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Movie Review: Big Man Japan

Posted by representingpuroresu on 02/21/2010

As noted yesterday I did pick up a couple Japanese movies when I went to Borders Friday night. One turned out to be basically porn in disguise. The other one…was not. In fact, it could pass for an arthouse flick! It actually was one I’d seen before and thought a couple times about getting elsewhere but passed until now. So without further adieu here’s my capsule review of the other addition to my Japanese cinema collection-“Big Man Japan”. (Updated 2/22/10 with thoughts on DVD extras)

Part of a series called the “6 Shooter Film Series”, Big Man Japan is a rather different take on the “giant superhero/monster” genre that has long been a staple of Japanese cinema. The main character is Daisato, a seemingly normal man who keeps to himself but has allowed a camera crew to film him almost 24/7, almost like it’s a documentary/biography of him and his life. The kicker is that when giant monsters attack parts of Japan, Daisato can get electrocuted at power plants and transform into Big Man Japan, a big (size and hair) superhero who fights off evil but, unlike most superheroes, doesnn’t exactly get the adoration of the public. In fact, they despise him. All the while Daisato has to deal with his agent trying her best to make sponsor deals work for him, the film crew following him 24/7, dealing with personal issues that seem to plague him, and of course the monsters and even the Japan Ministry Of Defense.
The first thought I had was that, when I started watching, this wasn’t going to be a comedy as I expected, as it clearly had more of a documentary/biography feel to it. A bit disappointing at first, but you get used to it and it’s a unique way of doing the movie and following the main character. The superhero scenes are few and kinda far between but they are funny when they do go down, and the last half-hour really makes up for lost time. The final battle scene and the end credits are nonstop hilarious. It’s also worth noting that apparently this film underwent some kind of editing-I haven’t watched them yet but as part of the DVD extras there are 52…FIFTY-TWO!…minutes of deleted scenes. There’s also a 68-minute making-of feature. So I’ll withhold full judgment until I watch the extras but as for the movie, it’s largely saved by the last 30-40 minutes. By no means is it a bad film-if nothing else it’s interesting because of how it seems to be filmed from the film crew’s perspective, and that aspect is well-done-but it didn’t have nearly the amount of action and humor I was hoping for. Just hang in there until the end and the final scenes make up for some of it, but as a whole don’t have too-high expectations based on what you see on the package or you’re going to be a little disappointed. But if you want to see a different way of making a non-documentary film look like one and a film style I’d like to see more of, take a look at it. And remember, don’t fully judge it until watching the extras-namely all those deleted scenes.

“Big Man Japan” stars Hitosi Matumoto, Riki Takeuchi, UA, Ryunosuke Kamiki & Itsuji Itao. Directed by Hitosi Matumoto. Originally released in Japan in 2007 by Yoshimoto Kogyo Co., LTD. Released in US in 2009 by Magnolia Pictures. In Japanese with English & Spanish subtitles. 108 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and crude humor. Even with a couple of really cruse moments and a brief disturbing image or two, I’d still call it a mild PG-13, but a little too strong for a PG. Still OK for 13+.

Rating (1-10): 7 (Good).

Recommendation: Rent. Not good enough for a right-away buy.

DVD extras: 52 minutes of deleted scenes, 68-minute “Making Of Big Man Japan” feature with commentary.

Available in the US on DVD.

Update: Having watched the deleted scenes some thoughts on them…
There are 16 or 17 in all. 13-14 of them are actually extended versions of scenes from the film that were edited to how they appear. Each of these scenes originally an 2-4 minutes on average but one ran for over 10 minutes! Too bad they were cut out because they reveal more interesting details about the main character. Towards the end there are a couple of quick scenes that were completely edited out as well as an extended/re-done final battle scene sequence. Overall they’re worth watching.

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