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The World Sinks Except Japan (Kawasaki Minoru 2006)


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The World Sinks Except Japan
[Nihon igai zenbu chinbotsu]

Genre: Cornball Parody and Political Satire

review in one breath

Due to sudden tectonic shifts which only the half-crazy Dr. Tadokoro can explain, all of earth's land masses have sunk into the sea with the exception (of course) of JAPAN turning the island nation into the global relief center for the world's population. How will Japan handle its new role as the earth's only government? Directed by Kawasaki Minoru, this film is a parody of the widely popular "Japan Sinks" novel and films.


intro

In 1973 author Komatsu Sakyo wrote a sci-fi thriller entitled "Japan Sinks" wherein the Japanese government and population attempt to survive the gradual sinking of their homeland. Komatsu's novel became a best seller and that same year his disaster-themed narrative was made into the film (also entitled) "Japan Sinks" directed by Moritani Shiro (who in earlier years served as assistant director on several of Akira Kurosawa's seminal films.). Following that, it was turned into a popular TV series. This hype over the novel and its adaptations also spawned a parody by way of a short story entitled "The World Sinks Except Japan" by one of Japan's most popular sci-fi authors, Tsutsui Yasutaka.

When the announcement was made that director Higuchi Shinji was preparing a 2006 remake of Moritani's 1973 film, director Kawasaki Minoru responded by announcing his own film based on Tsutsui's parody. The result is this film, borrowing its name from Tsutsui's novel "The World Sinks Except Japan". Both the remake and this parody were released to the Japanese public in 2006.

The World Sinks Except Japan does not take itself seriously for one moment and offers a spoof-filled, elbow-in-the-ribs comedic approach to often sensitive subjects. I've run across some negative reaction to this film for content deemed arrogant or racially prejudiced, particularly in scenes where non-Japanese characters, due to their sudden immigrant status, are literally grovelling at the feet of their Japanese hosts. But the intent of such scenes is not so much the grovelling foreigners but the response of the Japanese hosts themselves. This is first and foremost a satire on much of Japanese society and culture -- from its fascination with Hollywood, its historical insistence on the preeminence of the Shinto religion, its aggressive actions during the War, its current international tensions with Russia, China and Korea, and its highly insular mentality. All are front and center, depicted in a highly negative light as nearly every Japanese character ends up explicitly or implicitly demonstrating these.

Another reason for not taking itself seriously is undoubtedly its budget, which appears to be shoe-string at best. Although the film can rightly be categorized as a "sci-fi", it is only so in its premise. Scenes of "destruction" are limited to what appears to be stock footage from old Godzilla films of small cardboard buildings being blown up. And with the exception of a few scenes shot outdoors, the vast majority of the film takes place in four rooms, with easily half the storyline taking place in a pub (whose entertainer is a chubby, blond Elvis impersonator).

The scenario of the world's population flocking to Japan creates a lot of opportunity for hilarity and moral skewering. Top Hollywood talent are reduced to walking the streets (as in prostitution) and pawning their most famous scenes for nickels and dimes with bar patrons. And here you'll see several well known "monomane" actors (celebrity impersonators) doing Japanese versions of Bruce Willis and the Terminator. On the other side of the pub, former world leaders line up to kiss the increasingly elated ass of the Japanese Prime Minister who loves to see them squirm. As I mentioned earlier, this scenario also allows for a rather strong critique of the Japanese social mentality by imagining the national reaction should Japan suddenly be granted preeminent status in the world. Would they exhibit kindness and humanitarianism? Or would they somehow strive to capitalize on their situation? The film leaves little doubt as to its own guess.

story

The nation of Japan suddenly finds itself the last remaining land mass on the entire planet. As the world's population streams to the island nation, things go from awkward to unbearable. Food, work and housing are all in short supply, quickly leading to a massive scenario of the "haves" and "have nots". Regardless of any previous stature or fame, all non-Japanese immigrants now find themselves living in cardboard shanty towns and eking out a living through any means possible.

Meanwhile, the Japanese government attempts to step up its control of the increasingly unruly situation, dispatching the newly formed Gaijin (Foreigner) Attacjk Team (GAT), to round up and isolate "illegal" aliens.

Meanwhile (complicated plot, eh?), an unidentified group seems intent on overthrowing the Japanese government.

Then, when things look their bleakest, the half-crazed geology specialist rides in (on a tricycle) with a very important announcement.

verdict

This is definitely cornball -- PURE CORNBALL -- and is probably best viewed or enjoyed in light of the "Japan Sinks" film (which I will review here soon). My guess is it also requires some appreciation (?) of the prejudices currently alive and well in Japanese society. (Knowing such prejudices already exist to varying degrees will undoubtedly help soften the experience of seeing them so blatantly objectified and satirized in the film.)

The film definitely has some funny moments but nothing which catapults it out of mediocrity. There are plenty of Caucasian and African (American) talent cast as well, including the very buxom and beautimous Delcea Mihaela Gabriela.

Given that this is primarily a parody, I think it works well only in reference to the film it is parodying. In other words, as a stand alone film divorced from its connection to "Japan Sinks", I doubt that many viewers will find it very entertaining. Its probably true that its only redeeming quality is its parody, which means viewers will likely need to see "Japan Sinks" as well to understand fully what this is all about.

This is now available in Region 1 DVD with subtitles. Its sister film "Japan Sinks" is currently unavailable in Western distribution. It was, however, briefly available via Tartan Video under the title "Doomsday: The Sinking of Japan". They have since discontinued distribution, but there are likely a few copies still floating around (get it?).

cultural interest violence sex strangeness
See Bill Clinton meet a Bunny at a Bar! See Kim Jong Il wield his plastic machine gun! See the Japanese Terminator! Only cardboard buildings are brutalized in this film. Despite the appearance of sexy Gabriela in the tub and the three frilly maids, no apocalyptic hubba hubba. Somewhat humorous imagination of Japan as the sole refuge for the world's population.

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