An intriguing part of Teke Teke is the number of females cast, without the intent of it being a schoolgirl fetish movie. Sorry guys, no gratuitous midriffs. I’m thinking it’s because the film aims to explore a girl’s emotions during a period of sexual awakening. Of course this is all speculation, ostensibly the film is a horror movie involving an Japanese urban legend.
The version of the legend we’re first told involves a woman committing suicide by jumping off a bridge. What the girls starring in the film eventually find out though, is a much deeper, human backstory – the cause of Reiko Kashima’s suicide. Reiko Kashima was raped as a virgin and bled, and as a result came to hate the color of blood. She never got justice. Seen in the light of this sex tragedy, the events in the film begin to form a sort of logic. The film involves mostly females because they can identify more closely with Reiko Kashima thus creating an additional conflict beyond predator and prey. As far as the couple of male characters are concerned, since the story is told from the POV of Kana, an inexperienced schoolgirl, they fall neatly into two categories – love interests and non-interests – and are non-factors regarding the deeper theme of the film.
The film’s two male characters fit sexual stereotypes, which reflects Kana’s understanding of men. Utsumi serves his function as the star athlete / love interest, after which he drops out of the plot. The professor’s wide-eyed assistant, who aids the girls in their research, is the anti-heartthrob: socially inept, emasculated and belittled by his boss, he’s the kind of man who in a single day could cause a female enough impatience to last a lifetime. As limited as they may be, they both serve their purpose in moving the story forward.
Kana, the protagonist, is the sexual innocent – whether or not her indifference to attractive boys is a front, she clearly makes a conscious effort not to have a relationship. Maybe she’s insecure, or just wants to wait – it’s ambiguous. Kana’s character is set against her foil (and best friend) Ayaka, who believes in “living life to the fullest, three times over.” She aggressively pursues Utsumi, the star of the boy’s soccer team, whom Kana criticizes as “shallow.” So without necessarily portraying Ayaka as the stereotypical bimbo of the teen slasher genre, the film makes her play the part. The other females in the film are clearly older, more experienced women. So it’s Kana’s sexual innocence that drives the film.
Even though both the writer and director of Teke Teke are males, there is a strong feminine side to the film. Three of the four main characters are females who are portrayed in a nonsexual way while the males are just along for the ride. This makes Teke Teke a rarity of a Japanese cinema that has always been famous for its gender stereotyping and sexually exploitive films. Hopefully there will be more Japanese films like Teke Teke in the future. Films where a woman’s perspective counts.