Directed by Takashi Miike
Written by Kankurô Kudô
Sho Aikawa as Shin'ichi Ichikawa/Zeburâman
Kyoka Suzuki as Kana, Asano's mother
Teruyoshi Uchimura as Ippongi
Yui Ichikawa as Midori, Shin'ichi's daughter
Koen Kondo as Segawa
115 Minutes(Not Rated)
I have never seen any of the more popular films by Japanese director Takashi Miike, and I hear he has a reputation for some of the most brutal images in film ever. I did see his portion in the anthology piece "Three. . . Extremes," and even that did not hold up to the reputation. But it does more so than "Zebraman," a trip into the world of superheros. Now we've seen the origins of many superheros-Spider-Man ended up getting bitten by a radioactive spider. . . The Hulk got caught in a radiation blast. . . Daredevil was drenched in toxic chemical waste. But nobody has ever become a superhero because they loved a television program from the 70's, as is the case here.
We are introduced to Shin'ichi Ichikawa-he's a poor teacher that none of the students like, his son hates him and gets picked on because of who is father is, and his daughter or wife don't listen to him at all. To escape from the doldrums of his regular life, he sometimes dons a costume he made, making his ZEBRAMAN-Black and White Ecstasy! Zebraman was a television show in 1978, planned for a full season, but cancelled after 7 episodes with no reruns after low ratings. And Shin'ichi finds out more about Zebraman from Asano, a young wheelchaired kid with glasses who is almost as much of an outcast as his teacher. But Asano loves Zebraman, and when Shin-ichi is about to show him his Zebraman costume, he ends up becoming apart of a quest to destroy an alien race that is visiting Earth, and the only people that suspect are two agents from the department of defense. Only Zebraman can save the day.
"Zebraman" is certainly not your typical superhero movie, but it wasn't made to be one. In the end, the superhero story is shafted more to the second half, the special effects are intentionally cheap. I say cheap because they aren't bad, but Miike obviously didn't want to spend the movie to make them incredible. But the cheap effects adds to the 70's television show feel that I think he was going for. At the core, "Zebraman" is about finding your chance to fit in. There are two main relationships being focused on. The first is Shin'ichi and Asano. The two of them clearly need each other. Shin'ichi is shy and quiet and walked on constantly, but Asano is really the sweetest kid you'll find, but that and his handicap make him lonely. When they find each other, connected through this insane television show that nobody ever heard of, its important that they have this friendship at this point in both of their lives. But at the same time, there is the relationship with Shin'ichi and his son, who he never forgets, and during the most brutal moments of his adventure, he is always thinking about his son. And I like how the script keeps Shin'ichi's family as the most important thing he is after, instead of going the easy route and having Shin'ichi leave them for Asano and his mother, who both clearly love him more than his wife, daughter, and son.
Although "Zebraman" is sweet and very funny, it is far from being perfect. It is a little on the long side, and it not only takes a while to get going, but once it does start to get going it begins to lag again. I also wish that there was more from the two agents from the Department of Defense, and the buddy comedy aspect that the two of them have the very first second they are on the screen seems to disappear right after that. I think there could have been some more comedy relating to them, and they could have played off one another more. It is a good film, though. I don't know how Miike fans would feel, because this is a whole different turn from the types of movies he's made in the past-and this is based on what I hear. It is more for families or just comedy fans, or both. It's fun to an extent, but it needed a bit less.