Takashi Miike is a really strange guy. I mean, this guy has made some famously gory and violent works such as Ichi the Killer, Izo (future review) and an episode of Masters of Horror that was banned by Showtime! At the same time, he has made a few kid-friendly films like The Happiness of the Katakuris (another future review) and The Great Yokai War...which is still kind of creepy at times. Can one man really bring us the contradiction of Three...Extremes and Ultraman Max? I will attempt to address this question today in my review of his 2004 superhero film. It is a curious blend of silly, dramatic and 'what the hell?!?' To be honest, I could not be more excited. This is...
Our story revolves around a poor man who simply cannot get any respect. On top of that, he's not Rodney Dangerfield, so he's not a comedy legend either! Instead, he is a married man with two kids and an unhappy life. His wife is obviously having an affair, his daughter is going out with all the wrong men and his son's life is full of beatings. Why? Because his dad is a teacher at his school. On the plus side, he's Japanese, so he gets awesome games about teenagers dating, the Earth Defense Force (make the new one for 360 already!) and ambulances battling zombies. The only ray of sunshine in his life is his fantasy one, which revolves around a character named Zebraman. Of course, given how sad our hero is, he is in love with a show that was unsuccessful and had about the same run as Manimal did! At least it can't get any worse than it is...oh, he dresses up like that superhero at night and attempts to fight crime. Well, at least he doesn't fall off of the roof when he goes out. He just fell off of the roof, didn't he?
Just because this movie is not weird enough, we get a serious plot sneaking its way in. Some mysterious masked men are attacking and killing women in town. Who are you gonna call? Not the teacher in the silly outfit, that's for sure! At the same time, the movie reminds of you its heart with the friendship between a wheelchair-using child and the teacher. The kid has a great imagination and does not make fun of the older man for his love of superheroes. It is subtle and heart-felt, so I'll get no laughs out of it. Now, the weird monster with a crab head- him I can laugh at! Of course, being a little bi-polar, nothing really stays too focused for too long. Kid = happy, crab aliens = silly and reality = sad. Any one of these could make for an interesting film, but Takashi Miike pulled a Queen and said 'I want it all.' Our hero goes out and tries to take a stand, but it does not go too well. On top of all that, some questionable CG monsters show up to make this all confusing. If you think this is weird, wait until you hear about how it ends.
*After so much build-up of him being a loser, he gets a pep talk from one of the detectives. Despite constantly failing at, well, everything, he still decides to fight. I should mention a bizarre subplot involving our hero's destiny to die because all of his actions have mirrored that of the show. Since the show ended mid-run and during a story, he can't actually complete his mission. Does that make any more sense to you than it does to me? I didn't think so. Anyhow, despite no build-up to this in any way, our hero is suddenly bathed in glowing light and his worn, crappy outfit transforms into a shiny new suit. He battles a giant slime alien and- in the ultimate act of ludicrousness- transforms into a winged zebra that fires lasers from its eyes. Wow, I can't believe I just wrote that. The day is saved and a hero is born...at least until the sequel for 2010: Zebraman 2- Vengeful Zebra City. No, I'm not kidding.
Yeah, this movie is damn weird. It nearly made it into Bi-Polar Cinema, but that would not do it justice! I had a good time with it, I just did not know what to think in the end. It was by no means a bad movie- just a crazy one. Miike is one messed-up dude and it shows even in an all-ages film like this. It does show the man's range though, that's for damn sure! Maybe it would make more sense to me if I was Japanese, but I think that's a misnomer. This is the country that made several games about women in bikinis and cowboy hats fighting zombies with katanas. Can anything make sense to them? Oh yeah, panty vending machines. If you like superhero films and insanity, this is the movie for you. Just don't expect the typical Miike film here.
This review has been a long time coming and is well-worth the wait. Two words: Indian tumor. Stay tuned...