Wikizilla described this one as the first black and white Kaiju film since the original Gamera in 1965.
You might call it that.
If you absolutely had to.
Now the reality is that this is instead a strange found footage film made during the height of the pandemic which just happens to revolve around “Capsule Monsters.”
This might be an unfamiliar notion to those of you unfamiliar with the Ultraman franchise, but Dan Moroboshi, the hero of Ultraseven, carried around with him a box containing a series of monsters in tiny capsule form which he could pull out and use at times when it was inconvenient for him to transform into Ultraseven. They would then turn into full sized beasts, and (hopefully) fight the enemy.
The capsule monsters have made occasional appearances in the various Ultra series since then and they surface here once again, in a world where the various monsters and aliens of Ultraman and Godzilla were in fact real.
To while away his time while he is under lockdown because of the Corona virus panic, an actor named Takumi Saitoh (played by Takumi Saitoh, who just appeared as Ultraman’s human host in Shin Ultraman) decides to order a capsule monster from an online seller.
Even though it only had a one-star review.
He hopes it will eliminate the virus, but he’s put out that it doesn’t grow as quickly as the capsule monster his favorite YouTuber, Kasu Moe, a girl who blogs from her bathtub while wearing a bathrobe, or the alien his friend Non bought.
Which cannot be seen or heard on electronic media. So it spends its time mocking him while he’s talking to her.
Instead of turning into a little dragon-like monster as Moe’s does, he’s very worried because his capsule monster first divides into three, then changes into the forms of the heads of the three monsters used in Ultraseven.
And, when he’s finally got used to that idea, two of them vanish overnight. And the remaining one keeps changing without ever getting much larger.
It worries him so much that he even discusses it with the Director of his latest project, Shinji Higuchi, who just happens to be the real-life director of Shin Ultraman.
Which Takumi starred in.
Now this whole project got its start with a corona virus project Shinji Higuchi launched on YouTube, Project Capsule Kaiju, which invited people to take part in an only project by bringing their favorite Kaiju to fight Covid.
Shunji Iwai, a director noted for his art house films, then decided to get involved, and he made a series of twelve short online episodes with Takumi Saitoh talking about the progress of his capsule Kaiju.
He collected these into this film, adding a lot of zoom calls between Takumi and his friends, shots of the nearly-deserted streets of Tokyo, and some very strange footage of women in flowing robes and masks which match the latest form of Takumi’s kaiju.
Don’t ask me what that’s all about.
Other than filling time, that is.
But at least you didn’t have anyone coming into contact with each other. That’s what matters.
My first impression of the film was that it was long. Very long.
Even though it is only an hour and half long.
It doesn’t help that Takumi’s Kaiju just look like blobs of plasticine, and are generally a head with little more to them. The only time it threatens to get any more interesting, Takumi decides it is too scary and tries to kill it.
You can find quite a bit of droll, witty humor along the way, but the pace is glacial, and too little happens. Nor does it help that it all ends on a not very impressive Shaggy Dog ending, when we see the Kaiju’s final form.
It took all this time to get…there?
The cast are all excellent and convincing, but the story lets them down: the subplot about Takumi’s bartender friend never goes anywhere, Shin Higuchi gets to be wise and provide plenty of Kaiju lore but little else, and only the story about Non really pays off.
And, let’s face it, it would have been far more interesting if those capsule kaiju had at least looked more interesting — or, even better, had been shown doing something.
Oh, well. There were possibilities here, and a few very clever ideas. A little more visual interest, a more dramatic set of Kaiju (with, perhaps only the most minimal of puppetry to give them a little more life…
Well, it might have helped.
And yes, that final image of the Kaiju flying over the city is beautiful and fitting.
I just wish we’d seen more of it…