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Bob Doto [Film Festival 07.19.10] Japan movie review scifi action

Year: 2010
Directors: Tomo'o Haraguchi
Writers: Masakazu Migita
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Bob Doto
Rating: 6.5 out of 10

By most people’s standards Tomoo Haraguchi’s DEATH KAPPA is a stupid film. Silly sound effects, ridiculous dancing “monsters” (humans in rubber suits grooving to children’s pop music), and a pretty absurd plot all make for the worst movie of all time. However, DEATH KAPPA is also pretty funny, meanders like any off-the-wall Japanese film should, and contains enough self-awareness to keep the more well-versed kaiju audience in attention. So, yes, while DEATH KAPPA is goofy beyond the most misplaced of fart jokes, it’s also satire and thus elbows its way into a roomier review.

The story goes like this: A young girl named Kanako (Misato Hirata) returns to her village after a failed attempt at being a pop sensation in Tokyo to witness her grandmother being run over by a group of drunk driving youths, her dying words asking Kanako to take care of their “Kappa.” And what is a Kappa, you ask? A Kappa is local spirit (lizard-ish in kind) that inhabits streams and rivers. It has the shell of a tortoise and the mischievousness of a leprechaun. It also has a plate on it’s head. When Kanako runs into said Kappa being captured by government agents bent on making super weapons out of the playful creatures, a story of good versus evil quickly unfolds before our very eyes.

I’m not sure we really have an English word for a film like DEATH KAPPA. In Japanese DK is straight up kaiju, that is, a Japanese monster film. But here, monster films, well, where are they? Anyway, DK reminds me less of a film at all, and more of what I might find my little cousins watching on Saturday morning television. So much is that the case, that had I been watching DK as a pilot for a television show, I’d put money on its immediate and viral success. It’s got a storyline holey like Swiss cheese that could yield any number of seasons on the tube. It’s got monsters that can be super cute when you need a little love to go around. It’s got a beautiful lead. It’s got lasers, crime, revenge, self-awareness (for the older kids checking it out), as well as stupidity and humor. It’s a frickin’ childrens’ success waiting to happen, I say!

Alas, DK is not a television show, but rather an eighty-minute film. That means you’ve got no commercials to give your brain some down time (did I just wish for commercials???), and chances are you’re in a dark room watching this beast with no where to stretch your legs. There’s no burgers on the grill waiting for you, and you can’t play a board game while the story unfolds. So, a little boredom might creep in. For me, I need a better (read: cheaper) environmental context to really appreciate this film. Watching it with late-night friends non-committal enough to allow the film’s funnier moments to sucker punch you in the face might help.

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