Confessions (Kokuhaku),a Japanese film, is the story of Yuko Moriguchi, a teacher, a mother, who has lost her young daughter. Her daughter dies in an apparent swimming pool accident and drowns. Yuko knows that it was not an accident but a murder. She decides to take revenge. The film is set in the context of a school and involves students of under 14 years of age. The movie is fantastic but you really need to get one thing right – it’s set in a world where everyone is a crazy person. The actions of the characters in the movie have little or no consequences as you would expect in a regular school / society. The reactions to each of the actions is another set of crazies. What is cool is that you’re kept intrigued by the film’s plot and the non-linear storytelling. It’s so strange, it’s great. Here’s Japanese film Confessions explained, spoilers Ahead.
There are 4 main characters that you need to understand about. The film goes back and forth into each of the characters quite a few times to I’m going to lay out the explanation in a chronological fashion. This will kill the theatrics of the storytelling but this article to help understand the plot.
The four character tracks converge in the film so I’ll start with each their backstories to the point they converge.
She is the teacher, played by Takako Matsu. Her backstory involves her romantic relationship with Masayoshi Sakuranomiya. He is a very popular teacher who has authored popular books. As they prepare to get married, Masayoshi is diagnosed with HIV+. Masayoshi hasn’t been cheating but earlier in his life he did galavant a bit during his overseas journeys. Must have had unprotected sex and the virus remained dormant. Yuko is diagnosed with pregnancy at the same time with Masayoshi’s kid. Yoko doesn’t have HIV and neither does her baby. Yoko and Masayoshi decide to keep their relationship a secret so that their daughter doesn’t get ostracized for having an HIV+ dad. Their daughter is Manami Moriguchi, played by Mana Ashida (she played young Mako in Pacific Rim). Yuko remains a single mother and lives with Manami. Masayoshi continues to teach and progressively becomes more sick. As a result, Yoko takes Manami to school with her. While Yoko taught, Manami stayed in one of the rooms.
Shuya is played by Yukito Nishii. Shuya’s mom, played by Ikuyo Kuroda, is a researcher / scientist. She marries a person of average IQ. She gets pregnant with Shuya. Once Shuya is born, his mom realizes that she isn’t cut out for this parenting bullshit. She tries to redeem herself by teaching Shuya science. She resorts to beating up Shuya in her own frustration. Her average IQed husband catches her in the act of the beating. He divorces her ass. She tells Shuya that he’s got intelligent blood in him, her blood, and leaves him to pursue her own career. Pop – that’s the sound he hears, the sound of someone important to him disappearing. Shuya grows up reading his mother’s books and develops a keen interest in science. His only goal in life, an obsession even, is to prove his worthiness to his mother. Shuya has a website and posts some interesting science stuff in it, only to get 0 readers. He realizes that the world is more interested in the bizarre. So he resorts to putting up pictures of tortured and dead animals. He begins to get success at it too. Shuya then invents a purse which is theft proof. The purse has a small electric charge and zaps anyone who tries to open it – well then how is the owner of the purse supposed to pull out some cash without falling to the floor with froth in her mouth? Never mind. Shuya tries the purse out on his teacher – Yoko. She gets zapped and asks him if she was his guinea pig. The kid is evil. Yoko already knows about his public evil animal-torture website. Yet nobody cares about the evilness of the situation, the day just goes by. Shuya wants to enter his zappy invention into the science fair. Yoko thinks it’s dangerous, no one cares. Not only does Shuya enter the contraption into the fair, he wins! Hear hear! BUT, his news of winning gets overshadowed by a lunatic girl who poisons her whole family using some chemical compounds. The Lunacy Girl is not punished much for this (because he’s a juvenile), however, her teacher who taught her about the chemical compounds is harshly punished for it. So there goes Shuya’s opportunity to shine in the papers for his mother to appreciate and get back to him. Shuya needs another way to get successful enough to get the attention of his mother.
Naoki is played by Kaoru Fujiwara. He lives with his mother Yuko Shimomura (Yoshino Kimura), not to be confused with Yuko Moriguchi – the teacher. To avoid confusion I’m going to refer to her as Naoki’s mother. His father is usually travelling and unavailable. Naoki is a student who’s transferred to the school recently and his teacher is Yuko Moriguchi. Naoki is not smart, he’s a lonely kid and wants some friends in life. Well he’s a little crazy too because he goes around writing “DIE, DIE” on the school bathroom walls. Not sure if that is normal behaviour. Naoki sneaks into an arcade during school hours and is arrested as he’s under the age limit. Yoku, the teacher, was to go to help him get free but she sends another teacher, a male teacher, to meet Naoki. Mr. Tokura is the male teacher. Naoki is pissed off to see some other teacher to show up.
Why does Yuko do that? Well there was once an incident in school where a girl was scolded by her male teacher. To seek revenge, the girl wrote to the young male teacher saying she was in love with him; that she’d kill herself if he didn’t meet her. He panicked and agreed to meet her at a love motel (quite smart of him, love motel, really? Didn’t the girl need to show age proof or something?). The girl waited there, and got a photo of him. Then she showed it to her parents, who stormed into the school. The school decides that no teacher of the opposite sex is to go to meet students alone (specially in love motels I’d presume).
