“SOLID METAL NIGHTMARES”: THE SHINYA TSUKAMOTO BOX SET

is more than the sum of his parts–his cold, greased parts. During my progression through Arrow’s 2020 release of Solid Metal Nightmares, I became familiar with the director/actor/screenwriter/producer/creative designer. From his roots as a glibly nihilistic visionary, he grew into a sanguinely nihilistic storyteller. Arrow’s boxed set puts virtually all his history on display for enjoyment and dissection.

The dissection comes in the form of the many extras, some of which are bulleted below:

  • Audio commentaries on all ten features (or near-features) from Tom Mes–an expert in Japanese cinema, I am informed, but those who know me know I haven’t listened to these
  • Half-a-dozen-or-so interviews with the director from over the years, including one exclusive to the set
  • Archival featurettes, documentaries, music clips, and trailers
  • A beautiful, hard-bound book with essays about each of the films included, typically in thematic pairings
  • Reversible title sleeves for the individual Blu-ray discs
  • The requisite double-sided poster (alas, no “postcards” for this; I’d have loved them to send notes to friends and loved ones)
  • And a box

I knew “Solid Metal Nightmares” would soon become a collector’s item, even beyond its designated collector status. I ordered this set back when it was new (I paid some sixty bucks for it new; it now fetches close to two hundred on the secondary market), and the box I received showed up  a bit damaged. I felt the damage was appropriate to the collection, however: every hero and heroine Tsukamoto puts to screen is irrevocably damaged in some way. I’m thinking of sending the package back to the director for him to spruce up with some bolts and metal filings.

Still from Tetsuo the Iron Man (1989)
Tetsue: The Iron Man

These past months a number of you will have noticed random Tsukamoto reviews cropping up on the site, giving a rough timeline of my journey. As I feel is always the case, the movie is the thing to judge—how it’s transferred visually, how the audio feels on the eardrums, and whether the framing integrity is maintained. Rest assured, dear reader, that all the films—Tetsuo: the Iron ManTetsuo II: Body HammerThe Adventure of Denchu-KozoTokyo FistBullet BalletHazeA Snake of JuneVitalKotoko, and Killing—look and feel as close to Tsukamoto’s celluloid (and later, digital) dreams as possible. Nothing is too crisp (I’m looking at you, Tetsuo), nothing is washed-out, and every clink, slam, kachunk, sigh, scream, whisper, and driving soundtrack blasts—or not—as appropriate.

Just about every film included is at least recommendable, but I cannot help raise an eyebrow at one exclusion and one inclusion. The exclusion first: for reasons beyond my understanding, Tsukamoto’s early (and color!) short film, Futsû saizu no kaijin, is nowhere to be seen—which is a pity, as it laid the ground work for the more expansive Tetsuo: the Iron Man that followed a few years later. Ah well.

The odd inclusion—which I was more than happy enough to watch, mind you—is his latest film, Killing. This movie does have some “metal” in it, albeit only in the opening scene where we witness a katana being forged. However, it is a contemplative period drama set in the late Edo period, and tonally is a very calm (albeit rather depressing) vision of Imperial decline. It is a good movie, to be certain, and watching Shinya Tsukamoto as an aging ronin is a treat. But as the finale in a collection dubbed “Solid Metal Nightmares,” it’s a bit incongruous.

Fans of Shinya Tsukamoto who don’t already own this are probably few and far between. To those who didn’t have the good luck of snapping this up on pre-order, I would still argue that the current $200 price tag is well worth the outlay. With a little luck, the folks at Arrow will re-release this, and then put together a set of the director’s other features. (May I suggest “Solid Metal Daydreams”?)

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“A wholly original moviemaking genius who most certainly paved the way for the outlaw likes of Takashi Miike or Sion Sono, his films often took a surreal, hyperkinetic audiovisual approach to his visceral character studies.  Frequently ultraviolent, psychosexual and dripping with physicality, Tsukamoto’s work resembles nothing which came before in the annals of Japanese cinema.”–Andrew Kotwicki, The Movie Sleuth (box set)

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