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
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