Big Man Japan (Dai Nipponjin) (2007)
|Year Of Production||2007|
|Running Time||98:49 (Case: 110)|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Hitoshi Matsumoto|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Big Man Japan is a genuine oddity. It will satisfy those who love the cinema of Michael Gondry, Spike Jonze and those after some late night alternative Japanese cinema.
Daisato, the Big Man or Dai Nipponjin of the title, is an unqualified failure in just about every facet of life. So why is a film crew following him to interview him and record his seemingly random and definitely uninteresting moments? For about the first 20 minutes of this very funny mockumentary we have no idea. Daisato is shambolic with ugly long hair that he constantly spruiks, a run-down apartment in a crummy part of Tokyo with rubbish strewn in his yard and abusive graffiti on his fence. His neighbours, it seems, don't want him around. He is painfully dull and his comments on life are devoid of any meaning. His wife has left him taking their daughter who he rarely sees. He has a thing for expandable umbrellas and barely registers when a brick gets thrown through his window. All par for the course it seems.
His job pays peanuts yet requires that he be constantly available. He can't take holidays. Who is this man?
Twenty minutes in the mystery is revealed. He is Dai Nipponjin, a super hero who does it old school - he gets powered up at a local electricity plant and increases in size to become a giant in order to fight a series of traditional Japanese baddies.
If his personal life is in the toilet, his professional life ain't much better. He is out of shape and the formerly top rating show featuring his fights now languishes between home shopping segments on late night TV. His agent despairs as sponsors are dropping away. Still she always seems to be better off than him!?
Truth is Daisato is the 6th and perhaps the last Big Man. The 4th is (barely) confined to a nursing home and the 5th died after one too many attempts at over-charging to get himself just that little bit bigger. His fights are becoming routine until the emergence of the mysterious Red Baddie who is so different and frightening that Big Man does what every proud super hero would do when confronted by this new menace - he turns tail and runs!
Big Man Japan is at times screamingly funny - never more so when it juxtaposes the drab documentary-style interviews with the building smashing cheesy CGI work. The baddies in Big Man are increasingly ludicrous and become funnier as the film goes on. It parodies the whole interview and documentary form as well as having fun with the history of Japanese B grade monster cinema. Director/co-scriptwriter/lead actor Hitosi Matumoto is apparently a big thing in Japan as part of the comedy duo Downtown in which he plays the Doku (the dumb one). This experience has sharpened his skills playing the sad sack Daisato as well as his pen for this film which skewers modern Japan for its cultural emptiness whilst riffing the idea that work can be a soulless grind whatever the job for those who aren't suited to it. If there is one thing that is clear it is that Daisaato is not made to be a superhero! Some viewers may see comparisons with last years Hancock but this film is way sharper on the insights and Will Smith, even in his most slovenly moments, is a king of cool compared to loser Daisato.
Students of Japanese history may be able to draw even more from the notion that the Big Men wane in popularity as the emperor himself disappears in importance (can you name the current emperor?). The Big Man is still a giant superhero but the public have lost the respect of the whole dying art form. Daisato is trapped in a job that he can't do very well but is bound to for life by reason of tradition.
The final minutes of the film feature a change in style so radical as to astonish, perhaps irritate, viewers. Yet the ending is so right and so perfectly suited to the creators' ideas that it elevates this funny mockumentary to another level.
Big Man Japan is certainly odd enough to interest the crazy film junkie however, to my mind, it is a superior product that deserves to be seen by a wider audience. It is not a perfect product. It is slow, particularly the torturous opening as we meet the empty vessel that is Daisato, and the film could have done with a bit of editing but rewards are there for the patient and the film gathers momentum as it goes along. A welcome surprise!
Big Man Japan appears to have been shot on high definition digital video. The DVD is presented in a 1.85:1 ratio which seems to be the original aspect ratio.
It is 16x9 enhanced.
The film consists of three elements. There are the interview segments with Daisato and a his estranged wife, his agent and general passers-by. These are rendered clearly enough although the intention, I imagine, was not to create a glossy film and the digital video is a little noisy and the colours match Daisato's drab existence.
Secondly, the film has cheesy CGI segments where the Big Man fights an array of ridiculous baddies - the Stinky Baddie being particularly memorable. The CGI work provides a clearer picture but again does not try to emulate Transformers, if anything it is closer to Shrek! One again this is all part of the charm.
Finally, there are "historical" segments featuring the 4th Big Man being feted by the Emperor and generally bathing in the acclaim that came with his significance. Like the Emperor the role of Big Man has slowly slipped from the public conscience. These segments are pretty well done. They are intentionally grainy and shown in black & white.
Otherwise the image quality is pretty much as you might expect. There are no technical defects in the print.
The subtitles are rendered in yellow and are easy to read.
The sound for Big Man Japan is Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 running at 448 Kb/s.
In fact the majority of the film is interview footage and the sound is kept front and centre. The sound is nicely paced for the ambient noise in the exteriors but I feel that a 2.0 surround mix would have been adequate. The sub-woofer does come in for some serious action during the fight scenes as the mighty bodies pound the earth.
Music is used sparingly (including one drunken karaoke scene) but otherwise is used appropriately.
Dialogue seems to be in audio sync. Whether the dialogue is clear to a Japanese speaker is another question as Daisoto is a notorious mumbler!
|Surround Channel Use|
The case of the DVD refers to a stills gallery which , unless it refers to the ability to pause the DVD and advance it one frame at a time, is not on there!
There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The DVD appears to be available in the UK Region 2. The official website for the film details the DVD release in that country however in the absence of any Japanese language skills I can't tell you too much about it. Buy the Region 4.
Big Man Japan is one of the better mockumentaries of recent years. The fact that it features giant building smashing baddies is a definite plus and deserves to find a place out of the niche of "crazy Japanese movies".
The DVD looks as it should and will not disappoint any viewer. The lack of any extras is a bit disappointing though. It would be nice to see something of Downtown.
|DVD||Pioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output|
|Display||Pioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Speakers||JBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer|