Minoru Kawasaki, the connoisseur behind such Japanese absurdism as The Calamari Wrestler and Executive Koala, is resurrecting Kaiju cinema with his new culinary invention called “Monster Gourmet.” Monster SeaFood Wars dares to dream of a world where skyscraper-tall mollusks can eradicate world hunger, but when unleashed, cause havoc with Toho-inspired dangers. What looks like Godzilla’s B-squad enemies stroll into Tokyo for some demolition redecorations as genetically enlarged heavyweights rowdily rumble. Creature costumes are fantastically detailed, green screen backgrounds comically lackluster, and spirits maintain their zany heights throughout this killer comfort food riot.
I agree with one of the special forces agents when he remarks about how “Monster Meat” gives him the craving for a beer. Monster SeaFood Wars will have the same effect on viewers (both a warning and invitation).
Yuta Tanuma (Keisuke Ueda) is the suspected cause of all Japan’s supersized problems since the squid, octopus, and crab beasts were intended to be his annual offering to a shrine. Yuta is knocked off his bike mid-route, spilling his basket into the Sumida River. Soon after that, Takolla (octopus), Ikalla (squid), and Kanilla (crab) rise from the depths as towering threats. The Seafood Monster Attack Team recruits Yuta due to his experiences with Setap Z, a chemical agent once thought to be the answer to global starvation. If anyone can reverse or combat the serum’s effects, it’s Yuta. Too bad others would rather sabotage his efforts and let Japan crumble.
I’m sorry, did you think Monster SeaFood Wars would only indulge your deepest Rampage desires as actors in colorful, foamy suits attempt to wrestle each other while arts-and-crafts cityscapes are destroyed in the process? Kawasaki’s film is about scientific intentions turning into weapons of tomorrow. It’s about humanitarian efforts being the cause of widespread pandemonium. Once “Monster Meat” is introduced, the narrative focus flips from action to commentary as society ignores imminent danger in response to their new favorite cuisine. Why care about being crushed underfoot when Takolla Carpaccio tastes like “getting hit by lightning?” The film’s nature is always inquisitive, which is why it’s structured as a “look back,” cutting between talking heads who recall historical events and the ongoing narrative at hand (essentially flashbacks).
Don’t worry, Monster SeaFood Wars is indulgently silly, slapstick, and whatever other descriptors I can use that conveys the utter playset-like nature of Kawasaki’s sandbox. Special effects outside of the practical Kaiju getups span blurry stock photos of Japanese landscapes used as backdrops to toy cars that “explode” once monsters strike back. When Yuta explains his methods for stopping Takolla and Ikalla, before Kanilla is in the picture, the command center monitors display crayon drawings of the targets. Those are the kind of choices Kawasaki empowers. Whatever echoes do-it-yourself motivations, be that crude pictorial overlays of images thrown into frame or intentionally impractical creature effects when soldiers get too close for safety.
Kawasaki’s main course feels ordered off the kid’s menu, which is both a “knock” on craftsmanship but a commendation in terms of imagination. Yuta’s journey bursts with obscurities such as his defensive “rice vinegar cannon,” his rival Hikoma’s commitment to solving Japan’s crisis before Yuta (to win a date with their shared crush), and the lengthy interlude where behemoths retreat as attention directs towards Japan’s obsession with “Monster Meat.” Something that becomes a delicacy, as YouTubers chase online stardom by collecting samples or restaurants rake in profits by selling beefed-up monster meals. It’s all so wacky as tourists from varied nations clamor to slurp down Ikalla delicacies that are chunked off during battles, but legitimate commentaries are somehow worth notation.
Albeit, I do wish these tasty asides were shrunken down as even at eightyish minutes, Monster SeaFood Wars can feel overstuffed.
Then again, throwdowns between dinners turned into the main pay-per-view event are everything Toho fans should cherish. Whoever plays Kanilla is my new hero, as his crab-walkin’ entrance and shrunken intimidation stance truly anoints him-or-her as the crustacean king-or-queen. These are the highlights that define Monster SeaFood Wars, as SMAT commanders helplessly salivate until the final act when Yuta’s blindfolded gamer-champion roommate calls in his secret weapon that…I will not spoil. But culinary Kaiju horror fans, it’s a dream in a chef’s cap. As the “baddies” brawl, toppling over architecture, slamming one another like they’re trying out for professional wrestling rings, all you can do is smile.
If you can only take your cinema deathly serious, Monster SeaFood Wars isn’t for you. If you love your Kaiju movies starring J-Pop sensations, with rock’em, sock’em underwater champions, and yucking it up for not even 90 minutes? Monster SeaFood Wars is a special kind of Friday night treat that screams for an accompanying bottle of sake. Drink whenever miniature sets are stomped to pieces, drink whenever a smackdown makes you howl, and drink every time you enjoy yourself far too much. It’s what this film intends, for those willing to escape reality by selecting an entree that kicks, punches, and tentacle-slaps right back.
/Film Review: 7.5 out of 10
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/Film – ‘Slash Film: ‘Monster SeaFood Wars’ is a Wild Kaiju Comedy That Delivers the Delicious Goods [Fantasia Film Festival]’
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August 21, 2020