Monster SeaFood Wars (三大怪獣グルメ, Minoru Kawasaki, 2020) [Fantasia 2020]

Ever wondered what happens to a fallen kaiju? After Godzilla and friends have ransacked the city, there’s certainly a lot of cleaning up to do but disposing of kaiju corpses isn’t something your average monster movie gives a lot of thought to. According to Monster SeaFood Wars (三大怪獣グルメ, San Daikaiju Gourmet), there’s surprisingly good eating to be had in monster meat and when it comes to taking down a giant squid, perhaps it’s better to ask a chef rather than a scientist or the boffins from the Ministry of Defence. 

Switching between documentary sequences featuring talking heads looking back on the bizarre events and the events themselves, Monster SeaFood Wars follows scientist/sushi shop heir Yuta (Keisuke Ueda) who accidentally unleashes three giant kaiju on the city of Tokyo after he’s knocked off his bike while delivering some prize seafood to the local temple as an offering. In addition to being the heir to a sushi shop, Yuta is also a scientist apparently obsessed with giant monsters which he describes as “cute” and had been working on a serum, Setap Z, to turn ordinary foodstuffs giant in order to end world hunger. Before you know it, angry octopus Takolla and his frenemy Ikalla are on the rampage through the city. 

Of course, Yuta is the prime suspect which is perhaps why he somewhat arrogantly describes himself as the “biggest victim” while reluctantly agreeing to help out SMAT, Seafood Monster Attack Team, as they try to figure out how to mitigate the effect of Setap Z and stop the kaiju assault but is further irritated by being denied a spot on the team as a full member. Meanwhile, he’s also facing off against rival scientist Hikoma (Yuya Asato) who impresses with an obvious idea, vinegar, while charming Yuta’s childhood friend and unrequited crush Nana (Ayano Christie Yoshida) who now works for the Ministry of Defence and has only contempt for the weirdo monster geek. 

Yuta’s plan had been to let Takolla and Ikalla duke it out, assuming Takolla would win and then they’d somehow lure him into a giant octopus trap. Hikoma meanwhile suggests giant rice vinegar cannons, regular missiles already having proved ineffective against the sea creatures’ springy flesh. Hikoma’s plan would have worked, had it not been for the sudden and unexpected return of Kanilla whose hard shell protects him against the corrosive effects of the vinegar. During the fight, however, some of Takolla’s tentacles are chopped off, chunks of meaty white flesh falling to the ground as SMAT commander Hibiki (Ryo Kinomoto) unconsciously licks his lips. 

While very much a classic kaiju movie, Monster SeaFood Wars has its tongue firmly in its cheek, scaling back on the monster-fighting action for some gentle satire as the gang find they just can’t resist the urge find out what kaiju tastes like. The answer is surprisingly good, with the effect that kaiju meat becomes the latest culinary trend. “Forget bubble tea” one commentator says, monstrous squid is where it’s at. The TV news also comes in for a kicking with its placard unveiling confirming the kaiju’s name as well as a state of the nation address from an Abe-esque PM using the crisis to further his quest to “take back Japan” while speaking in a distinctly squeaky voice.

Meanwhile, drunk salarymen complain about their exploitative working conditions, joking that they’d need to be eight-armed octopuses to get through the amount of work expected of them only for Takolla to appear out of nowhere and slap them down seconds after they’ve made a few inappropriate remarks to some passing young ladies. Aside from the kaiju, the big bad does seem to be pervasive sexism with Ministry of Defence employee Nana often relegated to little more than eye candy and eventually the subject of an offensive bet between the icy Yuta and slick Hikoma whose equally sexist cheesy lines actually seem to impress her. 

Yuta, however, gets the chance to redeem himself by revealing that the really did make the formula to help starving people in Africa rather than just because he actively wanted to usher in the great kaiju apocalypse, owning his legacy as the son of a sushi shop while his best friend Niima (Shojiro Yokoi) has a few surprises of his own up his sleeve which prove that the best person to have at a giant octopus is a skilled chef. Of course Setap Z turns out to cause a few additional problems, accidentally spreading itself around after hitting the mosquito population, while it seems the villain is not quite done with their desire to misuse the serum, hinting at a possible sequel. A humorous but never mocking take on the classic tokusatsu, Monster SeaFood Wars pits culinary science against the giant monster threat and discovers that all you need to save the world is a good cook.


