Zombie movies have been loping out of Japan recently. Examples include last year’s Z Island and 2013’s Miss Zombie by much-heralded director Sabu. The present work, based on a blockbuster manga of the same name, remarkably crosses over from B-movie Land to big-budget, well-acted dramedy of first-class standards.
This really should be no surprise as director Shinsuke Sato has previously made fascinating art-house flicks (Sand Clock) as well as major tent-pole hits (Gantz, Gantz: Perfect Answer). In addition the lead here, Yo Oizumi is one of the hottest and most talented young actors in Japan today.
The pic starts off very Shaun of the Dead-like as Hideo (Oizumi) leads a comically drab existence as an assistant manga-drawer with highly dissatisfied girlfriend Tekko (Miho Suzuki). The deadpan humor is delicious. It takes him a while to notice the zombie plague (which they call zoquun or ZQN) is descending on Tokyo. Once Tekko turns into a beast and his office is overrun, the ne’er-do-well Hideo must escape the city with high school girl Hiromi (Kasumi Arimura).
They end up at a Fuji outlet mall with nurse Tsugumi (Masami Nagasawa), fighting both zombies and power-crazed humans running the survivors camp there, in Lord of the Flies fashion. Will Hideo become the hero he’s always dreamed of? Managing to make a zombie movie touching, funny, emotional, and tense is no small feat, but Sato pulls it off. This is a mini-masterpiece, with many festival awards to its name. Go see it. (126 min.)