And boy WHAT a big film. Equal parts drama, comedy, farce, parody and action, Big Man Japan is my favorite movie of the year that quite possibly no one else will see.
Big Man Japan (aka Dai Nipponjin) stars, and is written and directed by, Hitoshi Matsumoto. He plays Masaru Daisatō, who seems, at first, to be the subject of a documentary. A camera follws him around a typical day in his depressing and dejecting bachelor's life as we are slowly clued in that Daisato is not only famous, but infamous as graffiti litters his house and rocks are routinely thrown through his windows. What has Daisato done to earn the ire of the populace?
He grows to the size of a building and battles monsters.
You read that right.
Daisato is the latest in a 4 generation long dynasty of monster busting big men. Starting in world war 2, his family line has been given the trait of growing to gargantuan proportions when imbued with electricity (it also has the side effect of making his hair stand on end) which he uses to protect Japan from the odd monster invasion.
Aside from this, Daisato is an introverted, unhappy and desperate man. His manager drives a new car while he takes the train, his wife and child want nothing to do with him and he provokes a feeling of mild indifference bordering on irritation from the Japanese people who see him as little more than a symbol of a hamhanded and kitch era. His rather unique job gives him no solace from this either, as his only weapon is a pathetically trim iron club and he is forced to wear sponsorship signs on his chest and back to make his meager monthly salary.
In his private life, Daisato finds a quiet and curious fascination with things that grow. Subtly, he
finds kinship in the mundanities of things like soft brown seeds which get bigger in water. The calmness of the scene is broken suddenly by Daisato being called away to fight a giant monster with an eyeball in it's crotch.
Truly though, it's a movie that hits both it's highs and lows with equal intensity and shouldn't be
missed by anyone with an appreiciation for the truly kitch aethetics of a bygone era and the sad rote with which they fit into today's society. The true icing on the cake however, is an ending that makes very little logical sense, but leaves the rest of the previous plot open for wide interpretation, and should be analysed by everyone from students of sociology and politics to fans of tokuatsu and kaiju movies.
Matsumoto took five years to make this movie and it's brilliant in it's absurdity. I urge everyone who is a fan of Japanese culture and films which question the human condition to seek out this wonderful film and give it a heartfelt viewing. Once you are able to see this elephant from all sides, you will not be dissapointed. As Watchmen was to the American comic superhero, so is Big Man Japan to Japan's past age of monster movies and costumed rangers.