Runtime: 84 Minutes
Director/Writer: Minoru Kawasaki / Masakazu Migita, Eiji Tsuburaya
Stars: Keisuke Ueda, Ayano Yoshida Christie, Hide Fukamoto, Kei Grant, Hikomaro, Masami Horiuchi, Gota Ihashi
By Harris Dang
“Monster Seafood Wars” (2020) is directed by Japanese filmmaker Minoru Kawasaki
; who is best known for making cult classics such as “Executive Koala”, a black comedy about a salaryman (who is also a koala) who faces an identity crisis and a murder charge when he is falsely accused for killing his wife; and two underdog sports films including “Calamari Wrestler” and “Crab Goalkeeper”.
So when you see a film with a title like Kawasaki’s latest project “Monster Seafood Wars”, you know what you’re exactly what you’re in for; bonkers genre mashups that only the ingenuity of Japanese filmmakers can pull off. But with a premise like this one, did Kawasaki bite off more than he could chew? Let’s peek through the looking glass here, people.
stars as Yuta, a young apprentice at a fish market run by his father, who is an acclaimed chef. On a routine bicycle ride, he drops the delivery of a squid, a crab and an octopus into the Sumida River, which causes a chain reaction in creating three giant monsters that demolish the city.
“The melodrama and the mockumentary aspects tend to pile up and it can test the patience of the audience who are looking forward to more monster battles.”
As a quick response to the attack (due to Yuta’s involvement because he is also a scientist somehow), the government establishes the “Seafood Monster Attack Team” (SMAT) and an all-new plan of attack is immediately put into action. But little do the government know, there might be sinister motives behind the sudden attack that could be seen as human intervention.
“Monster Seafood Wars” is the first kaiju film of the this decade and if the fun factor of this film is of any indication, the genre is off to a good start. But what is the main conceit in this film that makes it stand out from the genre norm? The story is framed around a TV show format, which consists of news reports, cooking shows, investigative journalism and even tourist guides that is reminiscent of the storytelling in Paul Verhoeven
‘s “Robocop” (1987).
The narrative framework shows the impact and aftermath of the monster attacks in terms of citywide destruction, pop culture, democratic action and even culinary impact and writer/director Kawasaki mines the comedic juice for all of its worth; including slapstick comedy, social commentary and genre spoofing.
“Monster Seafood Wars” aims for the expected targets for fans of kaiju films and hits them with respectable accuracy. While it is not perfect, it is endearing that we still get films like this.”
The performances from the cast are all po-faced enough that it makes the ridiculous premise even funnier; although some performances are so entertainingly over-the-top, it looks like they might be experiencing a stroke eg. Yuya Asato
‘s performance as the rival of Yuta. Even the tired melodrama and conflicts between the humans (which involves a workplace and romantic rivalry) comes across as amusing due to the fact that such a conflict is happening even when there are huge monsters wrecking the city!
But the issue is that people who come in to watch this type of film come in to see the monsters. So it is a bit of a shame that the pacing of the film flags quite a bit in the second act, where the screen-time of the human counterparts take over. The melodrama and the mockumentary aspects tend to pile up and it can test the patience of the audience who are looking forward to more monster battles; especially when it just involves characters eating delicious seafood almost non-stop so please do not watch this film on an empty stomach!
Thankfully, the film recovers in the third act and it goes to crazy heights of hilarity. The monster battles are as hilariously silly as expected — with all the filmmaking gaffes, bodysuit action, goofy gadgetry and horrific special effects — and in that regard, they are an absolute success. With weapons involving vinegar launchers, giant kitchen knives and tokusatsu chefs, it is admirable of Kawasaki to keep the tradition of making kaiju films with such meager resources and it still works wonders here.
Overall, “Monster Seafood Wars” aims for the expected targets for fans of kaiju films and hits them with respectable accuracy. While it is not perfect, it is endearing that we still get films like this; particularly in the age of high-budget, CGI-heavy blockbuster alternatives like the American Godzilla films.
“Monster Seafood Wars” will be showing at Fantasia Film Festival from 20th August to 2nd September.