Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Maari, Risa Sawaki, Reina Fujii
Directed by Hiroshi Nagai
A few weeks back I reviewed a Switchblade Pictures DVD release, Nu-Meri: Book of the New Spawn (review here), in which I stated my case that the Japanese are weird. Now I find myself reviewing another Switchblade Pictures release, Kigai, which further emboldens my stance that the Japanese are weird. They are well aware of this as Kigai translates to “weird city”. Indeed.
Kigai is a four-episode series that I assume aired on Japanese television given the shot-on-HD look of the show and the total lack of nudity or gore. Kigai follows the paranormal exploits of overly emotional student Miki and her best friend Reiko. The synopsis on the DVD box insists Reiko's character is an archaeologist, but nothing I saw her do outside of cracking open some books on the subject even hinted that she was anything more than a lazy Japanese girl living in a messy apartment.
Each episode follows the same formula: Introduce a supernatural menace, Miki inexplicably learns of the incident and immediately deems it something they need to investigate even when she has no real evidence to back up her intuition, and then Miki and Reiko consult with this wacky professor of the paranormal for a primer in their monster-of-the-week subject matter before setting off to encounter the menace.
Also, tickling and underwear butt shots. The first three episodes each feature at least one scene in which Miki in some way irritates Reiko and Reiko comically punishes Miki by tickling her to the ground. These moments of girl-on-girl tickling go on so long I got the sense it was to be titillating to the viewer. The director would also periodically have Reiko in her underwear reading a book on the floor crouched on all fours with her derriere arched up in the air for the camera to focus in on. That was only during the first two episodes; by the third we were on to watching Reiko take PG-rated showers. Even when trying to sexualize young women, the Japanese still find a way to be weird.
Then there is the matter of this young supernatural boy with white hair dressed in ceremonial garb referred to as the "Celestial Prince" assisting them during their otherworldly encounters. Something about the white wig on his head got me thinking of a scene in one of the Naked Gun movies where Leslie Nielsen imagined his future children - a young boy with the same hair as him; the Prince is young Frank Drebin if he were Japanese, emo, and dressed like a wizard. There are also hints of a romance between him and Miki, which is especially weird given this boy only appears to be about ten years old.
The first episode deals with a monster bird from Japanese mythology that gets unearthed by a construction crew, a monster bird brought to life via laughable puppetry and bargain basement digital effects work. It primarily just sits on a rooftop squawking as Miki tearfully pleads with it to fly off somewhere safe before the authorities show up and kill it.
The first episode truly set the tone for the series. Atrocious writing with barely any story structure or character development; only the faintest sense of a narrative flow; surreal in how poorly constructed the storytelling was. Kigai is stuck in a vicious circle going from being really bad to so bad it's funny and then right back around to just being mind-numbingly bad again. It proved to be just peculiar enough to barely hold my interest (the brevity of the episodes also helped) while still being lame enough to make me question why I kept watching.
Episode two starts off promisingly enough with a demon dressed in a black cloak with the hands and face of a melted Skeletor costume escaping from a mirror. It turns out the demon isn't such a bad creature of darkness after all, even something of an Al Gore environmentalist. Things do not end well for the mirror world hellbeast, causing Miki to sob uncontrollably as if a close family member had died.
The third episode boasts an almost indescribable plot in the sense that I had little idea what exactly was going on. Something to do with aliens and people being infected with green goo dripping from faucets, a Japanese man in black stalks the Celestial Prince, and a Rotoscoped green water goo man attempts to kill the girls by strangling them with a blue tentacle. Sorry, fellows; only attempted tentacle asphyxiation – no hentai action here.
Episode three ends with a cliffhanger that leads into the fourth and final installment – easily the best – that offers up some good old fashioned giant monster action. A rubber-suit monster that looks like Titanosaurus from Terror of Mechagodzilla with a head of Edgar Winter hair begins laying waste to cardboard buildings. And sure enough, the whole time Miki stands on a nearby roof tearfully pleading with both the monster to stop wrecking the city and the fighter jets to stop blasting the creature.
Have I mentioned that the Japanese are weird?
2 out of 5
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