Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The Monsters of Big Man Japan

Comedian/writer/director Hitoshi Matsumoto's satirical cult monster-movie, Big Man Japan, is set to be remade by an American think-tank conglomerate. Due to the cultural references particular to Japan vs. the U.S., I for one can't wait to not see this. Although there's always a very outside chance it could have some merit. But I'm not hopeful.

Anyway, back to Big Man Japan. I got this DVD for three dollars at a closing Blockbuster video store (remember those?) and I think it was worth every penny and then some. There are pacing problems. The first rule of screenwriting class—show don't tell, is completely ignored here. And American audiences tend to freak out when scenes go on for more than five minutes and there's too much exposition. But the boring documentary-style interviews with slow-witted, middle-aged monster fighter Masaru Daisato actually echo the Japanese monster-movie format—boring ineffectual people set up the scenes that lead to excellent and cheesy monster fighting. So fast-forward to the monster fights like a traditionalist if you want. That's what I do.

Modern Japanese culture gets skewered, and some of it might be transferable to our disposable, commercialised U.S. shores. Daisato is considered a pest more than a hero and is nearly obsolete due to lack of monsters and interest by the Japanese reality-TV audience. Unlike his popular grandfather, the monster-fighting "Fourth," he has no servants and lives in poverty, sadly sprinkling dehydrated seaweed upon his lonely meals. His wife and child have left him. The public despises and blames him for ruined infrastructure and environmental damage. He's not much of a fighter either, tubby and cautious, more often accidentally killing the oddball assortment of monsters who seem to exist to torment him within barren landscapes devoid of screaming crowds.

I debated whether to post images of the bizarre and entertaining CG monsters (most of whom, like Big Man, come across as pear-shaped, middle-aged, and not too sharp), not wanting to spoil it for everyone. But with this new remake announcement, I figure you're all going to be looking at the monsters anyway, especially YOU, Hollywood. If you don't want to see the weirdness, look away! I promise not to reveal the ending, which is truly amazing and requires some mind-bending thought processes to integrate within the weird world Matsumoto has culled together. And now:

Big Man Japan (tattooed with a corporate-sponsor logo--make note, film studios).

The Strangling Monster lives to flip his comb-over after happily toppling buildings and then--well, I'm not sure what he's doing to the building sites afterwards. Like a lot of these creatures, it's a weird brew of grotesque sexual pleasure, and I don't know what else. I'll leave it for you to decide when you watch the film.

The Fourth was considered a true hero in Japanese society, surrounded by adoring crowds who paid for his every living expense. Quite a contrast to the modern Big Man Japan lifestyle of neglect and non-self-reflexive ennui.

Leaping Monster only wants to leap while yelping, "Sei!" Fans of Yokai Monsters will not find these creatures all together incomprehensible. Everyone else: prepare to be deeply perplexed.

Evil Stare Monster is extremely perverse in its fighting methods. Kind of like a really bad stage act at the Exotic Erotic Ball.

Stink Monster is one smelly bitch in heat. Big Man Japan tries reasoning with this mysterious hot-house flower to, of course, no avail.

The Child Monster is helpless yet potentially threatening. Kind of like real children.

Evil Red Menace with his glowing eyes actually knows how to fight. That could definitely be problematic.


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