It’s not a secret that the Japanese culture, historically, places a great importance on nature and spirituality. In the documentary Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo, filmmaker Jessica Oreck explores the love the people have long held for insects and the modern subculture that play insect catching video games, have insects in cages at home like pets and make their living solely by hunting and capturing bugs, beetles and butterflies.
Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo doesn’t have an extremely clear narrative. One half of the film is simply observations of people with insects: children buying huge beetles for pets, men in forests looking for bugs to take and resell, people enamored with the songs of the different crickets, people carefully creating and studying shadowboxes and books of dozens upon dozens of specimens. The other half is clips of Japanese culture that is somewhat out of place and at times blatantly inexplicable: festive and traditional parades with people dancing with parasols, a group of greasers with huge pompadours, a man solemnly ringing a bell in a temple. This latter half is the backdrop to a voice over giving flowery historical context of the love for bugs, reciting poetry or simply discussing philosophy and spirituality.
But there’s no real direction with this film. It’s one thing to sit down and go for the ride, but sometimes there’s no context. The additional non-bug related clips have a certain beauty but seem like odd shaped puzzle pieces that kind of match the puzzle being assembled but, when you look at the whole thing from a distance, not really.