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Senrigan (Asao Manabu 2000)



Genre: Techno Thriller

review in one breath

Senrigan (which means "Clairvoyance") is a techno-thriller in which a mind-controlling doomsday cult threatens to blow up half of Japan in the hope of ushering in a new world order. I use the term "techno-thriller" quite loosely here, since you may find yourself searching hard for both the technos and the thrill...

The movie is based on the work of author Keisuke Matsuoka who currently has several novels in publication (many with "Senrigan" in the title) involving modern Japan's struggle against the technologically savvy "midori no saru" (Green Monkey) cult. In Senrigan we are introduced to the cult through several bombings and its apparent ability to utterly control the thoughts and actions of its "followers". In each emergency scenario, the government's top "shrink" is brought in to talk the hysteric cult follower out of his/her predicament. (It should be noted for the sake of accuracy, however, that every cult member she talks to ends up committing suicide during her intervention attempts.) In one of the more dramatic crises, Midori no Saru gains control over the computer system of an American Missile System inside Japan (?). As the large red LED counter approaches the 10 second mark, our intuitive shrink comes up with the encrypted password through a series of reflective analysis of the thought patterns of the dead guy on the floor. Good thing her young, tough protege is standing there observing this analytical (guess) methodology, since in the movie's climactic ending this entire scene will repeat itself verbatim with the exception that the protege will be doing the guessing and save the world (!) from the Green Monkey.

Japan undoubtedly has in its social consciousness a place etched for terrorist cults. Members of the real-life Aum Shinrikyo Cult, responsible for the deadly sarin gas poisoning within Tokyo's subway system, are (still) this month being sentenced and appear in the news frequently. This awareness of the possibility and terror of doomsday cults bent of social destruction is no doubt fuel for the fire behind the Matsuoka novels' success.

But be that as it may, the audience of Senrigan is in for some mediocre entertainment. It reminded me of a Japanese made-for-TV drama. On the one hand, it has just enough star power to make the production appear in the mainstream. But in many ways this movie simply showcases the (wannabe) star power of Miki Mizuno, the tough cadet who saves the day, so much so that it becomes almost a promotional piece. Here, she is a kung-fu babe capable of Matrix-like maneuvers (set to techno music). On the OTHER (much larger) hand, when it comes to employing non-Japanese actors, the casting director must have simply combed the streets of Roppongi with flyers. Amazingly, only a few of the supposedly "American" soldiers spoke American English. One soldier in particular, who was given several speaking lines spoke such unintelligible English that I wished I had subtitles for his speech! And the Japanese spoken by the American commander was so accent-ridden that I was cringing. My guess was that he learned Japanese predominantly for his lines since even the idioms came out in the same stacatto as the rest of the dialogue.

But okay, maybe you don't get as uptight about the language thing as I, and you'd like to hear more about the suspense and special effects. Well so would I. The mind-control center to which the hypnotized victims are called to gather is a large Kwannon (female buddha) structure in Tokyo (akin to an enlightened statue of liberty). Once inside the obviously modern and beautifully constructed Kwannon, however, the movie set appears to be within a dark cave with hewn rock wall. Inside the head of the Kwannon sits a massive supercomputer bomb which looks amazingly like a large trash heap of cables and doo-dads, with the exception of a large red LED display. (Not the one mentioned above. This is another red LED counter.) Despite the formidable technology employed by the Green Monkey Cult, our kung-fu enabled starlette (Mizuno) is able to dismantle the bomb, run through the Kwannon corridors, and hurl it through what is known to the ancient Zen Masters as the Buddha Ear. What follows is a cheezy superimposed explosion whose only damage will be to the viewer who is once again blasted into the realization that she/he is watching a wannabe B-movie.

To make a long story short, our heroine discovers that it is the "shrink" who is the mastermind behind the Green Monkey terrorism. The shrink has her sites set on destroying half the population of Japan and mind-controlling the remaining half. She has gained her control thus far through the dissemination of self-help DVDs which, once watched, causes hypnosis and mind control. (I think I experienced this while watching this movie.) But that's only the beginning! Those who are really under her control eventually undergo a lobotomy making them willing Zombies. It soon becomes apparent that the Green Monkey Zombies are everywhere, including the security-sensitive (yet often overthrown) American missile compound. Such zombies are identifiable through the large, poorly healed scars across their skull, which no one seemed to notice until our heroine put two and two together. (!)

Will our villian get away with her evil plan, and destroy half the population of Japan? Will the surviviors of the apocalyptic holocaust be forced into mind submission through happy self-help DVDs? Will we ever figure out why the hell they named themselves after Green Monkeys?

Spoiler warning!


In the last attempt by the villainous shrink to take over the world, she takes control over the American Missile Compound in Japan and then regrets that she showed our heroine her psycho-analytical bag 'o tricks (in the previous "taking over the american missile compound" episode) as the latter recreates the password guessing game which, of course, saves the day. This results in the American soldiers congratulating and high-fiving each other in unintelligible English and even poorer Japanese.

The End.

(Or is it? We see the villianous shrink walking down a busy Tokyo street! Hmmm.)

cultural interest violence sex strangeness
If you want to know what Japanese spoken with a thick American accent sounds like, step right up. Several self-inflicted shots to the head (different heads, different shots), leaving little to the imagination, including bullet exit trajectories. One death by standing too close to large explosion. Severe cruelty and irreparable damage to the English language. No sex. No nudity. Not even between green monkeys! The 150 ft tall Buddha statue overlooking the Tokyo skyline should get a little praise here. That's about all.

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