At first glance the premise of this movie is very much that of J-horror, as the title entails: a song leads people to commit suicide. Other elements match the well known formula like urban legends and the fact the demographic of a cast mostly comprised of teenage girls. But 'Suicide Song' is not at all a clone of the new wave of Asian horror movies that has become somewhat sterile.
In fact, it is not horror at all. Or hardly. Instead this movie offers a skewed social commentary on what has been deemed one of Japan's greatest problems: the disturbingly high suicide rates. There is a sense of general paranoia that drives the characters in their quest for breaking the curse. And this includes a detached military otaku (played by the ever beautiful Ryohei Matsuda) who in his research for a shady magazine becomes involved with a group of high school girls that he ends up escorting to his home town to meet up with someone with spiritual powers. This could lead to plenty of squirm worthy moments but the entire thing is as innocent as it gets. Which seems to be a self conscious decision plot-wise since the otaku's mother probes the girls for a suitable marriage partner for her son, probably a jab at otakus and their well known inability for establishing romantic (or any) relationships.
The action moves from the city to the country and there to a mansion where they barricade behind blessed charms to ward off evil. So the solution is surprisingly traditional, it is steeped in returning to a very spirit-oriented religiosity with many Shinto undertones. And yet the supernatural is almost accidental. More than anything the movie is an ironic questioning of the reasons behind suicide all spiced with mystery and poking fun at superstition and self centered attitudes. This is achieved with a degree of satisfaction that is unfortunately thwarted by a conclusion that is too jarring. The movie degenerates into a Disney-like song sequence even as it delivers the explanation behind everything. The message is thus contaminated by a lapse of good judgment that strikes one as a compromise of sorts, almost as if to broaden the a target audience by pushing for a family movie device. Which is a strange choice given the subject matter.
It is a shame that this mars an otherwise solid movie. The characters are actually likable, from the main otaku to his highly volatile colleague with his conspiracy theories without forgetting the main girl whose backstory is later revealed. Considerably less famous than 'Suicide Club', 'Suicide Song' manages to offer a bemused perspective on the same subject in a manner that is much more interesting. Perhaps because there is a greater connection between the viewer and the characters and because it does not stray off into muddled soliloquies that sound deep but are more like white noise than anything else.
'Suicide Song' may not be a work of genius but it knows how to distribute comedy and drama in almost equal amounts in a frame of social critique that does not hinder the fun element of it all.