Big Man Japan Review

Superheroes can have it hard too. Hitoshi Matsumoto’s mockumentary is part kaiju part credit crunch…

Big Man Japan is a mock documentary concerning itself with a modern superhero’s somewhat clay feet. Despite taking on various monsters in undersized buildings and man in rubber suit mode, our defender of Japan is actually divorced, a shame to his daughter, and with a career on the skids. It’s kind of Kaiju meets the credit crunch with the implicit silliness of those monster movies being satirised alongside the fallibility of our hero’s alter ego.

The setup is that a documentary crew is following Masaru around in his daily life in between stints as the superhero Big Man Japan. So we get to see his social failures contrasted with somewhat ropey endeavours as a defeater of increasingly silly and nonsensical threats to the Japanese way of life. We see his happily divorced wife, his discouraged agent, and his daughter who is so ashamed of her father that her face is pixelated to avoid the inevitable bullying at school.

Written, directed and acted in by Hitoshi Matsumoto, he probably did the catering too, this is very much a one man show. The humour is often very broad and some may question whether satirising the Kaiju genre is so hard a job given how intrinsically limited it is, yet these are the moments that work best in the movie. The preparations for transforming into his giant self, the rank weirdness of his enemies(Mrs Stinky, a head on a foot, and a giant baby) and the affectionate joshing of a very Japanese genre are key elements in succeeding with the laughs. As good as that sounds, I am less sure that it holds together so well as a whole project and the comic zigzagging between dry and broad can become a battle between dull and funny.

Kaiju kicks aside, I found Big Man Japan to be pretty patchy.

The Disc – Revolver present a barebones package on a single layer region 2 locked disc. The film has been properly converted to PAL and the transfer here matches the documentary tone with a lack of bright light or extreme colours. Contrast is not perfect and black levels can be too uniform affecting shadow detail and variation in light levels. The sound is offered with a stereo option which seemed good enough to my ears when compared with a 5.1 mix which only comes to life in exterior sequences or the kaiju pastiches. The English subs are very good and offered in an informal font.

If you like the film, then you will be more pre-disposed to this disc than I was and it’s available for about eight quid at most of our fine retail affiliates…

John White

Updated: Sep 20, 2009

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