Archive for the ‘TITLE Z’ Category



JAPAN 2010  Directed by: Takashi Miike  Written by: Kankuro Kudo  Produced by: Akio Hattori, Makoto Okada, Takashi Hirano, Arimasa Okada  Cinematography by: Kazunari Tanaka  Editing by: Kenji Yamashita  Music by: Yorihiro Ike, Yoshihiro Ike  Cast: Show Aikawa, Riisa Naka, Tsuyoshi Abe, Masahiro Inoue, Naoki Tanaka, Gudalcanal Taka, Mei Nagano, Nana Mizuki, Miki Inase, Sayoko Ohashi, Yuko Shimizu, Suzanne

ZEBRAMAN was set in 2010, and its 2010 sequel is consequently set in a more distant future (2025): a long while after Zebraman defeated the Aliens the world has changed entirely. While Zebraman has lost his memory and is in a rehabilitation facility, Toyko has been renamed to Zebra City and has become virtually crime-free, thanks to a funky idea called Zebra Time: every morning and evening, for a few minutes, police is allowed to eliminate any potential threat (= criminal) they can get hold off.

One day, the police closes in on ex-teacher Ichikawa, trying to kill him, but he survives with the help of Ichiba and brought to a safe house. There, Ichikawa meets other survivors of Zebra Time who plan to rise up against the fascist new system headed by the mysterious Zebra Queen. It’s not long before we learn that Zebra Queen and her Zebra Police are trying to bring Zebra Time to the whole world using the aliens from 2010, but the more important question is how long will it take for Ichikawa to regain his memory and realize that he is in fact Zebraman?

ZEBRAMAN 2, different from the original film, was not exactly successful, and it’s not going to take you too long to see why that is. The charm is gone, the tongue-in-cheek humor, the warmth, the subtexts, all gone. From the beginning, ZEBRAMAN 2 is an incoherent spectacle, without a stringent storyline, proper character introduction, story development or clear direction. It’s a very jumpy mess, overloaded with plot fragments and intangible characters, creating artificial complexity that proves to be a trap for the film itself as it can’t find a way out for the entire running time.

If there’s one thing to be blamed for ZEBRAMAN 2’s failing it’s the decision for the “memory loss” concept: who on earth wants to see a film where the hero loses his memory and regains it only at the end? Ever since the birth of film this idea has been a bad idea, and it’s made for slow, uninteresting movies, and consequently ZEBRAMAN 2 never gets out of the starting block. For the first hour you can see how everyone is desperate to fill the hole that an AWOL Zebraman leaves, and even the ever-inventive Mr. Miike has found no remedy.

Maybe he thought he has. But I’d still consider an almost exclusive focus on a Lady Gaga-like character, music video fillers and elements stolen from A CLOCKWORK ORANGE insufficient to make up for a superhero movie that lacks a superhero most of the time. And once Zebraman is back, he bears little resemblance to the original character: Ichikawa is largely gone, leaving a one-dimensional Zebraman who is missing most of his human side.

Last but not least ZEBRAMAN 2 lacks the whole “about” factor; like “what’s the movie about” exactly? Unfortunately it seems to be about nothing. Without the “normal guy dreams to be superhero” story all that could fall into the “about” bracket is an allegory of a fascist regime suppressing its people. But the movie is never believable as a serious critic of politics or society, but is pretty much what Mr. Miike has been accused of by many for  many years: a patchwork movie that lacks originality as much as inspiration and sophistication.

While I consider myself an admirer of most of Mr. Miike’s work, I must say that ZEBRAMAN 2 is neither a good film nor entertaining. It is not more than a pale follow-up to a charming original, replacing heart & soul with gloss & glamour. You could say it’s kind of made-up.




JAPAN 2004  Directed by: Takashi Miike  Written by: Kankuro Kudo  Produced by: Akio Hattori, Makoto Okada  Cinematography by: Kazunari Tanaka  Editing by: Yasushi Shimamura  Music by: Koji Endo  Cast: Show Aikawa, Kyoka Suzuki, Naoki Yasukochi, Atsuro Watabe, Koen Kondo, Makiko Watanabe, Yui Ichikawa, Yoshimasa Mishima, Ren Osugi, Teruyoshi Uchimura, Akira Emoto, Ryo Iwamatsu, Yu Tokui, Yoji Boba Tanaka, Arata Furuta, Kumiko Aso, Yoshihiko Hakamada, Miyako Kawahara, Hideki Sone, Masayuki Fukushima, Satoru Hamaguchi, Hiroshi Watari

Long before KICK-ASS was ZEBRAMAN, the nostalgic and tongue-in-cheek super-ordinary hero movie, helmed by Cult-director Takashi Miike and starring Japan’s fabulous Show Aikawa.

