Zero to Superhero: “Zebraman”

Last post I mentioned that there are some superheros in Japan that fight for the inherent good that can be found in all of us.  Well, here is a film that speaks to both the courage and the absurdity of superheros.

Miike Takashi is known to fans and critics for his extreme filmmaking style, often defying genre conventions, incorporating into his films black humor, shattered cultural taboos, over-the-top, intense bloody violence, and grotesque and shocking sexual acts that can offend even the most seasoned movie-goers.  His films are eccentric and thought-provoking, feature predominantly marginal characters, and comment on Japan’s contemporary decay.  Social alienation, deteriorated family relations and civil chaos are pervasive themes within his films.  Miike has experimented with a wide array of films, a testament to his directorial skill, and making his style difficult to categorize.  With his 2004 film Zebraman (Zeburaman), Miike tones down the ultra-violence, sexual perversions, and taboos in order to present a light-hearted, comedic, dramatic, fantastical narrative that satirizes Japan’s tokusatsu (special effects) sentai (squadron) genre, in which superheros and computer-generated special effects are the focal points of a live action television program or film.  Miike’s Zebraman exhibits postmodern content – integrating parody, satire and intertextuality, commenting on dysfunctional families, making light of authoritarian establishment – but yet portrays two marginal characters in a positive fashion.

This film has the ability to make me laugh, shake my head, and touch my heart.  It’s hilarious, yet ridiculous.  And its very easy to develop a soft spot for the protagonist.  He is ridiculed at home, ignored at work, and disrespected by almost everybody.  Luckily for the viewer, he overcomes his sad reality and grabs a pair!  He turns himself into a self-respecting hero in no time, much to the delight of those cheering for the underdog.

A good all around film by an eccentric, talented and accomplished director.

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