Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Big Man Japan...?


For the last several months, whenever I'd bring up Ultraman or Godzilla in mixed company, and particularly amongst the trendy hipster weirdos of my fellow Austinites, they'd ask me "Have you seen Big Man Japan?"

"No," I replied.

"You have to. It's crazy and hilarious and (insert more shallow praise here)!"

So I finally rented it last night.

I'll keep it short.

BIG MAN JAPAN is probably the most boring "crazy film" I've ever seen. There's no question that the film is smart, and it's making plenty of observations on modern Japanese society (particularly the slow decay of its culture), and there are a handful of moments where we found ourselves laughing, but generally it was remarkable that a film could be so filled with...well, NOTHINGNESS to the point that it's over an hour and a half.

And it's not that I didn't "get" the film. As a fan of the kaiju genre, not to mention Japanese film in general, I actually understood the film completely. Nothing seemed truly confusing to me, even the "blowdart ending" as one friend dubbed it, so I was never lost or weirded out (not TOO much, anyway). But I think that the humor of watching this aging monster-fighter who's not appreciated for his work sit for minutes upon minutes talking about the minutia of whether or not he should go on vacation is lost on me because, simply, I'm not Japanese.

Japanese humor is admittedly hard to get for a lot of Americans. Their slapstick comedy and situational humor is funny for the most part, but their puns and social commentary is pretty much lost to us. So maybe the humor of BIG MAN JAPAN is truly cultural, as much as I understood it all.

Another thing is that there's no "redemption" in the film. It's just wave after wave of depression and emotional punches to the gut, and then an ending that supposedly solves the conflict of the film...but offers nothing for the hero and gives him nothing to develop from or grow. It's all just more awkward situations.

Oh yes, and you won't get the ending unless you know who and what ULTRAMAN is. Y'know, ULTRAMAN? More culturally relevant to Japan than almost every anime ever produced?

Anywho, I honestly can't recommend the film, simply because it's just so damn boring. As a social commentary, it's interesting and it's quirky, so I can only recommend it for that.

but in the meantime, here's a better kaiju parody: GEHARA

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Chinese Ultraman - Metal Kaiser?!

A couple of years ago, Tsuburaya Productions started work in that most elusive of foreign markets, the mighty and intimidating China, to create, you guessed it, a giant superhero series.

Now we know what Tsuburaya was doing while the budget series of ULTRASEVEN X and ULTRA GALAXY were running!

METAL KAISER is a really colorful, nifty looking series that features lots of nuances of the Ultraman franchise while mixing in distinctly Chinese visual cues and story elements.
Here's the story, according to

In the year 2052, a legendary sorcerer gives a mystical bracelet to a member of SAM (Science Analyze Mission) to allow him to transform into a giant super-warrior, armed with a laser sword and mad kung-fu skillz.
Okay, so it honestly sounds really, really unoriginal, but the visual style is very nifty, and apparently it was going to be divided into 4 seasons, each with a new giant hero.

Check out the awesome trailer here!

Yet another here!

Looks cool, right? Sure, it's really similar to Ultraman...but hey, Tsuburaya made it! So it's like GRIDMAN, a.k.a. SUPERHUMAN SAMURAI SYBER SQUAD...only...Chinese! It was an honest-to-goodness attempt to bring the coolness of Ultraman to China while bringing the massive nation's cultural pride to fore.

Unfortunately, it was not to be.
According to some internet snooping, the Guan Zhou Broadcasting Company banned the show before it could even air, wasting thousands of dollars and all of Tsuburaya's hard work, and denying Chinese children a chance at seeing a culturally relevant take on Japan's most popular superhero.
Of course, this is another chapter in the saga of Chinese censorship. It's a bad, BAD deal. The Guan Zhou, or whatever they're called, have not released a statement as to WHY the show was banned, but it likely had something to do with the strict regulations of violence on Chinese televisions (which fluctuates frequently) as well as probably negative connotations against a Japanese studio producing a Chinese program, something that entails a lot of hot-button issues for the Chinese.

Still, there's a glimmer of hope; Ryuji Honda, son of the legendary Ishiro Honda, has been strongly pushing the series, and hopefully it'll receive a release in Japan once the legal crap with China is all wrapped up.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Punish the Innocent

I don't usually post stories like this but I felt it necessary to at least spread the word about a man who was imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit (i.e. "Here we go again!)

Eric in the link above was convicted of rape, despite there being no evidence whatsoever that he committed the act, the only evidence being a massive dumptruck's worth on some white guy who admits to being a "jealous boyfriend," so what's the logical thing to do? Throw the innocent guy in jail. THAT makes sense.

Spread the word, get this guy some help.

- From the Army of Common Sense (informed by Phillip DeFranco)