Today I watched Hitoshi Matsumoto’s Big Man Japan (2007)
This film takes the form of a mockumentary following the life of Masaru Daisato, an eccentric man who seems to be famous despite his decrepit lifestyle. At first one might think that Masaru is a down on his luck actor or musician, but the truth is much more spectacular. Masaru has a peculiar ability passed down to him by his father and his father’s father, the ability to grow to a height of thirty meters. The family have traditionally used this power to fight against monsters and protect Japan, but Masaru is out of touch with the modern world, neither really understanding the other. Masaru finds his work shrinking in public credibility and likewise his life has fallen apart, his wife leaving him and taking their daughter. Fighting giant monsters just doesn’t pay the bills like it used to.
Big Man Japan does that one thing that most giant monster movies completely avoid, it is a wholly character driven piece. It’s about an old man in a young person’s world struggling to make ends meet in a time that just doesn’t seem to need them anymore. The mockumentary style is integral to this theme, which really made me consider how difficult it must be to put such a film together. The naturalistic way that people stutter and lose their train of thought must be incredibly difficult to work into a script or performance but it really pays off in terms of realism and verisimilitude.
Now if you come to this movie expecting the classic suitmation giant monster battles you might be disappointing. This film actually uses mostly CGI to render it’s monsters and the Big Man himself, on the one hand this allows for some truly absurd monster designs but on the other hand the CGI doesn’t look that great from a technical perspective. But that really ends up being beside the point because of how heartfelt the character study is, how heartbreaking the basic human tragedy on display is, and how warm and human the humour is. For that I think is is a truly great picture, it moved me, and for the suitmation and power ranger fan in me, oh boy is the climax something wonderful to behold. 5/5