Getting back, the bottom line is that Naoki is lonely and is tired of being a nobody.
Mizuki is played by Ai Hashimoto. Mizuki is yet another strange student. She doesn’t seem to have any parents to talk about. She’s a suicidal girl who has taken a fancy to the Lunacy Girl. She has an L (not to be confused with L from Death Note) tattooed to her wrist and strongly feels that her one half is the Lunacy Girl. Although, she’s more a wannabe killer/thriller. She’s just normal crazy compared to the other loons in school. She is also the head girl of her class.
Now we understand each of the main characters, sort of. Shuya plans to up his game after the failed winning of the science fair. He schemes to make friends with the big loser – Naoki. Naoki falls for Shuya’s friendship request. Shuya acts like he’s genuinely friends with Naoki and they begin to scheme together. Shuya takes his zappy invention and juices it up to give a higher electric jolt. They decide who their next target needs to be, they decide it to be Manami, Yuko’s daughter. Naoki suggests Manami because he thinks that Yuko is too busy for her students and spends too much time with her own daughter. Naoki thinks Yuko doesn’t come to his rescue because of her daughter.
Naoki happens to witness an incident where Manami is asking for a bunny purse and Yuko doesn’t buy her the purse. Shuya and Naoki buy that very purse and put the electric zapper inside it. They take Manami to the pool side and offer her the purse saying it’s a gift from Yuko. Manami opens the purse and gets zapped. She faints but doesn’t die. Shuya tells Naoki that he should tell the school that this was all Shuya’s plan. He also tells Naoki the truth about him only acting to be a friend and that Shuya never considered Naoki to be anything more than a loser and leaves. Shuya hopes that Naoki would get scared, run and tell everyone that this was all Shuya’s evil plot. Shuya hopes that this incident would hit the news and he would finally be popular (like the Lunacy Girl) and would be able to finally prove himself to his mother (that he’s a child electrocuting psycho? Whatever makes him happy I guess).
Naoki Drowns Manami
Naoki, however, is on his own trip and decides to toss Manami’s body into the pool. Just as he’s about to toss her in, Manami wakes up. Naoki tosses her in anyway. He concludes that the real loser is Shuya who couldn’t finish the job and Naoki is the real deal for he has killed whom they set off to kill. Obviously Shuya doesn’t expect this and is pissed. Yuko finds her dead child in the pool and this is dismissed to be an accident. Yuko also finds the bunny bag in the area and recalls that Naoki saw her denying it for Manami.
They hold a private funeral for so that Manami’s secret dad could mourn her passing. After this, Yuko decides that she’s going to have her revenge. When she brings up the bunny purse with Shuya, he is unmoved. He openly admits that he’s killed her daughter by zapping her. Yuko wants to kill Shuya. She realizes that if she goes to the authorities, Shuya will get away scratch-free because the juvenile law would protect him from any harsh punishment – just as in the case of the Lunacy Girl. She tries to talk to Naoki and his mother too. Naoki’s mom is only feeling bad for her own son to be caught up in all of this, she doesn’t know what Naoki has really done. So Yuko begins to plan out her evil scheme and teach both boys a lesson.
Yuko conducts a milk drive in her class. She ensures that everyone drinks their box of milk. After this, she addresses the class. This is the first scene of the movie. She explains about her relationship, her child, the murder. She refers to two students who did it. Student A (which is Shuya) and Student B (which is Naoki). She tells the class that she knows who these people are and has added HIV+ blood into their box of milk which they have happily finished. While Naoki sits there frozen in fear, Shuya makes a run to the bathroom in disgust. Naoki is actually scared while Shuya is happy that he is going to finally get the fame he was looking for. He runs out on purpose to let the class know that it was he who did it. He sits in the bathroom laughing about it – about the fact that he is going to die of AIDS as it appeared. Everything this psycho kid thinks of is about how his mother would finally get the news and would get impressed. Little does Shuya know is that mothers, in general, don’t get impressed when their kids turn out to be psychotic killers who are avenged through the transmission of AIDS. The children of the class do freak about the mixing of the HIV+ blood in their milk but somehow none of their parents or the other teachers get to know this. Technically that would be an open crime but remember, everyone is a crazy person. Yuko also announces that she will no longer be their teacher.
After this, a new teacher is appointed to the class – Werther. He doesn’t know anything about Yuko and her declaration to the class. By now Shuya is heavily bullied for being the killer that he is. Naoki has stopped coming to school. Mizuki, the head girl, is being asked by Werther to get Naoki back to class. Werther gets the class to write “come back” notes to get Naoki back. Naoki has shut himself up in his room and his paranoia of getting AIDS has driven him insane, like more insane than the average person in this film. He has given up on taking a bath because he feels that by smelling bad and feeling hungry he still knows he’s alive. But he vigorously cleans everything he uses and does so because he doesn’t want his mother to catch the disease. But Naoki’s mom doesn’t know this, she just doesn’t understand what has gotten into him. All she knows is that it has something to do with Yuko. Werther, along with Mizuki, starts visiting Naoki’s place and handing out those “come back” notes.
