TV Broadcast Info
(Not yet available in US)
Story = C-
Video = B
Audio = C
Retelling Japan’s history from 1945 to present through the feats of self-proclaimed dine and dash professionals. They are phantoms that rise and fall with Japan’s shifting diet-styles, dissenting heroes who carved their names on the dark side of dietary culture with their glare. (Source: AZN)
This is a documentary, but it's not. And it's animation but it's not. And it's kind of funny, but it's not. And all-in-all I'm not quite sure what to make of it other than to say that it's a unique kind of movie that could either make you laugh, or think pensively about the world depending on how you look at it.
The movie is actually a mock-documentary that recounts the post-war history of fast-food scam artists. It describes the techniques of ten or so different "grifters" throughout different eras in the fast-food industry -- from the early ramen shop through to modern hamburger joints. Why the director -- Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell, Jin Roh) -- chose this particular subject, I have no idea. Maybe he's trying to acknowledge people who live on the fringe of society as necessitated by a recovering post-war Japan. I don't know. But what I do know is that watching these scam artists and listening to the narrator as he describes their techniques and philosophies is alternately interesting, amusing, and mind-numbing.
It's amusing because you have such a riduculous subject that is being taken so seriously and analytically. And then seeing each grifter face-off against the shop owners, with one trying to outwit or just intimidate the other as if they are having a samurai duel is just funny. It's not so much laugh-out-loud funny, it's more like you just sit there and watch and think, "Wait, what the heck's going on here? Is this for real?" If there is a laugh-out-loud part it would be the scene with "Hamburger Tetsu" who will go into a shop and order a hundred hamburgers or more during peak hours so that the customers start getting antsy or near riotous. Seeing the chef (played by Stand Alone Complex director Kenji Kamiyama) flipping those burgers every which way like a mad man was definitely the funniest part of the movie.
The humor subsides after a while though for a couple reasons. First of all the narrator goes into such depth and detail describing each grifter's techniques and philosophies that it just gets mind-numbing. The other thing is that about three-fourths of the way thorough it takes an odd shift in tone and starts talking about one grifter regretting his life and talking to his mother ... or something like that. I'm not quite sure what that part was all about but it seemed awfully symbolic, and resulted in me feeling a bit sleepy.
Pure entertainment-value aside, the movie can be interesting for a few reasons. For one, I can't help but wonder how much of the "documentary's" information is based on fact. It mostly uses this one author (whose name I can't remember at the moment) and his book as references, and I was wondering whether they -- or the grifters themselves -- were real or not. In addition to my curiosity over the movie's factual basis, there is also the point of its thematic value. But I'm less interested in the later because parts of the movie are so esoteric that it looses its entertainment value, and as a result causes me to loose interest in its analysis. (See the bit about being "sleepy" above.) But for those who like to pull meaning out of esoterica, this may be the movie for you.
Of course, the real reason to watch this movie is the strange animation technique used by Production IG which they dubbed "superlivemation". The visuals are all photographed from real actors, but then are manipulated so the characters have huge head and small bodies. The animation is a 2D/3D effect so the characters look like paper cut-outs standing on a 3D stage. The characters don't move per se, but instead the paper cut-out figures will either change or move in what looks something like you'd see in a JibJab animation. (Check out the trailer to get an idea of what I mean.) The result is a unique effect that can be hilarious at times, but at others -- when there is not a lot of movement and the narrator is in a long rant -- can be tedious to get through.
So overall I wouldn't call this the most entertaining film, but it is at least interesting as an experiment. If nothing else, I'd recommend watching this movie for it's unique subject matter and visual style. But if you are looking for some light-hearted escapism, you best look elsewhere.