Gintama has set this year's biggest opening weekend for a homegrown live-action movie in Japan. Based on Hideaki Sorachi’s best-selling gag manga, the film has raked in more than 4 billion yen and had a Chinese release in 8,000 theaters making it the most featured Japanese film in China. After enjoying tremendous success in its home country and other parts of Asia, the Yuichi Fukuda-directed comedy — starring Oguri Shun, Masaki Suda, and Hashimoto Kanna — will also be shown in the US, Canada, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, and more.
Despite being successful at the box-office and faithful to the original source material, some critics expressed disapproval in their reviews by describing it as exhausting, gross, and juvenile. Well, Gintama is understandably difficult for the uninitiated and foreign audiences.
Some people may find it totally hilarious while others think it’s simply cringeworthy but movies are often subjective especially when it comes to comedy. Besides, this isn’t the first time that Japan has given the world a kind of film that would make you say, “What the heck did I just watch?!”.
For those who have high tolerance for absurdity, here’s a list of the most recent off-the-wall Japanese comedy flicks that you ought to see.
5. Hentai Kamen (2013)
Kyosuke Shikijo is a mild-mannered student with a strong sense of justice that he inherited from his detective father. In his attempt to save hostages from a bank robbery, he accidentally puts on panties instead of a mask and awakens his sadistic mother’s perverted blood that runs through his veins. From then on, he transforms into Hentai Kamen (The Pervert Mask) to thwart criminals and to protect the love of his life from other powerful perverts.
Gintama director Yuichi Fukuda and lead actor Oguri Shun previously worked together to write the screenplay for this live-action adaptation of Hentai Kamen. The latter, who is an outspoken fan of Keishū Ando’s comedy manga, also played a big part in casting his Hana Kimi co-star Ryohei Suzuki as the protagonist. The movie also stars Tokyo Ghoul actress Fumika Shimizu as Aiko Himeno, with versatile actors Tsuyoshi Muro, Jiro Sato, and Yasuda Ken who often appear in Yuichi Fukuda’s comedies. It is followed by a sequel titled Hentai Kamen: Abnormal Crisis.
4. The Mole Song: Undercover Agent Reiji (2014)
Based on the manga series Mogura no Uta by Noboru Takahashi, the inept but upright cop, Kikukawa Reiji, gets fired for disciplinary issues but is actually tasked with a dangerous mission to infiltrate Sukiya-Kai, the largest and most nefarious crime syndicate in the Kanto region. After a series of tests, he manages to gain the favor of the gang members as he continues to work his way up the organizational ladder and arrest its fourth generation boss.
A collaboration by writer Kudo Kankuro and director Takashi Miike is expected to be nothing short of a riot. Ikuta Toma (The Brain Man) proves his comedic flair as the zealous police officer in this visually loud and over the top movie. Two years later, his character gets another undercover mission within a Chinese mafia in the sequel, The Mole Song: Hong Kong Capriccio.
3. The Virgin Psychics (2015)
Sometani Shota (Parasyte) reprised his role for the movie version of the television series Minna! Esper Dayo! directed by Sion Sono.
Based on the sci-fi comedy manga by Kiminori Wakasugi, The Virgin Psychics centers on Kamogawa Yoshiro, a virgin who often fantasizes about his school mate Asami Mae. One day, he wakes up and realizes that he has acquired the ability to read other people’s minds. Apparently, he isn’t the only one. Ikeda Elaiza replaces Kaho for the role of Hirano Miyuki, Yoshiro’s childhood friend who also has telepathic abilities. The other ESP-ers in town include cafe worker Teru who can perform telekinesis for erotic toys and basketball player Yosuke Enomoto who can teleport when he’s completely naked. Together, they protect the world from evil ESP-ers.
2. Too Young To Die (2016)
Kamiki Ryunosuke (Soujiro in Rurouni Kenshin, the voice of Taki in Your Name) plays Daisuke, a teenager who plans to confess his feelings for his crush on the day of the school trip. He fails to do so when he dies in a bus crash and goes straight to Buddhist hell. There he meets the eccentric Killer K (Nagase Tomoya), the demon frontman of the infernal rock band called Hells. Along with band members Cozy and Jako, he helps Daisuke in his quest to reincarnate before he loses his seven chances and turns into a demon too.
The movie is written and directed by Kudo Kankuro. With charismatic characters, energetic musical interludes, interesting rock references, and unexpectedly heartwarming moments, Too Young to Die is one hell of a film.
1. Maniac Hero (2016)
Based on the manga Seikatsu (Kanzen ban) by Shigeyuki Fukumitsu, Masahiro Higashide (Death Note Light UP the NEW World) plays Hidetoshi Nakatsu, a man who goes through quarter-life crisis when he gets laid off from his job at a convenience store and struggles to find a real purpose in life. He finds the answer after meeting Toshida Makoto played by Masataka Kubota (Tokyo Ghoul), a Spiderman-like martial artist who cleverly uses improvised gadgets to (steal panties) fight random street thugs. Inspired by his heroic actions, Nakatsu sets crime-fighting as his new goal in life. Together with high school girl Kaori and salaryman Kusaki, these ordinary citizens form a vigilante group to punish evil-doers.
While Gintama live-action is the current talk of the town, the movies on this list are a bit similar to it in terms of their quirky storylines, endearing characters, exaggerated anime-like expressions, the use of computer-generated images, and the casting of the hottest stars in Japanese cinema today.
Have you seen any of these films?