All hell breaks loose when alien body snatchers invade planet Earth, disguising as (what else) humans. At the same time a crab-masked serial killer is disturbing the peaceful neighborhood of teacher Shinichi Ichikawa, who believes time has come for a modern-day super hero, plus he’s got a lot of nothing better to do since his job is a drag,  his wife is cheating on him and his teenage daughter is dating older men. As his family and professional life are on the verge of collapse, Shinichi decides to dress up as Zebraman, the main character of an unpopular 70’s TV series he adored as a child. When a transfer student is assigned to his class, he not only rediscovers his love for teaching, but also realizes that he’s not alone: student Shinpei also loves Zebraman, fuelling Shinichi’s dream to fight crimes as an up-to-date version of Zebraman. Soon, he is running into the crab-masked killer, and furthermore becomes the go-to-guy as far as alien combat is concerned.

ZEBRAMAN is set in 2010, and it’s funny to see how time has passed (or not) since its first screening. Many have noted the Zebraman character is not just a guy, but gains superpowers indeed, and that’s probably true. However, the character also hasn’t been born a hero, but instead became a crime fighter for similar reasons Kick-Ass came into existence: the dull life of an ordinary citizen with the will to break out of convention. ZEBRAMAN is less a superhero movie however, but much more another Japanese fantasy depicting an exit strategy everyone is looking for but nobody dares to pursue.

ZEBRAMAN is a humorous, touching and at times intelligent reminder that we shouldn’t bury our childhood dreams, but keep them alive and make them come true wherever and whenever possible. The probability of falling short of our own aspirations once we grow up is just too high, so seeing Zebraman being inspired by a kid who resembles himself when he was young is an effective trick to rationalize what Shinichi is doing. On a larger scale, however, ZEBRAMAN tells a tale that relates to all of us: whatever you wish to be or to do, it’s never too late to go for it. All you need is to remind yourself that dreams aren’t made for children alone, but for every individual thinking that doing something extraordinary will enrich the world and even make it a better place.

And maybe that’s when Takashi Miike once again proves to be ahead of other filmmakers: KICK-ASS tells us that everyone can be a real-life superhero, but ZEBRAMAN told us years ago that it’s not about being a real-life hero, but about living your dreams to the max.




JAPAN 2010  Directed & Written by: Keiji Inafune Video Game by: Keiji Inafune  Produced by: Keiji Inafune  Cast: Hiroki Yoshida, Hiroshi Yazaki, Hiroyuki Onoue, Kiyohiko Shibukawa

I am not sure if it’s an experiment, or another sign of the times, or just plain nonsense, but DEAD RISING: THE MOVIE is very different from your average video game adaptation made in Hollywood. In fact, it’s as close to being a video game as possible: if one day they can render humans and worlds a truly 100% accurate, video games might very well look just like DEAD RISING.

The movie is set in an alternative reality divided into two areas, one that is affected by outbreaks, and one that isn’t. Two brothers, George and Shin, are planning to escape, and what follows is what usually follows.

The team originally designing Capcom’s DEAD RISING game now also helms the movie: for better or worse, the movie appears fully integrated into the Capcom universe – more a sequel to the games, or a chapter connecting two parts of the game, DEAD RISING: THE MOVIE plays its role in the series and you can’t help but wonder which is the game and which is the movie.

Looking at DEAD RISING strictly from the point of view of movie making, it falls short of delivering anything we haven’t seen yet: DEAD RISING is a low-budget zombie flick, not only lacking budget, but most of all the finesse of other genre entries, the brains of the Romero flicks or the boobs of many of its Japanese peers. So yes, it seamlessly blends into the DEAD RISING universe, but no, it doesn’t stand out as a movie.

It’s a film obviously made for DEAD RISING fans, and as such it may be less an experiment than the future of a multi-channel strategy of digital content, or content in general. In twenty years from now (or earlier, I am afraid) the kids out there wouldn’t ask questions anymore, wouldn’t wonder why a video game doesn’t always work as a film, or why a book is hard to adapt to the screen, or why an action movie doesn’t necessarily make for a great ego-shooter, and so forth. They most probably will start asking questions only as soon as a content is not available across all media; like, why isn’t there a DEAD RISING movie, why isn’t there a DEAD RISING animation series, why isn’t there a DEAD RISING novel etc.

Movie fans don’t need DEAD RISING: THE MOVIE. DEAD RISING fans will be waiting for it. Maybe that’s the last time we see this kind of great divide.