“Kill ’em all. I hope he kills everyone.” The tagline for Kamei Toru’s independent movie, Innocent Prayer, based on Hirayama Yumeaki’s short story collection, certainly isn’t mincing words. Only more shocking than the request itself is the young heart and mind uttering it. Child-abuse and bullying are subject matters often dealt with in movies through varied ways, from over-the-top fantasies of heroism to grave calls to attention for previously unknown injustices. Revenge, of course, is one of the genres employed to achieve an effect, both in fiction and sadly, in real life. With Innocent Prayer, however, there is an interesting wrinkle which deserves notice.
A 10-year-old girl, Fumi, is subjected to vicious bullying at school. Even at home, the daily abuse inflicted on her by her step-father worsening day by day, while her mother, seeking a spiritual solace from her husband’s abuse, is sinking deeper into a new religion. With no place for respite nor anyone to help her, Fumi’s endless despair is never-ending.
Until one day, she learns of a series of murders occurring in the vicinity of the city she lives, and embarks on a short journey to the scenes of the crimes. And then Fumi leaves a message for a certain someone.
A little girl becoming fascinated with serial killings and (possibly) requesting for the killer to act as the instrument of her vengeance is unique and imaginative; no doubt attributable to the fertile mind of the award-winning crime author whose ‘Monologue of a Universal Transverse Mercator Projection’ is a descent into macabre stories with a creative slant. The hook of Innocent Prayer may not be as outlandish as those of the short stories, but in a society where the victim of such abuse often take their own lives rather than plotting the demise of their tormentors, fictional treatments delivering such cautionary tales even to this extreme could be necessary, sadly, to avert a headline-making incident with which no novel or movie could ever compete.