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Japan 2007


Hitoshi Matsumoto

Hitoshi Matsumoto
Riki Takeuchi
Ryunosuke Kamiki
Tomoji Hasegawa
Haruka Unabara
Itsuji Itao
Daisuke Miyagawa
Takayuki Haranishi
Hiroyuki Miyasako
Kenji Motomiya
Ryushin Tei
Ryoji Okamoto

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Big Man Japan

Story: Masaru Daisatou (Hitoshi Matsumoto) is the center-point of a reality TV show. His life is captured by a camerateam that is always around him, and an interviewer asks him about his affinities, problems and family ties etc. Daisatou seems like a movie star past his prime, but when his cell phone rings and he is called to take on another task we get to know who he really is: "Big Man Japan", a superhero, who has to face all different kinds of monsters in order to protect Japan. Still, his pay is bad, the audience rating of his show is going down the tubes and there are almost no sponsors interested in him, anymore. Furthermore, people actually don't want to have to do anything with him nowadays, and he doesn't have the reputation he would deserve. Then, there is his grandfather, too, also a superhero, who is suffering from dementia, and who is taken care of by his grandchild. On rare occasions Daisatou is also allowed to see his daughter, who is living at her mother's since Daisatou and his wife are living apart for some time already. However, all these problems have to be postponed for later to solve as a new villian enters the stage in form of a red devil, and "Big Man Japan" doesn't seem to stand a chance against him...

Review: You haven't seen anything like "Big Man Japan" before. It's a mockumentary about a superhero, who is actually just a normal guy until he transforms into the "Big Man" of Japan. Anyway, it takes some time until we get to see him in this form. Before that we follow Daisatou through his pretty unspectacular life at every turn. We learn more about the person Daisatou during the numerous interviews, which are also filled with silence between the lines that is so typical for "true" documentaries. Moreover, most of the dialogues have mostly been come up with just at the very moment of shooting, so that a very authentic feeling is created leading us to believe that we are in fact watching a documentary. But apart from that, we also get to see some fights between the superhero and the wacky monsters, that poke fun at Godzilla, Mothra and Co. This mixture together with the fantastic off-beat humor works out astonishingly well in an abstract way and is overflowing with originality.

Granted, at first the film might seem a bit lengthy, but the interviews always offer enough material to laugh about, even the more as we also get to know more about the person behind the superhero in them. Imagine "Hancock", but melancholic and without any sense of humor then you have our superhero. More than anything else it's the deadpan serious way his life is portrayed and taken apart that can be so amusing to watch and make you laugh out loud on certain occasions. The people around him are also questioned about him in numerous interviews, from the chef of a restaurant where he eats his noodles, to employees of the military who are having a hard time answering the question what justice means, to his little daughter, whose face is obscured by mosaics since her mother doesn't want her to get bullied at school even more because of her father. That is because Daisatou isn't that popular with people anymore, some of them can't even stand him and throw stones at his windows. But our superhero reacts to such happenings as apathetic as he does concerning everything else.

In order to have a certain income Daisatou is dependent on sponsors, that is why he has some advertising attached to his breast every now and again, which naturally have to be well visible in his enlarged form during the battles against the other monsters, a fact that doesn't really make his fights easier. Interestingly enough Daisatou could retain some odd principles and lines he doesn't want to cross, e.g. he doesn't want to attach an advertising logo on his back. As you may have noticed by now Daisatou is just a human like anyone else, someone who also has his deficiencies or who is a bit kinky, which the fact, that he loves everything that is small and can expand like foldable umbrellas or dried seaweed swelling up, is proof of. He likes everything that resembles him. Also, for him to expand into "Big Man Japan" he has to be put under heavy current. Standing in gigantic underwear, of course, since we don't want our hero to be completely naked when he has grown...

The electricity could also be responsible for his hair standing on end in his superhero state, and with a cudgel in his hand Daisatou surely looks pretty rude and also ridiculous. However, it has to be added that as a superhero he himself, as it is the case with all the monsters he has to face, is completely computer-generated. Nonetheless, the quality is absolutely top-notch, but more than anything else it's the ideas involved in the creation of the monsters that are impressive. Moreover, before every fight we get a small introduction in form of an insertion including information about the weaknesses of the monsters. The monsters presented are more than anything else incredibly abstruse and at times plain funny, like the one that uses its eye as a kind of throwing weapon or a stinker monster, that is courted by another one since it's mating season. Actually, you can't really put in words what you get to see in this movies, you just have to watch it in order to be able to laugh about it. Even the red devil, who was supposed to look very mean and heinous, still has something cute about him.

Anyway, Daisatou is also a man that deserves to be pitied. He tells the interviewer that he sees his daughter only once a month since he has so much to do, but she would like to see him every day. However, the picture drawn by the mother and the daughter is a little bit different. They tell us that he sees her just every half year and that his daughter actually doesn't care if she gets to see her father or not. Yes, our superhero is a sad figure, like a movie star past his prime who doesn't know when to quit and tries to regain some of his fame of the old days, even if Daisatou's indifference might hint at his manager being the source of this wish. But no matter how sad all of this might sound, everything is presented in such a deadpan and off-beat way that you just have to laugh about it. The only weakness is the ending which is a bit too sudden and even though the blurring of the borders between reality and movie fiction is quite nice, the last scene with the superheroes portrayed by people in plastic suits is rather alienating at first. Only during the end credits we get to understand the intention behind it and that's also when you can laugh about it again.
"Big Man Japan" can be recommended to all those who have no problem with the wacky humor of Japan and who think that they can find some fun in a fantasy-loaden mockumentary.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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