'Big Man Japan' is a comedic mockumentary film about the life of Dai Saito, a Kaiju fighter in present day Japan; well, present day Japan back when this movie was released in 2009, almost a decade ago. In the movie he has agreed to be the subject of a documentary style "day in the life" TV show in hopes of improving his standing with the population of Japan.
Saito is a middle aged salary man in Tokyo with a less than ideal home life. He and his wife are separated and facing divorce. Saito only gets to see his daughter once a month and his grandfather is in declining health and living in a nursing home. The only thing he really has going for him is his job and even that is on a downward slope. What is that job you ask? Dai Saito grows to a monstrous size to fight the various kaiju that torment Tokyo.
He isn't the first Big Man either. In fact, he is a fifth generation Big Man and before him his family was treated like heroes for defending Japan. He blames the changing times and the lack of interest the new generation has in kaiju fighting for his fall from grace. However, as the movie progresses, it becomes apparent that Saito is unpopular because he's just not good at his job. He is actually hilariously bad at it.
The movie stars, and is written and directed by Hitoshi Matsumoto, a professional comedian in Japan for over thirty years. He is most famous for being a founding member of the longest running comedy variety show in Japan called "Downtown: Gaki No Tsukai." Trust me, if you find Japanese humor... well, humorous, then "Downtown" is worth a look (particularly the KiKi series and the Batsu Games.)
'Big Man Japan,' possibly the quirkiest kaiju film ever made, is definitely not for everyone. The kaiju design isn't so much uninspired, as it is increasingly odd as the movie progresses. Matsumoto seems to take a light hearted approach to the world of kaiju by going with super simplistic designs for all of his monsters. Most of them have very humanoid features, which is definitely not what most imagine with they think of giant monsters attacking Japan.
The interactions between the characters in the film give it an eccentric, almost Wes Anderson vibe, particularly at the end. I won't give it away because I'm not a monster, but it involves some ridiculous Ultraman knockoffs. It's weird and honestly one of the funniest moments in the movie, but sadly is lack luster and feels out of place. I actually challenge you to watch the entire movie and not once ask "What the hell am I watching?!" I've watched it several times and I asked this every time.
'Big Man Japan' is a giant monster movie I feel like every kaiju fan worth his salt should see at least once. Even just to be able to say they've experienced it. I can't promise it will resonate with everyone the way Godzilla, Gamera, or the mighty Kong does, but I can guarantee that this movie will make an impact on you. Whether that's good or bad, in the end, is up to you.