Back in the Seventies, Toho Studios tried their hand at the Blockbuster disaster film (which was one of the most extremely popular genres in the US at the time), complete with what can only be described as a Godzilla-sized disaster. While the Americanized version (complete with a minor American star or two) is known here as “Tidal Wave,” it — and its Heisei era remake — are also known as “Japan Sinks.”
Now I’m reasonably certain that Minoru Kawasaki had those films in mind when he made this one, although it is actually based on Yasutaka Tsutsui’s satiric novelette parodying Nihon Chinbotsu, the original source novel by Sakyo Komatsu, which spawned the first two films, .
Kawasaki is a strange and eccentric director whose output has ranged from movies about serial killer Salary Man Koala Bears and giant squid wrestlers to a seemingly endless series of Tokusatsu parodies (so many that his career now seems stuck in a giant, brightly-colored, neoprene-clad rut).
I suppose he isn’t too far from that here, if you remember that Toho made Japan Sinks. This time around, however, he chose to use the film’s pulpy origins as a platform for some savage political and social commentary.
Yes, we do get to see some impressive CGI destruction, but most of the film is a series of conversations (something often true of Kawasaki’s films — although, to be fair, that also describes far too much of Tidal Wave!), with a surprisingly large part of the film set in a bar frequented by all the former world leaders and a swarm of bored journalists. The film is far more interested in plight of all the displaced people from the rest of the world who are up against a society heavily biased against foreigners — except those few who speak perfect Japanese. Even world famous Superstar actors find themselves discarded as soon as the novelty wears off.
But Kawasaki is having a lot of fun so we get to see a trailer for his Ultraman parody, Den Ace, whom he has been playing in lots of short films since the Eighties. Den doesn’t get his superpowers from the usual Beta Capsule or special goggles but from drinking beer, and pleases the native audience by squashing foreigners while battling giant monsters.
Perhaps the most surreal part of the entire film is the presence of an unbilled “Bruce Willis” and “Sylvester Stallone,” both played by rather small and short Japanese actors.
And yet they are both clearly recognizable.
It’s a strange mix all in all, and probably won’t please you if you are expecting lots of world wide destruction. There’s a weird and warped sense of humor at work here and it can be a lot of fun if you accept it for what it is.
Even if it isn’t one of Minoru Kawasaki’s best films.
And remember, you never can tell what might happen. Disasters can happen at any time. You might just want to learn how to speak Japanese.
Just in case.