Tokyo Zombie Review

The Film

The publicity materials for Tokyo Zombie compare the film with Shaun of the Dead. I guess they do this as it is a horror comedy based around an interesting partnership, for Simon Pegg read Tadanobu Asano, and for Nick Frost read Sho Aikawa. The problems with that comparison are legend, but I think that whenever the rather marvellous Pegg looks into the shaving mirror he doesn't see the Japanese Johnny Depp, or even Genghis Khan for that matter. And when Frost emerges from his duvet, he can't imagine that he is the kind of actor who can portray a hard as nails Yakuza.

Tokyo Zombie is a lot more imaginative and surreal than your average Zomromcom. It starts with the dopey twosome practising jujitsu rather than doing their jobs at a fire extinguisher factory, and accidentally killing their boss. No bother, they just bury him on the burgeoning slag heap in downtown Tokyo called Black Fuji. Problem is, chemical waste has seeped into the many dead bodies that unfortunate killers have left there and happenstance has chosen to re-animate all of them. The wrestling buffoons are soon running for their lives, hoping to make it to Russia where they can become wrestling champs.

Along the way, paedophile teachers will get their graphic comeuppance, a nagging mother in law will have her gobby head used as a football, and Asano will take on the responsibility for fulfilling his friend's legacy and keeping the population going. The film splits into two halves, with an animated bridge explaining the interim between the original situation and the future one. As the publicity makes a similar comparison, I feel it's appropriate to compare the first half to 28 days Later and the second owes a great deal to Romero's Land of the Dead.

The action is pre-occupied with avoiding repetition or cliché despite the obvious inspirations, and much of the film is outlandish in this respect. There's a nice homoerotic edge to the blokey humour and Aikawa is a surprisingly good bald buffoon. Seeing the tough guy of Miike's Dead or Alive trilogy or Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Serpent's Path in such a broadly comic and uncool performance is a rather winning experience. His character's idiocy and simple nature is only equalled by the gorgeous pouting lead, and the love interest is ultra spunky whipping Asano's butt whenever he gets out of hand.

Very much Dumb and Dumber with Zombies, and populist to its core, you know that where Tokyo Zombie will end up is safe and escapist rather than truly edgy. Sometimes it feels a bit like it's too inconsistent for its own good and I did feel it could lose 15 minutes to improve the tempo. Overall though, it will make you laugh and provide cultish fun to keep you going in this pre-Christmas drought of good offbeat releases.

Transfer and Sound

The film is not exactly a glossy production and the shooting seems to have taken place on video. The transfer has little to achieve therefore other than to manage colour and contrast well, and to be converted properly from the NTSC source. Unfortunately, the image fails on most of these three counts, with motion shake and combing and dull contrast giving away that this hasn't been converted properly to PAL. See below for an example:

It is sharp and given the intended lo-fi look, I suppose it's forgiveable for the picture to be less than perfect. The sound comes in a single stereo track which keeps the dialogue mixed above the sound effects and score, and to my ear it lacked a little definition and depth.

Discs and Special Features

The extras are also taken from NTSC sources and combing is present throughout. The making of documentary mixes interviews with the producer, the comic creator and Sato in with footage of pre-production and shooting. It is a well produced piece in which care has been taken, especially with the small animations that appear throughout.

The Q+A reel is a collection of the leads talking to crowds about the film. Asano and Aikawa share mutual compliments, and Aikawa talks about his concerns for his hair whilst sporting an elaborate do that looks strangely like a piece to me. Two subbed trailers and three TV spots complete the extra features.


Wacky zombie comedy gets an imperfect DVD release. An R1 release is pending from the same company, so I would hold out for that if you can do multi-region.

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out of 10

Last updated: 18/04/2018 21:51:10

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