Asiansanity - Karate-Robo Zaborgar
We haven’t done a trilogy of reviews in a while…not since the start of 2016! So let’s take a look at three films that are only linked by the fact that they were made in the Far East and they’re kinda bonkers…without further ado, I present to you ASIANSANITY! The opening salvo is a Japanese film: Karate-Robo Zaborgar.
It’s become almost cliché, hasn’t it? If it’s really weird shit…and you guess it’s from Japan, well, odds are pretty good you might be right. [Unless it’s a Chinese knock-off…but we’re getting ahead of ourselves! – Ed.] Karate Robo Zaborgar is no exception. I want to be very clear how messed up this movie is: upon my first viewing, I was getting pretty knackered on margaritas…by halfway through the film, I had to shut it off simply because things had gotten SO WEIRD that I didn’t know if what I was seeing was actually what was in the film or if it was the influence of the alcohol.
It wasn’t the booze.
I hate to waste a lead in like that, but alas we have to do a bit of homework because this film ends up being rooted in an old 70s tokusatsu series: Denjin Zaborger. And the film goes to great lengths to capture that vibe and for the most part succeeds very well. However, I start off with this aspect for the review because, like many remakes/reboots, there are a fair number of homages to the original source material. While I’ve got a functional knowledge of this kind of fare…sadly it’s not exhaustive…and as such, yeah, never heard of this one. As such…it’s safe to say that most of these allusions are lost on me. I guess it’s how most normal people feel going into the current wave of superhero movies: while they end up enjoying the story and the film in general…most if not all easter eggs will be lost on them, if they recognize them at all. In this case, as a high-functioning nerd, I could tell what the homages were, but they were lost on me…until the end credits where some snippets from the original series are played. For people familiar with the series, this ends up being a nostalgic turn but for viewers like me, this was more of a “oh, so THAT’S what that was!” sort of moment…retroactively adding some depth to what I’d just ingested.
The basic plot is as follows: Yutaka Daimon, a member of Japan’s Secret Police, protects members of the Japanese Diet [Their parliament…not sushi, ramen and pocky sticks. – Ed.] with the help of his helmet controlled transforming robot, Zaborgar, from members of the evil Sigma organization…a collection of cyborgs under the control of Dr. Akunomiya, who has his eye on global domination. Sounds like a fairly standard tokusatsu plot, right? Well, yes…but hang onto your hats, because we’re about to take a sharp left into Crazytown…
See, Yutaka had a twin brother. When their mother died in childbirth, it was up to the father to take care of the twins. WEIRD SHIT #1 – Said father breast feeds both newborns, but only Yutaka survives and grows up. Filled with sadness, the elder Daimon takes the ill-fated twin’s DNA and uses it as the foundation for his life’s work…the Karate-Robo Zaborgar. Does that count as WEIRD SHIT #2? [Actually, all things considered, no…that bit is fairly tame in comparison…moving on. – Ed.] Right, so let’s move to Sigma’s evil plan: stealing DNA from Japan’s leaders in order to complete a giant mecha that will rain down destruction and allow Sigma to take over first Japan, then the world. It’s how they opt to take the DNA that falls under WEIRD SHIT #2: A samurai robot that, when its faceplate is removed, is a giant pair of mutated lips that…yeah, you know what, we’re just going to stop there. It’s just something you have to see. In charge of this samurai robot, and Sigma’s number two, is Miss Borg…a scantily clad cyborg with metallic antenna and…plenty of other surprises. Breast missiles are obvious…I mean, we’ve seen those before. [Thanks Aphrodite-A! You’ll always have a special place in my childhood. – Ed.] So, that doesn’t really qualify for WEIRD SHIT #3…but when Sigma turns against Miss Borg for failing too many times and Yutaka and Zaborgar come to her aid…well…what do you expect when boy meets cyborg girl? WEIRD SHIT #3: Tentacle breasts. Sigh…Japan and their tentacles…when will I ever learn? While we’re on the topic of breasts, we might as well finish the trifecta. Sigma ends up developing three additional cyborgs like Miss Borg…clad in football helmets (with antenna, of course) and…well, not much else save for metal bikini tops. And what issues forth from those tops, I hear you very cautiously asking? [No, it’s more like a “You’re going to tell me anyway and I’m going to hate you for it, so