Sunday, September 18, 2011

In Which Adam Moviewatches: #2 Zebraman

So, I have been on haitus for a bit, so how about we have ourselves a movie review? Ladies and Gents, I present: Zebraman.

Now, those who know me well are generally aware of my fondness for the tokusatsu genre. I will save a more elaborate description of what that is for a later post, but roughly speaking "tokusatsu" translates to "special effects" and tends to feature costumed heroes fighting monsters in suits. It can be silly, yes, but there are exemplary gems in this genre, and frankly there is just something cathartic about watching anthropomorphic bug men kick monsters in the face until they explode.


Now, Zebraman, is a 2004 movie directed by Takashi Miike, (otherwise known for such gorefests such as Audition, and Ichi the Killer) which, uncharacteristically for him, is a complete and utter love letter to the genre that is tokusatsu. It is fun, it is action packed, it is heartwrenching. So let's begin.

Zebraman tells the story of middle aged Shinichi Ichikawa, an elementary school teacher and something of a shlub. Shinichi is stuck in a loveless marriage, his daughter solicits herself to older men, and his son and students do not respect him.
As he wiles away the days of his miserable life, Shinichi finds that there is really only one thing that brings him happiness, that thing being...

You see, Zebraman was an old tokusatsu series from Shinichi's childhood. It was low budget and cheesy, and has since faded into obscurity after being canceled after only 7 episodes due to a lack of viewership. Still, its heroic characters and vivid action are something that remind him of better days. He even sows together his own Zebraman costume and reinacts his favorite scenes from the series when he is alone.

Shinichi soon meets Shinpei Asano, a young wheelchair bound boy who transfers into his class.

Asano, as it turns out, is also a fan of Zebraman, and the two bond over their love for the series.
Meanwhile, it seems that something ominous is going on in the school, and the surrounding town.
Throughout the city, people are being attacked by mysterious assilants, people with glowing eyes who seem to attack almost mindlessly. Meanwhile,  as Shinichi wears the Zebraman costume more, he seems to develop the superpowers of the TV character. And events in reality begin to play out just as they did in the television series...

From this point on, the story switches gears, from a sweet, slice-of-life-ish sort of story, to full on action. All of this leads up to a climax, which I just cannot bring myself to spoil for you, but I can say without irony, that it may just be the most awesome thing I have ever seen in a film. Watch the movie and you will know just what I am referring to.

Black and White ecstacy! ZEBRAMAN!
Don't stand behind me...
Overall, this movie is just a treat. It is perfectly self aware in how goofy and campy the tokusatsu genre can be, yet treats it with a great deal of reverence. The characters are relatable and interact well together, and while a little slow at first, the action picks up wonderfully in the second act. And the ending, oh my, I cannot even describe the ending and do it justice. Just go, and see it for yourself.

Very fortunately for you all, Zebraman was licensed in the US, and it is easy enough to find a subtitled dvd on amazon.

Zebraman was followed by a sequel, Zebraman 2: Vengeful Zebra city, which adds in dystopian cyberpunk elements, and overall made very little sense.  It was interesting, but I wouldn't give it as big a recommendation as I would for this move.

Zebraman (and Kamen Rider) are both property of Toei Entertainment.


In other news, I have recently aquired a pair of Safari Carnegie collection dinosaur figurines. I will share them here, since I am a great big nerd:
A Therizinosaurus (below) and a Microraptor (up top.) The Microraptor's name is Emperor Norton, and the Therizinosaurus is Rasputin. Yeah, idunno.

Anywho, cheers, and goodnight to you all!

1 comment:

  1. I think I must watch this movie now, I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS AT THE END!!!! Darn you Adam, darn you...^.^

    Emperor Norton is such a bad ass! Rasputin is twice his size, but he still surfs on his back and doesn't give a damn.


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