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An eccentric man aged about 40 lives alone in a decrepit house in Tokyo. He periodically transforms into a giant, about 30 meters tall, and defends Japan by battling similarly sized monsters that turn up and destroy buildings. The giant and the monsters are computer-generated. Written by
Hitoshi Matsumoto's wonderfully deadpan "Big Man Japan" ("Dai-Nihonjin) is a brilliantly hilarious send up of Japan's giant monster movies of yesteryear. A postmodernist at heart, Matsumoto flips the genre conventions, grounding the beautifully weird world of "Big Man Japan" in reality through a dry mocumentary style that mixes interviews, archival footage and computer animated fight scenes with a razor's wit.
Masaru Daisato is the latest in a long legacy of men who grow to mammoth proportions when juiced with electricity. Masaru spends most of his time as a normal-sized human being, surviving on a meager government stipend in a grimy suburb of Tokyo. But when strange monsters attack (and believe me they are strange), Masaru is hooked up to a power plant and juiced with enough electricity to grow into a purple underweared giant.
Not that any of this endears Masaru to the citizens of Japan. The road to the power plant is plastered with signs critical of Masaru's actions and abilities. His house is covered in threatening graffiti and vandalized on a daily basis. Masaru is an outsider in a country of insiders, a colorful anachronism in increasingly bland times.
Perspective is a central theme in "Big Man Japan"'s giant monster weirdness. Does having the ability to turn into a giant and save the country from destructive building-stomping monsters make you a hero or a freak? It all depends on who you ask.
There's no doubt that Masaru is a loser. When not attacking giant monsters with a large pipe, Masaru sits in his graffiti-covered home eating dehydrated seaweed ("It only grows big when you need it.") while neighbors throw bricks through his windows. Masaru's wife and daughter have left him, photos are all that remains of his profession's illustrious past and his show routinely earns less ratings than the weather report. No one ever said it was easy being big.
And perhaps this is the biggest joke in Matsumoto's wonderfully awkward film. Godzilla eventually became a friend of the children, saving Japan from countless invading monsters, but he was always a foreigner. Godzilla called Monster Island home, not the gray slums of Tokyo. Ultraman was from outer space not Osaka. This is an important difference. Forced to live among the very people he fights to protect, Masaru became the biggest oddity in a hegemonic society based on Confucian values.
The world of "Big Man Japan" is one of dashed hopes and squandered potential, a world where Masaru's senile grandfather, made so by repeated exposure to high levels of electricity, zaps himself giant and wanders through the city. And the monsters, as outrageously weird as they may be, never actually seem threatening in any way.
Instead, the creatures, with their comb-overs, phallic eyes and sexual perversions seem as oblivious as children that their actions do any harm. Masaru dispatches the beasts by clubbing them once in the head, not through a long drawn out fight, and their souls ascend to heaven in a campy 8-bit video game fashion.
And by the end, when Matsumoto drops the mocumentary cameras and the computer animation for a ridiculous symbolism-heavy homage to cheesy rubber suits and miniature sets fare like "Ultraman" it hardly makes sense but is hilarious nonetheless. I would've preferred "Big Man Japan" didn't end with an allegory about Japan-China relations and the reliance on the American military for protection filtered through campy 1970s kaiju sensibilities but what the hell, it was one crazy ride.
Taken from http://www.midnighttrash.net/?p=677 MidnightTrash.net: Your guide to everything under the radar.
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