Take a Drink: for talks of expansion, umbrellas, and seaweed
Take a Drink: for kitties
Take a Drink: for bricks
Take a Drink: for each “job”
Take a Drink: for failure
Do a Shot: for monster heaven
By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
When I first heard of Big Man Japan, a Japanese film about a man who balloons into a giant sumo wrestler-type to fight horrifically animated monsters, I figured this was a cinch to scratch my so bad it’s good itch. When I watched, though, I found out that it’s actually just… good.
I know, I’m surprised, too!
While indeed about an incredibly expanding monster fighter, Big Man Japan is a mockumentary about a jaded third generation member of a kaiju fighting dynasty struggling with faded popularity and raising his daughter with his ex-wife.
This is entirely Hitoshi Matsumoto’s baby, as he wrote, directed, and starred in this flick, and it very much has that personal touch. He’s more interested in the psychology than the mechanics of this scenario, in particular what its pressures and practical difficulties would be. He touches on everything from the difficulties maintaining relationships to the financial side of things (his agent actually has him sell billboard space on his body during his fights). It’s clever stuff, sneaking in some social and economic commentary and character details between the ridiculous monster fights.
Speaking of those, they demonstrate a different, unspeakably bizarre register of Matsumoto’s humor. It’s not for everybody, and easily crosses the line into a bit too weird, but when it works it’s hilarious, like his “fight” with two mating monsters, or the bugfuck ending scene that segues into a cheap Ultraman/Power Rangers knockoff inexplicably. The random moments where the score drags and all you can hear are two costumed people beating the fuck out of each other and smashing cardboard buildings are probably the hardest I’ve laughed at a film this year.
The CGI has not aged well at all. The monster fights, while imaginative, are supremely cartoony, and the physics are significantly worse than even bottom shelf videogames of the era.
The monsters are pure uncanny valley nightmare fuel. Why the human faces… whyyy???? The fights are perversely enjoyable, but I mean perversely. You kinda want a shower afterwards, and you can’t explain why.
Big Man Japan is surprisingly a very grounded, occasionally demented magically expanding superhero mockumentary. Think Hancock meets Chronicle meets a kaiju flick filmed through a unique Japanese comic sensibility. It’s kinda awesome.