Minoru KawasakiJapaneseMitsu DanMasami Horiuchi
Earth Defense Widow
Also known as: Chikyuu bouei miboujin
Medium: film
Year: 2014
Writer/director: Minoru Kawasaki
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Keywords: giant rampaging monster, comedy, SF
Actor: Mitsu Dan, Mark Chinnery, Yusuke Fukuda, Hide Fukumoto, Moto Fuyuki, Masami Horiuchi, Koji Moritsugu, Nocchi, Shunichi Okita
Format: 84 minutes
Url: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3311564/
Website category: Japanese SF
Review date: 18 February 2016
It's a new Minoru Kawasaki film! How silly is it? Very silly!
Let me tell you what happens in this splendid movie! A Godzilla-like monster comes to Earth on an asteroid. This monster's name is Benuras and he's been realised in true low-tech 1950s style, with a man in a silly rubber suit stomping around scale model buildings. No CGI. No plausibility. No movie-making techniques that weren't around fifty years ago. Sometimes he's unconvincingly green-screened behind live-action.
Benuras's hobbies include: (a) stomping, and (b) eating nuclear waste. Halfway through the movie, a professor in a white coat gasps in horror and starts speculating about what might happen when Benuras gets over his constipation.
Anyway, the Earth Defence Widow herself is played by Mitsu Dan, as a character whose name is also Dan. She's an ace pilot for the Earth Defence Troops, but a few years ago Benuras killed her fiance. (It wasn't personal. He probably wasn't even trying to flatten the building. The real question is what Benuras was doing on Earth back then... does he have a season ticket, or does he visit Japan for his summer holidays?) Can Mitsu Dan save the world? What does all this have to do with an Ultraman-like superhero? Might anyone be the reincarnation of a Shinto goddess? Why does Mitsu Dan get distracted in mid-air by naughty visions and does this make her a pervert? Fighting Benuras will mean her death! What will she do?
Do any of these questions matter? Of course not. It's cheese. The only difference is that Kawasaki is doing it for comedy, so the acting is larger-than-life and the Earth Defence Troops (JAP) have a co-ordinator (Oono Miku) whose headphones are heart-shaped.
The good news is that it works. The film's actually amusing, mostly thanks to the actors. They're doing parodically exaggerated intensity, albeit to varying degrees. Some could have got away with it in a normal film. Some are just silly, e.g. Mr Eyebrows And Blinking. Others though made me laugh, such as those two security guards towards the end.
The political stuff is amusingly daft. Japan's prime minister talks like a cartoon duck and is a very slightly camp idiot. China are scum. America are also scum, but they're also available for a chat on the video feed into President Obama's bedroom. If I were Barack Obama, I'd want that taken out. (Well, technically his name's Ozuma.) The weirdest thing about this U.S. President, though, is that he's being very very very badly dubbed by someone who's audibly Australian. I'm not accusing Mark Chinnery of being unable to act, but it's clear that little or no attempt is being made to match his voice to the lip movements. Knowing Kawasaki, this is probably deliberate.
In other words, we're watching a Japanese kaijuu film with bad dubbing, but only of one English speaker by another English speaker.
Kawasaki even makes jokes about himself. A bedroom has a poster of The Calamari Wrestler, while on-screen technical specs of a phallic supergun have been cut-and-pasted from Kawasaki's English wikipedia page.
Is it sleazy? Well, sort of, a bit. Mitsu Dan appears to be incapable of any real acting, which is unfortunate since she's playing a widow and there will be scenes of bereavement and grief. (Everyone else in the film is overplaying their material, but Mitsu Dan is undershooting by a long way.) However she's a reasonably successful talent, actress and gravure idol who's not afraid of doing challengingly sexual films, e.g. Be My Slave and two Takashi Ishii films, one of which is called Sweet Whip. (She's beautiful, by the way, but only when she smiles. This film doesn't want her to do much smiling.) She takes off her clothes quite often and she's never wearing anything under her flight suit, but we never see her naughty bits. Some Kawasaki movies are cheerfully sleazy, but this film's hovering furtively on the family-friendly side of the fence.
In short, it's quite good. It's less surreal than Kawasaki's rubber-suited protagonist movies like Executive Koala and The Crab Goalkeeper, but by the same token you can watch it without wondering if the world's gone made or if it's just you. You could also show it to your grandparents, which probably isn't true of Machiko-sensei or Ah! There Is No Toilet In This House! It's not usually laugh-out-loud funny, although it has a few good gags, but it's a film where Kawasaki's sense of humour mostly sort of worked for me. It doesn't always. He's a deadpan absurdist, but the cast he's assembled here is less deadpan than usual. It's amusing. It's throwaway, but I quite liked it.