READER RECOMMENDATION: BIG MAN JAPAN [DAI NIHONJIN] (2007)

Reader review by Rob Steele [AKA Mofo Rising]

DIRECTED BY: Hitoshi Matsumoto

FEATURING: Hitoshi Matsumoto

PLOT: Not-so-lovable loser transforms into significantly larger loser to battle some of the

Still from Big Man Japan (2007)

weirdest monsters to ever threaten Japan.

WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: On a purely visual level, Big Man Japan has a bizarre aesthetic that nobody else would rightly consider.  Beyond that, the film’s humor is often so subtle that you don’t realize what strange territory you’ve stumbled into until it ends up battling it out on the screen in its underwear.  This film is just weird.

COMMENTS: Did you ever watch Mike Myers defend the male nudity in Austin Powers by claiming that the naked male form has been a comedic stereotype in British humor for years, but you still got the sense that he just enjoyed running around naked?  Well, Japanese comedian Hitoshi Matsumoto has taken Myer’s original intent and literally writ it large for the big screen.  Prepare yourself for a loving CGI rendition of the male form, with every stray hair delineated and a paunch that could kill.

Matsumoto doesn’t stop there.  His film, Big Man Japan, is as loving a tribute to pure loser-dom as you could hope to film.  His character is the none-too-bright heir to monster fighters in an alternate-reality Japan where giant monsters attack on a regular basis.  Unfortunately, while his monster-battlin’ grandfather was considered a hero, he is now a national joke, fighting inexplicably ridiculous monsters for increasingly little ratings.  (His show now only airs in the wee hours of the morning.)  As if being a national joke was not enough, our current Big Man manages to fail every time he is called up to bat.

Big Man Japan is a slow burn of a film.  If you are familiar with celebration of wrong-headed intentions Christopher Guest has been putting out for years, you should be comfortable here.  The majority or the film focuses on interviews with our loser as he is subtly confronted with his abject shame in society. Luckily for us, every twenty minutes or so, he must fight against a bizarre menagerie of monsters in CGI battles that are, to say the very least, uncomfortable.

This is an odd film.  But before you throw it out, stick around for the ending.  I’m not going to give it away here, and I’m not even sure I could if I tried.  Suffice to say, I laughed like a maniac, probably to the consternation of all my friends.

Big Man Japan is nothing else other than Big Man Japan.  Before you venture in, I recommend you watch the preview.  If it looks at all interesting to you (you’re a small crowd), watch it.  You may be unpleasantly surprised.  Or the opposite.  No real way to predict your fate with this film.  Suffice to say, don’t expect to get out unscathed.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Part character study, part media satire and, by its finale, altogether bizarre, ‘Big Man Japan’ plays a bit like a quieter, weirder version of ‘Hancock’… the most impressive special effect here is Mr. Matsumoto’s hilariously restrained performance, a tour de force of comedic concision in a movie bloated by increasingly surreal developments.”–Nathan Lee, The New York Times (contemporaneous)

7 thoughts on “READER RECOMMENDATION: BIG MAN JAPAN [DAI NIHONJIN] (2007)”

  1. Just watched this again by streaming off of Netflix. This is an exceptionally weird film from the beginning to the absurd finale. The subtleness of its weirdness comes full circle and then spirals into the bizarre abyss with the culmination of the conclusion. My wife, who likes the safer side of weird cinema, asked between fits of laughter, “What are we watching?” My reply was simply, “Possibly one of the greatest films ever.” It’s one of those films that keeps your interest for its entirety as you scratch your head in disbelief in what you are witnessing. I must stress again, the ending of the film is the hilarious icing on an already topsy-turvy cake. My question I need to ask is…when a film that is reviewed by an outside reader and is recommended as weird, what are the chances of you reviewing it yourself to consider it for the final list? Soon? It needs its justification for sure. I’m only curious because many outside reviews have been recommended as weird and they seem to hang there in limbo. This one is definately worth the inception onto the list.

    1. EricSG: chances of it being “officially” reviewed are good. Chances of it being done “soon” are less good. The problem is that long reader-suggested review queue, and wanting to give new releases/re-releases higher priority. A lot of the reader reviews serve as “placeholders” for noteworthy movies until I can circle back and approve them someday. But I may give Big Man Japan some extra consideration based on its obvious popularity.

  2. I saw this movie twice the 2nd time when I was smashed and to be truthful I understood more the 2nd time.

  3. This film is so much fun. It makes me smile inside and that’s saying something because I’m a bit of a curmudgeon. The first time I watched it, knowing nothing about it beyond what it says on the back of the DVD case, I was waiting with eager anticipation for the next monster fight. These are some grade A, premier league monsters. I think “comb over” monster may be my fave. During subsequent viewings though I’ve found the footage of Big Man’s dreary daily life a quiet delight. And of course, it addresses the big hero/big pants question that’s followed the Hulk for decades.

  4. I love this movie – it airs on Australia’s multicultural station, SBS, a bunch and I’m always happy to see it. Another one for the list!

    In my head I always assume that one of the Takashis, Miike or Kitano, was involved. I guess that’s just my weird Japan stereotyping.

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