Tokyo Zombie (2005)
By: Devon B. on June 10, 2009  | 
Eastern Eye (Australia). Regions 2 & 4, PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). Japanese DD 2.0. 92 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Sakichi Satô
Starring: Tadanobu Asano, Shô Aikawa, Erika Okuda
Screenplay: Sakichi Satô
Country: Japan
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Don't be fooled by claims that Tokyo Zombie is a Japanese Shaun of the Dead. Shaun of the Dead is a well plotted, absolutely brilliant fusion of horror and comedy, Tokyo Zombie is just a zany comedy that happens to feature zombies. I can't imagine anyone watching this and getting even remotely scared, whereas the zombies in Shaun of the Dead at least present a threat to the characters.

In Tokyo Zombie a mountain of rubbish, dubbed Black Fuji, has arisen in the outskirts of Tokyo. It's a handy tip where people can dispose of all sorts of junk: cans, white goods, cars, even the occasional annoying mother-in-law. Black Fuji is also a good spot for a cheap funeral, but unfortunately the haphazard dumping has made it a bit of a toxic place.

Two self-involved idiots are practicing jujitsu when they are supposed to be working. Their boss gets mad at them, and is killed in the resulting brouhaha. The two idiots bury the boss at Black Fuji, but the toxic mountain reanimates him and several others buried there. He returns the next day, and realising something is wrong if the dead are coming back to life, the pair set out on a journey to either Russia or the States. It's kinda up for debate. Neither of them seem worried that they are driving and on a large island, but, as I said, they are idiots. About halfway through an anime section appears, then the story jumps ahead five years and turns into Land of the Dead… with pyramids and a new deathsport that our lead has been well trained for.

Tokyo Zombie makes it clear early on it's going to be a surreal experience; immediately I started to wonder if it wasn't a Manga adaptation and low and behold it was. It also seems like the film is presenting two different stories from the Manga, because it completely changes the plotline at the halfway mark. It almost feels like two short movies put together so you don't have to wait years for the sequel. Adding to the Manga feel, character actions are exaggerated, with our two leads being totally unconcerned for others at times, unless they think helping people might get them laid. The film does nothing to dispel the idea that Japanese men are perverts, with characters constantly trying to cop looks or feels or just generally molest someone, with a paedophile tone in more than one encounter.

The two leads (one sporting a mighty boosh, the other in a silly bald cap) can be very funny at times, but this is a movie where the comedy doesn't always leap the cultural divide. I'm not sure if the more bizarre comedic moments are taken directly from the Manga, but there were certainly a few times where I was wondering why the hell something was happening, even in this surreal world.

Unfortunately, Tokyo Zombie has borrowed too obviously from previous films, including key gags from Braindead and Dumb and Dumber, and Tokyo Zombie has yet another zombie blowjob gone wrong sequence. Perhaps Tokyo Zombie's source material came up with the ideas long before, but even so, the material should've been re-evaluated for the film.
The slick says the film is in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, but it's 2.35:1. The colours are a bit muted, but otherwise the print is very sharp and clear.
I thought because the slick had the ratio wrong maybe it messed up the audio options, too. But, no, Tokyo Zombie has a Japanese 2.0 mix. The Region 1 release also has a 2.0 Japanese mix and a 5.1 English dub, so that release is probably technically worse than the Region 4 because English dubs suck. The Region 2 DVD seems to be identical to the Region 4 release, bar a few trailers, so I began to wonder if there was a 5.1 Japanese mix at all. After much research I have found that there is a limited edition German release with a Japanese 5.1 track, but it only has German subtitles, so that may not be of much use to many Australians. It does establish the mix is out there, though. I guess it's a big ask to get a 5.1 mix that the other English speaking territories didn't, but it's still a negative for the Region 4 release. Other than not being 5.1, the 2.0 mix is fine.
Extra Features
To make up for a lack of the proper sound mix, there're a few extras. There's a nearly hour long making of that covers the usual stuff like adapting the Manga, the casting, and the jujitsu training. A roughly half hour Q&A with the two stars is also included, and naturally the first question is about their hair in the film. Rounding things off are two trailers, three TV spots, and some Eastern Eye trailers.
The Verdict
If you can't get enough of the outré found in Japanese cinema, Tokyo Zombie may be of interest, but don't go in thinking it'll have Flower of Flesh and Blood (or even Junk) style violence; Tokyo Zombie's a comedy first and foremost with very little on screen grue. It's not a boring film, but isn't one I'll be watching over and over.
Movie Score
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