May 15, 2009
Hitoshi Matsumoto and Mitsuyoshi Takasu
Hitoshi Matsumoto as Masaru Daisatô/Dai-Nihonjin
Riki Takeuchi as Haneru-no-jû
Ua as Manager Kobori
Ryûnosuke Kamiki as Warabe-no-jû
Haruka Unabara as Shimeru-no-jû
Tomoji Hasegawa as Interviewer/Director
Masaru Daisatô (Hitoshi Matsumoto) is a mild mannered man living a modest life in modern-day Tokyo. He talks about his bus ride, runs errands and eats rice and dehydrated seaweed, all while babbling to an unseen interviewer and mugging for the camera. Masaru, it seems, is important enough to be followed all day by a video crew filming a documentary on his life. “Do people always stare at you like that?” asks the interviewer, “Yeah, they do” replies the subject, “You get used to it”.
Who is this unremarkable yet likeable gentleman getting all this attention? Big Man Japan, of course!
As everyone knows, monsters have been attacking Tokyo for years. What many don’t know, outside of Tokyo anyway, is how these monsters are handled. There is a certain family in Tokyo that has the rare talent to grow to enormous size when subjected to extremely high voltage electric current. Masaru is the sixth generation Big Man Japan, but times have changed.
In the golden age there were many deadly monsters and the citizens of Tokyo relied on the big guy to keep them safe and prevent destruction of their fair city. No so today. Not only has the volume of monsters decreased substantially, but an entire generation has never lived in a Tokyo without Big Man Japan, so the monsters are not a threat. The Big Guy is taken for granted, his fighting techniques are judged and analyzed, and he is not greeted by adoring fans and ticker tape parades. Instead, he lives in a small apartment on $5,000 per month while his “agent” drives expensive cars funded by the advertizing revenue the hero generates.
When a new monster shows up with aggressive tendencies and a mean left kick, the big guy seems to have met his match. Will our hero grow a pair and stand up to the red monster? Will the residents of Tokyo drop their blasé attitude and rally around the big guy in a rushing display of love and support? Will a giant family of heroes suddenly show up dressed like Power Rangers?
Big Man Japan is a very interesting treatment of how things may be if monsters were actually commonplace in our world with giant saviors swooping in to save the huddled masses. The time would eventually come when the appearance of monsters is not a big deal. If they were consistently defeated before any major damage was done, then who really cares?
The idea that a giant battler for good could be a very meek working class man when not in monster fight mode is a great twist. The performance of Hitoshi Matsumoto as Big Man (also Director and co-writer) is flawless and truly conveys the sense of duty coupled with the confusion of how his life could be so dreary considering the enormous possibilities.
The monsters and fight scenes were primarily accomplished via computer generated imagery (CGI) and were generally pretty good. The monsters themselves were pretty funny and included a “steel bands for arms” guy, complete with comb-over and a hopping monster with a goofy human head perched atop a huge skinless frog leg.
The primary complaint about this film comes up in the final sequences. We’ve all seen movies where “the wheels falls off” in the end, meaning that ridiculous things transpire on the screen in the interest of “wrapping up loose ends”. Well, in Big Man Japan the wheels absolutely jettison off as conflicts are resolved, mysteries are introduced and new storylines form. It’s really bad. Still, there are enough shades of decades-old Asian monster flicks present to make it a little bit fun, too.
Big Man Japan is interesting, fun, exciting, ridiculous and awful, all at the same time. Although the film is shot completely in Japanese, the subtitles only add to the experience, making this film a “kind of should see” for any monster movie fan.