I have a lot of love for bizarre Japanese films and this is definitely one of the most bizarre yet. Definitely. I’ve spent a while trying to think of how I would describe it and the best I can come up with is that it is sort of like a cross between The Troll Hunter, Hancock, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, Neon Genesis Evangelion and This Is Spinal Tap. It has all the strangeness of the strangest Takeshi Miike films like Happiness of the Katakuris. If you are like me, that is all the review you will need: it’s worth checking out just out of curiosity.
It’s a mockumentary style film and though this mostly works it is possibly played a bit too straight and deadpan and could have used a few more little jokes to keep the audiences attention. I didn’t find it boring but it’s just a bit more down tempo than I was expecting. A camera crew follows the day to day life of the eponymous superhero Big Man Japan (played by Hitoshi Matsumoto who also wrote and directed) – he’s mumbling, affable and a bit of a bum. He lives a simple life on a low income with his cats and compact umbrellas (he likes how they grow big only when you need them to). In times of need he is called to a nearby power station where he is transformed with an electrical shock into a giant with a club and an afro who goes to wrestle the invading monsters. Oh and he also has giant purple underpants.
Big Man Japan is not really respected by the Japanese people, the ratings for his show are dropping and he is taken for granted and even reviled by some despite the fact that he is the only Japanese hero around able to deal with the giant monsters. He’s considered a bit of a joke and a washout. The monsters are crazy – I was expecting Godzilla type creatures but these were closer to a comedy take on the weirdness of the Angels from Evangelion. The monsters really defy any attempt to explain them: one is a head with a single leg that hops around excitedly shouting ‘SIE!’ and another has a comb over. One exudes the smell of 10,000 human faeces and petulantly pokes out windows on a skyscraper with it’s fingers when it is asked to leave because it stinks. They look very strange, I don’t think I can really prepare you for how strange they look – the creepy CGI faces they have certainly doesn’t help.
Hitoshi Matsumoto plays it so po-faced: from his ever-so-slightly resigned expression as yet another brick comes through his window, to his barely perceptible annoyance at the fact he doesn’t have 50 servants and endless geisha at his disposal like the Big Men of yesteryear – it’s a great performance and his scenes are all excellent. Some of the supporting cast seem a bit superfluous, the manager especially but it all adds to increase the contrast between his mundane day-to-day existence and the giant-purple-underpants-crappy-cgi-monster wrestling. However even if all this was rubbish it would still be a must watch film just because of the final 30 minutes. Words can’t really describe the ending, except to say that it is the most ludicrous ending to any film I have ever seen, including Dead or Alive: Hanzaisha (the previous record holder). I was in tears of confused laughter. Just… don’t expect it to make any sense.