'Gothic Lolita Battle Bear' ('Nuigulumar Z'): Fantasia Review
Gonzo genre helmer Noboru Iguchi introduces a superhero powered by an alien teddy bear
Prolific Japanese filmmaker Noboru Iguchi is no stranger to Fantasia attendees, many of whom embrace this man-boy's juvenile obsessions and klutzy aesthetic. He has brought two films to the fest this year, and if one is easily described (Live concerns random strangers who are forced to fight each other to the death), Nuigulumar Z is anything but. A look at its alternate English title — Gothic Lolita Battle Bear — suggests the chaotic mess contained herein, a pop-culture slosh containing zombies, the dress-up lifestyle known as cosplay, aliens and a talking, superpowered teddy bear. While fans here responded with enthusiastic cheers, one guesses they comprised a large fraction of the number of English-speaking moviegoers capable of tolerating this tediously wacky, drawn-out affair, which will have a hard time even on video, where more engaging recipes of Japanese weirdness are easy to find.
Kyoko is a self-centered teen who resents the arrival of her clumsy aunt Yumeko, a Pollyannaish devotee of Japan's Victorian-styled "Lolita" subculture. (Forget the "Gothic" part of the title — this woman wears all pink frills and not a trace of black.) But Yumeko is secretly Kyoko's savior, in a way-too-jumbled-to-synopsize plot featuring a motivational speaker who breeds legions of zombies (among other henchmen, including a diaper-wearing grownup terrorist and a quartet of shy young women who shoot lasers from their nipples) to take over the world. Yumeko transforms into a heroine clad in a pink pleather catsuit, whose crimefighting partner is a teddy bear brought to life by a microbe from a far-off planet. "He's got the heart of a samurai," we're told, and for a few brief moments the toy makes this mess pretty funny.
Iguchi has no interest in making his violence and comic-book battles look real, or even giving them a cartoony coherence. Effects are enthusiastically fake-looking, something one might happily overlook if the script offered more of the self-lampooning dialogue that occasionally brightens a scene. ("For reasons I don't care to give, I speak Japanese," says the teddy bear from another planet; "We are here to cast doubt on self-deluded happiness," a marauding zombie matter-of-factly reports.) Instead, we're offered action and chase scenes that go on forever and family melodrama too flimsy to care about.
Production company: King Records
Cast: Shoko Nakagawa, Rina Takeda, Mao Ichimichi, Hiroshi Neko, Koto Takagi, Honoka Kitahara, Jiji Boo, Takumi Saito, Kami Hiraiwa, Koichi Yamadera, Sadao Abe
Director: Noboru Iguchi
Screenwriters: Noboru Iguchi, Jun Tsugita; based on the novel by Kenji Otsuki
Producers: Takayuki Matsuno, Junnosuke Miyamoto
Executive producer: Atsushi Moriyama
Director of photography: Satoshi Murakawa
Production designers: Masanao Ikeda, Shunji Yamashita
Costume designers: Miho Yoshida, Mitsuo Kumode
Editor: Yosuke Yafune
Music: Yasuhiko Fukuda
No rating, 101 minutes