Zebraman

Synopsis: Good Guys Wear Black And White

Back in 1978, Shinichi was obsessed with a short-lived TV superhero show called Zebraman, set in the year 2010. When 2010 actually rolls around, Shinichi is a grade school teacher and family man who can’t get any respect from his students or his family. To escape this not-so-wonderful life, he makes himself a Zebraman costume and begins to prowl around the city at night. But what begins as escapism soon becomes a bizarre reality as a monster from the original show actually appears.

Shinichi then realizes that his beloved TV show wasn’t science-fiction, but a prophecy foretold! And by dressing up as Zebraman, he elects himself as the fulfillment of that prophecy. Now he has no choice but to take seriously the role of Zebraman and protect the world from an alien invasion.
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Zebraman 6.5

I’m really not a fan of Takashi Miike. I’ve seen a bunch of his films at this point and, either I’m not seeing the right ones (he’s so prolific you could easily lose your way in his filmography!), or I just don’t get it.

There are a couple that I enjoy, notably ‘Audition’ and ‘Gozu’. And, yes, I enjoyed ‘Visitor Q’ a little bit. But, mostly, I think his films are largely incoherent messes.

Such is the case with ‘Zebraman’.

The core story is about a lame-duck school teacher who fantasizes of being Zebraman, a TV hero that he idolized in his youth. Except that now he’s a middle aged adult with a dysfunctional family.

Turns out that, for undisclosed reasons, he ends up chaneling the powers of Zebraman and he starts fighting crime. Although, mostly, he fights weird alien creatures. Because, again for undisclosed reasons, there are aliens killing people on the streets, late at night.

We eventually find out that it’s an invasion, but we never know why they want to invade and what their plan is. We just know that they’re the baddies and that Zebraman has to find a way to beat them. It’s all so vague, really.

And that’s largely the problem with this film: it feels like a half-baked script. None of the relationships are developed or explored in any deep way (or at all), character motives are sketchy at best, reasons for things happening a certain way are never explained, …etc.

Perhaps it’s a budget or time issue. Perhaps they had to crap out a script in little time or they couldn’t hire anyone so Miike got his 8-year old to write a story. I don’t know… but nothing would be surprising: he makes so many movies that he probably doesn’t have much time for quality control. And almost all his films or done on the cheap. REAL cheap.

So why is he a cult filmmaker with a large following? Why does he keep hammering them out and people keep seeing them?

I can’t say, but I can tell you one thing. Despite being half-baked, his stories often seem chock full of ideas and, while it doesn’t zip by at ADD speeds, you feel full after even a half an hour. And it is largely entertaining despite all its many flaws. I really can’t explain it; they do have an entertaining quality. Is it their overall zell? I don’t know…

But, in the end, it’s not a good movie. It’s just too choppy on so many levels to rate it highly. It’s not even of the “so bad it’s good” variety, which is unfortunate. I wish it were, because then I would probably want to see it again someday. As it stands, though, I’ll only put it on if I need something to knock me out – because, strangely enough, I tend to fall asleep during most of Miike’s films. I can’t explain it.

What do you think?

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