined by Lady Snowblood and La Femme Nikita. It’s also the latest foreigners-versus-the-yakuza flick, an even narrower crime subgenre that kicked off with Sydney Pollack’s The Yakuza and has gone on to include films like Black Rain, Kill Bill, Wasabi, and even, to an extent The Wolverine—the last of which added mutants, ninja, and samurai.
But what did people online in Japan think of Kate? Below are excerpts from Japanese movie websites as well as online user reviews.
Cinema Drake 3/10
‘Kate’s concept does closely resemble Quentin Tarantino’s 2003 film Kill Bill, but here is a movie that clearly displays the lack of progression in the depiction [of Japan] over the past 18 years. This is truly a Japanese stereotype extravaganza as thought up by a foreigner.’
‘When Japanese actors cast in foreign movies speak Japanese, for some reason, they often overact and speak in unnatural Japanese (I’m assuming that this is because when foreigners hear native Japanese, they’re not able to understand the sentiment). However, there wasn’t any of that sort of discomfort, and Jun Kunimura and Tadanobu Asano were normal Japanese yakuza.
‘If would be great if lots of movies blending Japanese and Western styles were made!’
Kyou mo Eiga desu ka? (A Movie Today, Too?) 3/10
‘Half-baked spy action.
‘Inevitably, when Japan appears in Hollywood movies, it quickly becomes cyber punk. It’s as though a bit of Blade Runner has been added to reality, and this [type of movie] is already on the way of becoming a genre called Wrong About Japan.’
Kikuhi Movie 6/10
‘The first problem I had was that it doesn’t seem like touching a person who has been exposed to radiation exposes one to radiation, because Kate, who has been exposed to radiation, physically touches a number of people, and they don’t seem to get exposed for the time being. However.... what’s puzzling is what would happen with all the blood and whatnot that’s getting all over the place.
‘...All the Japanese music that was picked for the film was just an awful choice.
‘...The music is in the movie was so fucking uncool.’
Eiga.com 2.9/5 (Average user review)
‘Looking at this, you get the feeling that Japan hasn’t changed in the past twenty years.’ 2.5/5
‘It’s kind of like Kill Bill meets gyaru culture, and as for the action, it was quite cool.’ 3.5/5
‘When will Japan’s image be updated? The image of projecting an animation on the entire face of a building has never been updated since the era of Japan-as-cyberpunk (for example, Blade Runner).’ 3/5
Filmarks 3.1/5 (Average user review)
‘It was fairly interesting. It was a little like Kill Bill.’ 3/5
‘This is nothing more than foreigners’ delusions of Japan’s underworld society and underground culture. There is zero character depth.’ 2.5/5
‘It felt like an anime brought to life. Recommended to those who like John Wick style action.’ 3.5/5
‘The movie is how Japan is seen by foreign countries. There are lots of movies set in Tokyo made by foreigners, but I wonder if there aren’t better places... The story wasn’t so complicated and easy to understand. It was pretty interesting. The action was also cool.’ 3.5/5
‘Tokyo is the setting, and I’m glad there was on-location photography in Tokyo.” 3/5
‘This was like Blade Runner meets Tokyo Drift meets The Professional. It’s a movie that goes along with developments and elements you’ve seen before.’ 2/5
‘This is a weird movie. But, it was enjoyable. The action was fantastic.’ 3.8/5
‘I feel like watching it as a Japanese person is uncomfortable, but it’s interesting for foreigners watching it.’ 2.5/5
‘Overseas sure likes Japan at night. Hey, make some morning scenes. The action was good... The story was unfinished.” 3.1/5
‘The story was not deep, but the Neo Japan world view as seen from overseas was interesting!’ 3.4/5
‘It felt like Liam Wong’s photos of Tokyo.’ 3.5/5
‘The story was simple, the ending was meh, but I like the look of it and was pulled in.’ 4.8/5
‘I liked the gap between cyber punk Tokyo and the uncouth atmosphere of the yakuza.’ 3.5/5
‘The old stereotype for Japan was samurai, ninja, and sushi. Now, perhaps, it’s yakuza, maids, and vending machines.’ (No score)
‘This is not a movie made for Japanese people to watch. I guess when foreigners watch it, they don’t feel that anything is out of place. At the start, it says the scene takes place in Osaka, but the license plate reads Tama. [Note: Tama is located in Tokyo. Another clearly visible license plate in that same scene reads Shinagawa, which is also in Tokyo. The scene, however, is in Osaka, which is a six hour drive away from Tokyo.]’ 2.1/5
‘I felt a love for Japan.’ 2.8/5
‘The flashy neon image of Japan hasn’t changed since Blade Runner, I guess...’ 4/5
‘No way Japanese yakuza could get Polonium. It’s way too hard to get their hands on that. haha’ 1.2/5
‘The black and white battle scene was good.’ 3/5
‘I liked the music.’ (No score)
‘As expected, the depiction of Tokyo was strange. I imagine the director is a fan of Ghost in the Shell.’ 2.6/5
‘Japan has that much neon? lol It’s a mystery why everyone [in Kate] can speak English. But, I did watch it all the way to the end!’ 3/5