Thursday, August 16, 2007

Zebraman (JAPANESE)

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Failure Finally Finds His Calling as Superhero in Sci-Fi Flick

Back in the Fifties, Japan was the source of a seemingly endless supply of badly-dubbed B-movies, mostly sci-fi adventures about mutant creatures doing a number on the city of Tokyo. Cineastes nostalgic for that bygone genre, might like to check out Zebraman, a picture about an underdog-turned-superhero who saves the day when his homeland is attacked by creatures from outer space. Although the movie is subtitled and is in color, it still has the feeling of a film from a bygone, black and white era.
Based on a manga series by Reji Yamada and Kudo Kankuro, Zebraman was directed by Takashi Miike. The point of departure is Yokohama in 2010 which is where we meet Shinichi Ichikawa (Sho Aikawa), a nerdy elementary school teacher and family man. His pupils make fun of him, his wife is cheating on him, his daughter sleeps around, and his son is a wimp.
A failure at his every endeavor, it’s no surprise that the miserable loser maintains his sanity by retreating into a parallel universe watching tapes over and over of an action TV series called Zebraman, despite the fact that the show was cancelled in 1978 after only seven episodes. Nights, he takes his fantasy a step further, by donning a costume of his favorite television character and venturing out to the streets to fight crime.
After a UFO crashes in the city, a bizarre sequence of events ensues: birds begin to die mysteriously, bearded seals swim upriver and a mammoth mutated crayfish is found. When the cause of these mysterious occurrences turns out to be an invasion of aliens bent on world domination, Shinichi gets his chance to save the planet.
For while the Japanese military finds its self flummoxed by their evil adversaries, increasingly intrepid Shinichi has an idea how to deal with them as his alter ego, since the terrifying scenario is unfolding exactly the same as in the plot of one of the Zebraman episodes. Though featuring cheapo special effects, phony-looking fight scenes and cornball dialogue, this throwback is readily recommended for anyone who might enjoy a campy cross of Mothra and The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

Very good (3 stars)
In Japanese with subtitles.
Running time: 115 minutesStudio: Media Blasters Releasing

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