In the meanwhile, Yuko secretly writes a letter to Werther saying that the class has been bullying Shuya. She does this because he wants more shit to stir up in the class. She feels Shuya is not getting enough punishment. The note makes the class suspect Mizuki for writing it as she doesn’t participate in the bullying. The class attacks her and makes her kiss Shuya. This is a strange bunch of 13 year olds. Shuya later meets Mizuki and tells her that she doesn’t have the risk of getting infected because his blood results have come out negative. Mizuki says she knew that Yuko was possibly lying and she only did that to scare the two boys. The two then begin a relationship.
Come Back Filthy Killer
Naoki’s mother sees the “come back” messages only to notice a hidden message that reads “filthy killer”. She breaks down. She notices Naoki crying and thinks that he’s coming back to being himself. She decides that she’s going to drug Naoki (yup, she drugs her hurting son) and when he’s unconscious, she’s going to clean him up. When Naoki wakes up he flips out because according to him his stink and dirt is the indication that he’s alive and suddenly being all clean means he’s dead. Naoki cuts his hand and runs to a grocery store and spews blood everywhere. She takes him back home and Naoki admits to the crime he’s done. He tells his mom that Manami was alive when he threw her into the pool. Obviously Naoki’s mother loses her last globule of sanity after hearing this confession.
Mizuki, in the following evening, sees Yuko talking to Werther. Yuko has been telling Werther to constantly keep pursuing Naoki and his mother to get him back. She’s doing this hoping that would push Naoki over the edge. After Werther leaves, Mizuki meets Yuko. Yuko confesses to Mizuki about the note she leaves Werther about the bullying because she needed more bullying – Yuko is not happy with the punishment that Shuya has been getting. Muzuki unknowingly gives Yuko a critical piece of information – that Shuya has done everything so far for just one thing, to win the love of his mother. Yuko laughs, then cries. She now realizes her revenge on Shuya has to be focused on the relationship with his mother.
Later, Shuya spooks the class with his blood and the class stops bullying him. Mizuki tells Shuya her secret – That Lunacy girl… is her other side. She too has a personal blog that she keeps writing but doesn’t publish. Werther relentlessly tries to talk to Naoki, Mizuki tells him to back off but he doesn’t. The next day, Naoki’s mother decides that she is going to kill her son and then herself. (Why does everyone in this film want to kill someone or the other? Is there no law and order type thing in this town?). So she takes a knife and drives it into Naoki’s chest. Naoki has been doing his best to keep his mother safe from his apparent sickness and she returns the favour by stabbing him and apologizing. He gets pissed and kills his mother. A staff meeting is held the next day because of Naoki. In order to show Shuya how evil Mizuki can be she tells the staff that Werther was responsible for the Naoki’s actions as he kept pushing his way into Naoki’s place. That’s the reason for their “secretive low-five”.
When Shuya and Mizuki meet, he disses her for claiming that Lunacy is her other side. He tells her to stop entertaining herself with stupid daydreams. Mizuki gets pissed and retorts saying Shuya has an Oedipus complex. He’s nothing more than a little baby who’s been crying for his mother who left him. He doesn’t have the guts to just go and see her. Shuya retaliates by connecting a large metal object to her head. He then chokes her to death and throws her into his freezer. Shuya goes to meet his mother after this. He realizes that she is on her honeymoon and doesn’t seem to care at about Shuya at all. He gets pissed and plans to blow up the school during his upcoming speech. He configures the bomb to respond to his mobile phone. He then goes online and leaves a rather large confession of his plan and everything he has done. He also lies on the confession that he intentionally avoided meeting his mother because he hadn’t achieved greatness yet.Shuya has a vision of everyone falling dead in school with him walking past the dead. This is just him imagining the outcome.
Bomb delivery to Shuya’s mother
Yoko is monitoring his website and watches his confession. She goes to the school and removes the bomb. Yuko takes the bomb, heads to meet Shuya’s mother who is back from her honeymoon. Shuya’s mother hasn’t forgotten about Shuya after all, apparently. Yuko hands her the newspaper clipping about Shuya winning the science fair. Yuko also leaves the bomb in Shuya’s mother’s office.
The next day when Shuya gives the speech on “life”, he pulls out his phone right after and triggers the bomb. He expects himself and the people attending the event in the school to blow up. But he notices the missing bomb. Shuya gets a call from Yuko and she explains to him what she has done. She tells him how Shuya has just blown his mother up to bits. Shuya is running around pushing his teachers down in agony. A few adults run to catch him but either they go on a tea break or give up because moments later, Yuko confronts Shuya and no one seems to be interested in chasing him anymore. Yuko tells Shuya how he’s just a brat dying for some attention and doesn’t mind killing hundreds of children and himself because he has mommy issues. He has now killed his own mother, blown her to smithereens with his bomb. That’s the sound she hears, the sound of someone important to him disappearing, but it’s not a pop, more a BOOM. This is her revenge, this is her FLAWLESS VICTORY, FATALITY! Suck it up Shuya. The film ends.