Big Man Japan

English Title: Big Man Japan

Original Title: Dai-Nipponjin

Country of Origin: Japan

Studio: Yoshimoto Kogyo Company

Director: Hitoshi Matsumoto

Producer(s): Isao Yoshino, Hiroshi Osaki , Akihiro Okamoto

Screenplay: Hitoshi Matsumoto

Cinematographer: Hideo Yamamoto

Art Director: Yuji Hayashida, Etsuko Aikou

Editor: Hisaya Shirawa

Runtime: 113 minutes

Genre: Comedy/Kaiju

Starring/Cast: Tomoji Hasegawa, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Ua, Hitoshi Matsumoto

Year: 2007

Volume: Japanese

A ‘documentary’ film crew follows Masaru Daisato, a 3rd generation superhero who protects Japan from what he calls ‘baddies’. Daisato, like his forefather’s, has a unique responsibility; to aid Japan in times of crisis, battling the many Kaiju whenever they rear their ugly heads. Shuttled off to the nearest power plant, where he is jolted with vast amounts of electricity until he grows to the size of a sky scrapper, Daisato quickly descends on the city to battle with whatever surreal monster is rampaging at that moment, whether it's a giant leg with the head of Riki Takeuchi, or a stretchy beast with a bad comb-over and arms long enough to topple the tallest building. However, unlike his forefather’s, Daisato is not the national hero that his ancestors were. Instead, his battles are broadcast live, via the various national news stations, and Daisato’s very unflattering figure is instantly seen by millions of people, and the often awkward, always destructive battles are analyzed and criticized almost immediately. In an effort to boost his popularity ratings, his manager sells his various oversized body parts to advertisers, so that their various brands can be seen during the televised battles, but only a winning streak will really boost his ratings. But can Daisato - a depressed, out of shaped, anachronistic man - pull himself out of his slump?

Hitoshi Matsumoto is a comedic giant in Japan. He rose to prominence in the late 1980s as the funny man to Masatoshi Hamada’s straight man, with their Manzai comedy act 'Downtown'. Manzai is a two-person comedy act which has more of an emphasis on timing and delivery than the actual content of the joke. Hitoshi’s identity has become filtered throughout Japanese culture; his love of Tetris and billiards has led to televised competitions. He has been on television so much, and people have become so use to his comedic style, that it was hard to predict how audiences would react if he changed his act. Before Dainipponjin was released, no one was allowed to see it until it opened nationally. It was kept under tight control, and for good reason. Hitoshi Matsumoto had a lot riding on the film, but it opened at number one at the box office, beating out Takeshi Kitano’s Glory to the Filmmaker (2007). Dainipponjin is Hitoshi Matsumoto channelling Christopher Guest. While the material lends itself to some truly outrageous Kaiju battles, this is really not what the film is about. Daisato spends most of his time alone, depressed, in his small, miserable home with his stray cat, and this is what Hitoshi decides to capture; a mockumentary about a man who hates his job, and who is looked down upon by citizens of the city, and even his own family. The film is quiet and subtle. Daisato has been beaten so much psychologically, that he is struggling to be a man. We follow Daisato through his miserable, isolated existence, which is occasionally broken up with an insanely outlandish battle with a giant creature. Dainipponjin is not a laugh out loud comedy, but it is smart, touching and subtly incredible.

Author of this review: Matthew Hardstaff

Peer reviewer: Johanna Pittam