Big Man Japan (2007) [REVIEW] | Now it’s history I see

If you have been searching for an original, fresh take on the kaiju movie, you simply cannot overlook a movie like Big Man Japan, directed, written and starring Hitoshi Matsumoto, a popular japanese comedian, here at it first full lenght feature, followed by Symbol, Saya Zamurai and R100.

Sure, in the movie there are giant monsters attacking Japan, there is an Ultraman style humanoid giant that fights them to protect the country and its citizens, but this isn’t a merry tale of people in rubber suits smacking the shit out of each other, getting set on fire by fireworks and hosed down by stage assistants.

This is actually the story of Masaru Daisato. Like his ancenstors before him, he can grow into a giant over 30 meters tall when shocked by electricity, and he uses this power to defend Japan from the giant monsters that routinely attack it…. in a completely unremarkable way, to be very polite about it.

As it turns out, with great powers come great responsabilities, and mediocre execution will only get you the derision of the very country you fight for, being estranged from your own very family, as not only the people just think you as a joke, even more when confronted with the legacy of your far better precedessors, stuck under the spotlight of ridicule due to no one else being able to replace you on the job. One day he fights a monster said to come not from Japan but from Korea, and he runs away, leading to further mocking, until he receives assistance from other monster fighters like him.

The movie is shot mockumentary style, as we follow Daisatou in his eccentric but isolated life, hear what others have to say about him, be his family members, acquaitances or normal citizens, eventually fading to CG action scenes where he becomes giant and fights weird monsters with fittingly obscure and strange abilities, like a balding bowling pin-human- penguin, a mono-leg with eyes, and so on, all recorded because the monster fights are televised and complete with ratings.

You might think this is something like Hancock, and i won’t deny there’s reason for it coming to mind, as this one it’s also about a guy who looks like a bum, has superpowers but it’s still reviled by the very people he saves, but that’s where the similarities end. Because that movie’s very premise stand in contrast, as it’s about saving Hancock image, here Saitou has a producer that clearly says to not cover his chest with his moves, not to enrage the sponsors and brand tattooed there.

Also, Hancock is basically immortal and has plenty of superpowers to itself, while Saito, despite being this likeable and well meaning slob, he is indeed unremarkable even at the only thing he can do, heck, during the incredibly goofy fights with the enemy monsters he just barely wins, and all far from triumphant or spectacular. The CG is not that bad, it’s not what i would call “good” but it has a weird quality to it that does help make these scenes even funnier and weirder, and that’s quite the achievement since the monster designs themselves are freakish and creative.

Love the extra mile they go with the monsters, down to presenting them with a quick “monster bio” describing its abilities, powers and quirks, a very nice touch!

It’s not so much a satire of the cultural “bushido” as it applies to workers in modern Japan even in this absurd context (not entirely, at least), it’s about the cultural crisis of Japan as a whole feeling it’s not living up to the glory of its past self, and the struggles of copying with the changing times, while clinging to tradition when possible, even if it not always make sense to do so. It pulls this off well without being really jingoistic, and by being hilarious as well as witty, without overdosing too much on the depressing aspects of the situations. And good dose of utter insanity helps as well, to say nothing of the finale, you just don’t see stuff like that coming. Amazing.

Apparently there was an american remake in the works at some point (because), but thank the lord we never heard a thing about it since 2012, and i hope we never will.

I could go on a bit more to fill the page quota, but i’m just gonna say it’s pretty damn good, brilliant even, it’s no wonder it got very good reception at film festival screenings, and it’s a very “shameful display!” that’s not more beloved by fans, or hasn’t got a proper home video release in the west. But you should be able to catch it on streaming services in your region, so please go check it out, it’s an insane hoot of a movie.

Highly recommended!

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