let’s just get it over with,” sort of tone. – Ed.] I’ll start off gently…yes, there are breast missiles, but then there’s WEIRD SHIT #4: Dragon head breasts. Carnivorous dragon head breasts. [There’s another kind? – Ed.] And that’s where I stopped on my first viewing. Actually, that’s not entirely true…I stopped when one of these cyborgs had dropped her legs in favor of jets in the…what…hip-holes maybe…created by said absence, then flew around the screen with not only dragon head breasts seeking prey…but also a dragon head coming out of her ass doing the same. Let’s go ahead and call that WEIRD SHIT #4.5. It doesn’t get its own number as it’s a variation on a theme…but still…it ain’t right. Oh, I nearly forgot, Sigma was responsible for Yutaka’s father’s end as well. Turns out they captured him and then proceeded to…ahem…in the parlance of the movie ‘humiliated him with big, strong men’. Thankfully this isn’t a case of “Death by Bunga Bunga”…as the elder Dr. Daimon ends up escaping and taking his own life by jumping off of Sigma’s floating fortress. Did I mention that Sigma’s floating fortress looks kinda like a scrotum? Does that qualify as WEIRD SHIT #5? Or is it NOT shaped like a scrotum…just that exposure to this movie has caused my mind to automatically jump to the worst/weirdest case scenario? I’ll leave that for you, dear reader, to determine on your own… Oh…that’s right! I remember what WEIRD SHIT #5 is…that would be the ant robot that sprays acid from its mouth and thorax. Care to guess his name? Diarrhea Robot. Yup. At this point, I can’t make this shit up. [And that’s saying a lot…really. – Ed.]
So, at this point, we’re halfway through the movie…what should we be taking with us into the second half? Aside from the folks behind this film are INCREDIBLY fucked up? By the middle of the movie, we have Yutaka betraying ‘justice’ [It’s a Japanese film, so type it right…JUSTICE! – Ed.] by asking Zaborgar to attack the police who are attacking Miss Borg…the end result of this being Zaborgar and Miss Borg being destroyed together. Although she was destroyed, she left an egg/pertrified uterus containing the fruits of her and Yutaka’s…what have you. [Call it what it is…believe it or not, yes, it qualifies as tentacle porn. – Ed.] Thus…our hero is left alone and ashamed. Fade to black.
TITLE CARD and BA BA BA, BA BA BAP BAP BA!
Flash forward 25 years later. Sigma is close to finally completing their destructive robot…with the twins from Miss Borg and Yutaka’s union fully grown and integral parts of the plan to destroy Japan once and for all. Can an aged and disgraced Yutaka find a way to resurrect his long lost brother robot? Can he convince his children that the path they’re currently on is evil? Can Sigma be stopped?
Truthfully, I won’t go into much detail about the second half as I did for the first for a few reasons. First off, to avoid going all Interstellar on this film. Second, while the second half does have some enjoyable moments, it’s not QUITE as bat shit crazy as the first half. [Damning with faint praise…we know. – Ed.] Lastly, things play out about as you’d expect. I’ll simply say that Sigma’s final robot threat is…well, pretty Japanese.
While the computer effects in the film are serviceable, those that are expecting top notch effects or seamless blending are going to be in for a disappointment. However, these weaknesses actually play well into the tokusatsu vibe/nostalgia that is the main force behind the film itself. It’d be like criticizing later Showa series Godzilla films for not looking as good as the very first Gojira…you’re missing the point. If you’re a fan of people in bizarre costumes fighting with limited Kung Fu…or if you find yourself perpetually curious for just how far down the depths of cinema Japan is willing to go, then this is an easy recommendation…as it is both a solid homage and funny parody of the TV shows from the tokusatsu hey-day. If you’re going into this expecting something as serious as what the cover of the DVD/Blu-Ray is advertising, you’re only setting yourself up to be disappointed. Personally, I can heartily recommend this as a rental. But if you’re just a little twisted…or a lot…this is a disc worth buying…especially since you can pick it up pretty cheap. An additional recommendation for picking it up on disc? Check out the mini-episodes in the special features. They not only provide some insight to some of the supporting characters from the original series that just didn’t have any time to shine in the film (such as Sigma’s cyborg generals), but they’re awfully damn funny to boot…provided, again, that you find the usual Japanese craziness funny.