Sunday, December 2, 2012

Karate Robo Zaborgar(2011) Movie Review

Fathered by a murdered Nobel Prize winning robot scientist, rides and fights alongside sweet transforming karate-wielding robot (who is also his brother), and wears sporty amounts of denim in the name of justice. What's not to love? J-cult nasty boy, Noboru Iguchi takes his Sushi Typhoon cred into the retro stratosphere with the shamelessly goofball Karate Robo Zaborgar, a big movie rendition of the classic 1974 tokusatsu TV series that pitts the hot-blooded special agent Yutaka Daimon (early on, played by Yasuhisa Furuhara) against the monster armies of the evil Sigma, an organization led by the bloodthirsty Doctor Akunomiya, and his cadre of cyborg megalomaniacs. Iguchi eschews a greater amount of his usual tendencies toward jiggle and intense gore to present what is more a cross between loving tribute, and almost bittersweet parody.

From the opening moments, we are introduced to a trio of dutiful Tokyo detectives sent to the Diet building to protect government officials targeted for abduction by Sigma, who's plans require their essence for an undisclosed plan. Led by sub-boss, the alluring, yet frowned upon at home, Miss Borg(Mami Yamasaki), Sigma's plans are quickly foiled by the appearance of the Flying Dragon Tri-Stage Kicking Daimon and Zaborgar, to the delight of the cops, and not so much by the clearly corrupt up and comer, Wakasugi. Easily the passionate youth with a grudge to bear, Daimon is approached by the police in their need for assistance in protecting the establishment, but with concern for the helmeted hero's instability. Matters become even more complicated when love unexpectedly comes into the picture, changing fortunes across the board. It isn't long before allegiances are questioned,  revelations pile up, and we are witness to some of the most delightfully bizarre sights ever displayed for a genre famous for being patently wacky.

Ever see a grown man breast feed his children in the absence of their dead mother? Ever witness the murder of a parent by way of lasers shot by a giant floating scrotum? Ever witness bizarre cyborg sex rituals?

Ever witness the manly tears of a robot of justice?

The film's TV episode-y format is taken full advantage of when our story flashes forward, boldly taking the entire premise into even further absurdity, but with a twist. A middle-aged Daimon (now played by comedian, Itsuji Itao) is now a virtually broken, penniless diabetic, having lived much of his life under the thumb of fate when destiny calls again, and Sigma's grand plans seem finally ready to be unleashed onto an unsuspecting recession-era Japan, and inevitably, the world!

Suddenly, the Iguchi of Machine Girl fame begins to kick in with some unexpected character, and much to say about the generations that have transpired since the salad days of tokusatsu heroes. The deeds of the past have far reaching consequences for all our characters, and it's up to all to save Japan. Rather than merely reveling in nostalgia, there is a mild attempt to bring a few grounded concerns to the fray. Elements such as the inability of the elder generation to gain a foothold in society as the corrupt on top collect, the enmity between children and their parents, and fears of youth gone absurd best illustrated by way of a giant schoolgirl waging a swath of destruction by way of casual mobile phone conversation. While not anywhere near as successful as it could have been, it's pretty fun to see these satirical dynamics flirted with within such a piece.

As with most J-throwbacks, it isn't all as functional as it likely could have been. While packed to the gears with such amazing imagery and action, the film's length does at times drag. And as previously mentioned, it is when Iguchi's instincts for parody go broad, the humor doesn't work very often. But when there are Iguchi-esque touches to popular Zaborgar tropes and characters. (Miss Ruggers - a group of American Football gear-sporting beauties comes ragingly to mind, exploding balls and all. There is also the matter of Dinosaur army..Ahem.) On the whole, Iguchi's large-scale retelling of Denjin Zaborgar is an unexpectedly sweet-natured, CG-heavy fun fest, sure to make many fans of Japanese genre TV smile one way or another.

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