Arthur KurodaHitoshi OzawaAya KoizumiNao Oikawa
Crab Goalkeeper
Medium: film
Year: 2006
Director: Minoru Kawasaki
Writer: Minoru Kawasaki, Masakazu Migita
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Keywords: comedy, Minoru Kawasaki animal protagonist
Actor: Hiroshi Fujioka, Mikisuke Haruyama, Aya Koizumi, Arthur Kuroda, Hiroaki Morishima, Yakan Nabe, Nao Oikawa, Hitoshi Ozawa, Saaya, Akihiro Shimizu, Michiko Shimizu, Hitomi Takashima, Naoto Takenaka, Sayaka Tashiro
Format: 80 minutes
Website category: Japanese SF
Review date: 28 March 2011
It's another Comedy Animal Costume movie, from the man who brought you Executive Koala and The Calamari Wrestler. It's a simple idea. Take one Godzilla-quality silly monster costume, but don't have it destroying Tokyo. Instead just make it the protagonist in a regular movie.
This is a daft idea and not necessarily as funny as it sounds, although you're always guaranteed a least a few scenes of brilliant ludicrousness. This one though is my favourite so far. I'm not sure why, since there's not much to choose between them, so maybe it's simply because I understood more of what people were saying this time. Either my Japanese is improving or this one has simpler dialogue. (I think it's the latter.) However this film also has a story that stands up better without the absurdity value, not to mention likeable characters and less bad acting.
We begin with the crab, whom everyone calls "crab" and who has a slightly annoying speech pattern by which he appends the word "crab" to everything he says. We'll call him Kani, i.e. "crab" in Japanese. Perhaps surprisingly, the film doesn't begin with him already working as a goalkeeper. Instead we're introduced to Kani as he lies on the beach being kicked by three boys whom he could have snipped in half in three seconds flat. Kani is big. He'd be an impressive Doctor Who monster if he didn't also look silly and the pre-credits sequence even gives him a Doctor Who Monster shot that's very amusing indeed. However he's also a big softie who doesn't know anything about the world, so what saves him from the bullies is a boy called Shin'ichi. Having saved the life of the world's biggest and most innocent crustacean, Shin'ichi does the obvious thing and takes him home.
Kani learns to talk, although I wouldn't have objected had Shin'ichi slapped that speech pattern out of him. Kani tries to be nice to people, but unfortunately the Japanese love seafood and his position is precarious. Kani embarks upon the adventure that is called life.
Kawasaki has said that this film is "like Forrest Gump, but with a crab".
You'd be insane to take the plot too literally, of course. The absurdities are the point. Nevertheless football games don't normally continue after a murderous assault upon an opposing player, while I have no idea how Kani's limbs managed to jump back into their sockets like that. The film's also remarkably open-minded towards yakuza and the sex industry, with the former being not noticeably villainous and the latter being a perfectly reasonable source of income for Kani's girlfriend. Admittedly she's only working as a bar hostess rather than actually as a prostitute, but we see some of the latter as well and they're adorable too. Kani works in a "soapland" establishment for a while, although I'm not sure what he was supposed to be doing there. Remember, kiddies, prostitutes are all kind-hearted and impossibly beautiful!
The acting is better than I'd expected and I have a feeling that some of the adults might also be professional comedians. I liked Shin'ichi's dad. He's got a distinctive face. Meanwhile the children are wooden with dialogue, but Shin'ichi's good at being happy.
This isn't a film for deep analysis. It's a film for gawping at yet more "only in Japan" surrealism, courtesy of the unique brain of Minoru Kawasaki. Here you can see terrible things done to a crab, some of them at Kani's instigation. He sells his brain. No, really. That had me scraping my jaw off the floor. However it turns out that there's a certain amount of logic in the idea of a crab goalkeeper, since crabs can move very fast from side to side. This movie has it all... a man in a giant crustacean costume, crab-human love, some absolutely gorgeous women (usually played by porn stars) and a very small amount of football. I liked it a lot. It's my favourite of Kawasaki's film that I've seen so far and I'm definitely primed to see more.
If you can't find this film under its full English translation, incidentally, try searching for "Kani Goalkeeper". Or if you're not going to watch it, at least do a Google image search to get some idea of what we're talking about here.
"What are you?"
"I'm a crab."