Monster SeaFood Wars streams in Canada from 20th August to 2nd September as part of this year’s online edition of Fantasia International Film Festival.

Original trailer (no subtitles)

HENTAIDA (I am a Pervert) (変態だ, Hajime Anzai, 2016)

B2_0912_OLYou can’t call your film “I am a Pervert” and not expect a certain sort of reaction. Then again, the debut feature from illustrator Hajime Anzai isn’t quite sure what reaction it wants. Part indie journey movie about a conflicted folk singer and part coming of age comedy in which a middle-aged man is forced to own his “perversion” following a horrific bear attack, HENTAIDA (I am a Pervert) (変態だ) is nothing if not perverse.

The nameless protagonist (Kenta Maeno) begins his feature-length voiceover by letting us in on his ignominious teenage history. A shy and lonely boy, he had no girlfriends or even friends of any kind. He took to his room and practiced guitar while the others his age misspent their youths in more exciting ways. No great academic success either, he took a year out to resit his college exams but even then only got into a second-rate institution. It was, at least, in Tokyo – his dream city, and therefore a partial answer to his dreams but when he overslept and missed orientation he found himself on a different path altogether when a large woman with giant frizzy hair press ganged him into joining the university’s rock group.

Bored with his lessons, the protagonist starts to enjoy playing in a band even if he was kind of forced into it. When the bandleader is arrested, the remaining members form a new mini group – The Rejection Letters, and go on to some minor success. Life, however, comes to the protagonist’s bandmates who cut their hair and get regular jobs after uni like you’re supposed to. Now calling himself “Reject Letter”, (or just “Reject” to his friends), the protagonist has been married for five years and has a young son. He’s happy, but he cannot rid himself of the need to visit regularly with an old groupie, Kaoruko (Tsukifuna Sarara), who happens to be a dominatrix (and his sometime manager).

Shooting in black and white, Anzai breaks into colour only twice – during a lengthy and exaggerated sex scene, and then again on a scene of extreme violence. The implication is that Reject’s world is cold and grey, devoid of sensation outside of physical communion with his wife and the final, visceral shock which leads to the inevitable declaration that he is indeed a “pervert”. Truth be told, Reject’s “perversion” is not such a serious one – his early relationship with Kaoruko awakened him to sadomasochism and he has been unable to give up this part of his life or indeed share it with his wife, continuing an “arrangement” if not quite an affair whilst being consumed by shame.

Events come to a head when Reject is invited to perform at a Christmas gig way up in the snowy mountains with some other acts from the circuit both musical and variety. Under the twin tortures of a very boring coach companion and Kaoruko’s desire to provide some “excitement”, Reject’s mind begins to crack. Remembering his wife’s desire to come see him play, he becomes paranoid that she’s hiding somewhere in the (extremely sparse) crowd and will therefore discover the existence of Kaoruko. His shame is so great that he doesn’t seem to realise it might be perfectly normal for his wife to meet his manager and not realise she’s also a dominatrix, and so he steals Kaoruko away and runs off up a snowy trail to certain doom where a very strange adventure awaits him.

Anzai tries to have it both ways, so to speak, in mixing an arty, ironic aesthetic with strange sex scenes running from the semi-explicit weirdness of the consensual lovemaking between Reject and his loving wife, and the slightly less consensual one with a rapidly disintegrating Kaoruko in subzero, bear infested territories. Modesty fog couples with a man throwing vibrators at a rampaging bear as odd mirrors of the implicit and explicit while Reject progresses towards his end goal of being able to own his “perversion” though it’s far from clear whether it’s loud and proud or a grudging confession considering what there is lying in wait in the woods. Perhaps too strange and lowkey for its own good, HENTAIDA (I am a Pervert) does at least live up to its name if only in its bizarre tale of a repressed man’s passage to some kind of self acceptance through a surreal, shame filled adventure.


Original trailer (no subtitles)