A while back I wrote a post detailing the Top 10 Strange Japanese Films You Need to Watch and one movie that came up in the comments a lot was Big Man Japan. Unfortunately at the time of writing that post I had not seen the film even though I was very interested in it as I believe Hitoshi Matsumoto (director, writer, and star of the movie) to be one of the funniest men in Japan. Luckily for me, Netflix has picked up Big Man Japan so I was able to watch it over the weekend. Now the only question that remains is: would this film have made it on my top 10 list if I had watched it before?
So What’s This Film All About?
Being unleashed upon the general public in 2007, Big Man Japan tells the tale of an eccentric middle aged man living alone in a decrepit home in Tokyo. He periodically transforms into a giant, washed up superhero and defends Japan by battling giant monsters that threaten the safety of its general public.
However, and unfortunately for Big Man Japan, the general public is not too pleased with his work. Many people complain and protest that he causes too much collateral damage, wastes electricity (he needs it to grow into giant form), and is just a nuisance to Japan in general.
Even though he has his own late-night spot on TV, it’s only 15 minutes long and only receives 1% or 2% viewer ratings. (You’ll remember from my last post that about anything over 15% is good, and anything less than 10% usually has something wrong with it, but anything less than 5% must be absolutely dreadful.)
What I didn’t understand about this part is how people could be so angry and frustrated with Big Man Japan. It sounds like the general populace would be happier if Big Man Japan just stopped saving them from certain doom and destruction at the hands of various giant monsters. They have no appreciation at all for his heroic deeds.
It is mentioned that there used to be other superheros like Big Man Japan back in the heyday of his grandfather (the fourth Big Man Japan) and that they enjoyed fame and fortune among undying respect, but I don’t really understand why the safety of Japan is any less popular now than it was back then. This is one thing that the movie hinged on that I didn’t really follow along with.
And Who Is This Matsumoto You Speak Of?
Like I mentioned before, Hitoshi Mastumoto is a funny man. Unfortunately, this movie doesn’t really showcase the traditional humor I’m used to. Undeniably it is a well made and decent film, but it was just not the humor I was hoping for. Matsumoto is one half of the famous comedy duo Downtown and is one of the hosts of the absolutely delightful variety show Gaki no Tsukai. Perhaps becoming so used to his persona on these shows affected my preconceived notions and expectations about this film.
If you haven’t heard of Gaki no Tsukai or seen any of their famous batsu (punishment) games, you should check them out on YouTube. They are hilarious and awesome and a good number of them come complete with subtitles for your viewing pleasure.
And the Verdict?
As for my thoughts on the film, I have to say I was a bit disappointed. That’s not to say I did not enjoy Big Man Japan, it’s just that I was hoping for a bit more. I’d been wanting to see the movie ever since I first heard about it, so I guess I’d been playing the film up in my head for about three years and when I finally got around to seeing it, it just wasn’t what I’d been imagining. I thought it was a bit slow at times, and the giant monsters and the giant monster fighting are pretty much the only super wonky things going on in the film.
Because of this, Big Man Japan would not have made it onto my list for the Top 10 Strange Japanese Films You Need to Watch. It’s just not weird enough and it’s just not entertaining enough. While still a decent film, it just failed to impress me. I still have to watch Matumoto’s Symbol (trailer below) so maybe you’ll see a post about that film sometime in the future as well. It certainly looks like it has promise.
So, have any of you seen Big Man Japan and/or Symbol? Did they live up to your expectations? Which one did you like better? Tell me in the comments below and let me know if you think I should watch Symbol!
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