Man, the Japanese can make some strange films and this film also proves my point about director Takashi Miike. As I said in my review for “13 Assassins”, Miike can make some brilliant films and some utter trash, and while not that bad, “Zebraman 2” is much closer to the trash end of the spectrum. This film is obviously a sequel to 2004’s “Zebraman” (also directed by Miike), a film which incidentally I have not seen. Why would I watch a sequel to a film I have not seen? That is a good question and the only reason I have is because Miike directed it and it was playing at MIFF.
This sequel is set in the future in the year 2025. Ichikawa wakes up on a street without any memory at all, including the fact that he is the superhero “Zebraman”. As soon as he awakens he is chased after by a group of heavily armed policemen who clearly mean business. He runs for his life and although is shot around one hundred times, he ultimately survives. The strange thing is that after this five minute pursuit, the cops just turn their backs and walk away. What is going on and where is he? It turns out that he is in the place formally known as Tokyo, which has since been rechristened “Zebra City”. The mayor of Zebra City realized that most city’s define their laws by the morals of good people, however he understands that there is both black and white in the world and as such, let’s the bad people have ten minutes a day (five minutes in both the morning and night) when innocents can be gunned down and murdered. He calls this time “Zebra Time”, and amazingly since its inception, crime has dropped significantly.
After being shot so many times, Ichikawa lays close to death, where he is found and taken to an underground hospital where he is put under the care of a doctor. The doctor just happens to be an old student of Ichikawa’s (and is also aware of the fact that Ichikawa is Zebraman). He explains that he is trying to protect the weak, elderly and innocent, who have all become easy pickings during Zebra Time. Eventually, he fears, that only the powerful will survive – they need a hero to stand up and defend them, they need Zebraman. Meanwhile, the mayor’s daughter, who is the number one pop-star in the country, seems to have a strange connection to Zebraman. What is that connection and will she turn out to be friend or foe?
No matter how strange the content or the quality of the film, one thing is always a constant, Miike knows how to make a film. “Zebraman 2” looks amazing especially in the first half of the film when he uses inventive shadows to create Zebra-like patterns on the characters. However at the end of the day, this is an extremely silly film. The longer it goes on, the sillier it gets and unfortunately this type of nonsense and broad comedy is something that I do not react well to. This is just my taste (and thus my cross to bear), as the majority of the audience seemed to love the film, but the lame special effects and some of the humor (the evil alien at one stage, farts on one of our heroes) just weren’t my cup of tea. Also the end is just ridiculous and bizarre too, I mean seriously, when was the last time you saw a superhero eat the villain of the film – it’s that kind of picture, folks.
I must say that I thought Riisa Naka was stunningly gorgeous as the Zebra Queen, but I just did not understand her character’s motivations at all. Also as attractive as she was, it didn’t help disguise the fact that her performance was very mannered, to the point that it became quite distracting with all of her weird mouth movements that she does throughout the whole film.
It looks like Miike is having a ball here, just letting his imagination go wild, and I will admit that I enjoyed the start of the film, especially those kooky music videos that the Zebra Queen was singing, but ultimately “Zebraman 2” just wasn’t the kind of film that I enjoy, and as such I ultimately thought that this was another Miike misfire.