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Since 2008, Mail Order Zombie has covered zombie movies, zombie movie music, post-apocalyptic and zombie literature, zombie comics, zombie games, zombie operas, etc. Weekly, Brother D brings the reviews, and Miss Bren joins him for the weekly Feedback Discussion. Zombie news from around the world is covered in the Zombie Beat, and interviews with zombie media makers round out the show.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

This movie doesn't need zombies: 'Big Man Japan'

Big Man Japan, also known as Dai-Nipponjin, is an overly long near-mockumentary following Daisatô, a lonely superhero who's fallen out of favor with the general public. Directed by Hitoshi Matsumoto, who also stars in the film as Daisatô, the superhero with a low publicity rating, Big Man Japan presents its story in a fashion similar to the television show "The Office." A shoulder-mounted camera follows Daisatô through his routine-filled life, and occasionally, monsters show up to threaten the country. When this happens, Daisatô nonchalantly reports to one of a handful of facilities scattered throughout Japan, has electricity pumped into his body through some clips attached to his chest, and grows to Godzilla-like stature to battle the offending and similarly-sized monster.

And afterward? He spends some time cooling down/moping until he shrinks back down to normal size and continues with his mundane existence until the next monster comes along.

Matsumoto co-wrote the movie with Mitsuyoshi Takasu, and while some of the storytelling style has an improved “that-just-happened” feel, the story is quite tight and at times, poignant. Daisatô comes from a line of heroes who have, throughout history, called themselves “Big Man Japan” and done battle against various kaiju threats over the years. At one point, the hero was worshipped, but these days, the people of Japan don’t look upon their national hero with any sense of hero worship. The budget’s been cut, and even the government doesn’t give their hero the support or respect once reserved for Big Man Japan. The scene in which the customary ceremony that takes place before Daisatô’s transformation into Big Man Japan is particularly telling – it takes place in a cluttered government office of some sort, and even the documentary crew seem a bit disrespectful as they have no problem interrupting the ritual and asking them to start over so they can get a better camera shot.

As for Big Man Japan himself, he’s a CG creation. Every monster in the movie is. Sometimes they look okay; sometimes they look like something out of a video game cut scene. I understand not wanting to rely on having an actor wear a rubber suit or creating a miniature city for actors to destroy, and most of the monsters Big Man Japan fights are just un-humanoid enough that it would have been difficult to create a prosthetic make-up effect/suit that would not have blown the credibility and the reality presented in the rest of the movie.

Overall, the movie runs a bit long. While the scenes featuring Daisatô do serve their purpose, they sometimes threaten to bore the audience. Additionally, the monster-fighting scenes do run a bit short, but the focus of this movie is not on kaiju-fighting; it is on Daisatô’s dreary existence as a government superhero whose country would rather forget about him.