Big Man Japan (2007)
Dir: Hitoshi Matsumoto
Even straight-down-the-line daikaiju eiga, or Japanese giant monster films, are imaginatively left-field – but they don’t get much weirder than this.
In Big Man Japan an unseen interviewer follows the mundane day-to-day life of Masaru Daisatou (played with deadpan seriousness by Hitoshi Matsumoto). Masuru wanders the streets, philosophises drily on life, society and his failed relationships — and waits for something to happen. The thing is, Masuro is actually Dai-Nipponjin – Big Man Japan – the last in a line of giant superheroes. Whenever the weirdly monstrous Baddies turn up, Masuru is taken to a government installation and there transforms, thanks to electrical current injected through his nipples, into a Godzilla-sized humanoid with electro-shocked hair, huge purple underpants and a big stick.
Once, heroes mattered. These days, however, Masuru’s agent struggles to get decent coverage of his fights, as the populace has long ago lost interest.
Big Man Japan has a sense of humour both outrageous and very dry, and sports excellent giant-monster SFX — though the whole thing becomes (deliberately) a bad episode of an archetypal 1970s tokusatsu TV show as Masuru’s “real” world is overtaken by cheap sets, poor SFX and a family of garishly costumed and sadistic mega-heroes.
A wonderful cocktail of poignancy and absurdist humour, mixed together with huge dollops of that insane Japanese imagination you either love or just don’t get.
Below is the US trailer:
I agree with your review. I quite enjoyed it even though I felt a little bit like a gaijin.
I know what you mean, Robin. Occasionally there seem to be undercurrents and hidden cultural attitudes governing the imagery and events in some Japanese films, particularly ones like this. But that just makes them more interesting. Sometimes the utter familiarity of Hollywood palls.
This is one of my all time favorite movies. It reminds me of “this is spinal tap”. But unless you lived or know Japan culture 1/2 the movie will fly over your head. Still, it is in my top 10 of all times..
That’s interesting, Chris. Though I watch a lot of Japanese cinema and (available) TV, and most of my cultural knowledge is based on that, I’ve never lived in Japan. So what sort of things am I likely to be missing in the film? I’m genuinely curious as I always suspect there is implied knowledge flying over my head…
I know I’m months late, but this just finished a run here in NYC (I managed to catch the very last showing). Although I’m not sure I would have included reference the “ultra” style conclusion… It’s really a totally complex film that I think will go over more heads than not – the zany ending will definitely leave a lot of westerners unsatisfied. Normally that kind of thing would turn me off here too, but on further reflection it’s the only thing to do.