Some of the best Japanese comedy has a distinct flavour of irony, and what's more, they have no problem flicking the dial over to high absurdity. The latest example of this is Big Man Japan. It is co-written, directed by and starring Hitoshi Matsumoto, a comedian of the underplay school of character comedy. He plays a forty something eccentric that is being followed by a camera crew as they document his unremarkable and somewhat depressing life.
He desperately holds onto the one thing that makes him exceptional. When he is called upon, he transforms into Dai-Nipponjin, a giant that defends Tokyo from intruding monsters. Of course, he confronts these enemies of civilisation pretty much like the lost soul he is when normal size. You do like him for trying, but his lack of style means the general populus aren't exactly cheering him on.
He battles the strangest of giant monsters that, and this is precisely the point, don't make any sense at all. You can quickly guess there is something intrinsically Japanese about this. It helps to understand the tradition of not just Japanese monster movies, but their superheroes and even some of the classic anime. But it still works if you just let the absurdity of it all wash over you.There are several very weird and very funny sequences, but it all rests upon an air of melancholy, of seeing a hero beset by life's anxieties caused by love, family and money. Only as Dai-Nipponjin is he somebody important, but that's slipping away like everything else in his drab and pointless life. He might be the saviour of Japan, but as he battles each stupid monster, it only highlights how he needs to get his normal life together, overcome his arrested development and move on.
How this all ends hurt my brain. My conscious mind is somewhat bemused and still trying to figure it out. But I think my unconscious got the point. I suspect this because though my head still aches a little, it does in a delightful way.