Monster Seafood Wars


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Monster Seafood Wars
"It is strongly advisable that you have sushi to hand." | Photo: Courtesy of Fantasia

Yuta (Keisuke Ueda) is just your average low budget Japanese movie teenager. In between gaming, ogling girls and making scientific breakthroughs with his best friend, he works in his dad's seafood business. It's not very prosperous and he doesn't make a good wage but he's proud of what they do. One day, however, he falls off his bike when delivering sushi and three pieces - squid, octopus and crab - get catapulted into Tokyo Bay. It just so happens that in this same water, top secret chemical Setap Z - which Yuta himself worked on - has recently been spilled. Before you know it, a giant squid is stomping Tokyo, with its octopus and crab companions soon joining the fray.

This isn't the sort of kaiju film that most Western viewers are likely to be familiar with, though films of this sort have existed alongside the more polished genre works for a long time - director Minoru Kawasaki has made literally dozens of them. Rather than sophisticated monster graphics or even men in rubber suits, Monster Seafood Wars sees people in inflatable kaiju suits fighting and knocking over cheap model buildings with their flailing tentacles. There isn't even a pretence at realism, but they do have a certain charm, with big kawaii eyes and a playful approach to mass destruction. All in all, it was a natural choice for Fantasia 2020.

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In the face of this destruction, a dedicated military task force is hastily assembled under the auspices of the Japan Self-Defense Forces. SMAT - the Seafood Monster Attack Team - is charged with bringing down the kaiju in whatever way it can. Bizarrely, this begins with handing the important work of saving the city over to teenagers, including our young hero and his former classmate Nana (Ayano Yoshida Christie), now a professional defence analyst and still the object of his desires.

Events do not proceed as Yuta might have hoped. Nana seems to prefer the attentions of slightly older boy Hikoma (Yuya Asato), who can afford to take her out to expensive restaurants and has mastered the art of flattery. Yuta's attempts at flirting mostly seem to consist of calling her a slut for so much as speaking to other boys, even though she's not his girlfriend - which, this being what it is, doesn't stop her being attracted to him. He may be pretty but it will be clear to any adult that his proper role in life is as disposable monster bait. Instead of answering this noble calling, however, he faces off against Hikoma in trying to develop the best anti-kaiju weapon, leading to a series of increasingly silly human/monster stand-offs.

Though viewers may tire of all these teenage histrionics and wonder that the protagonists seem more invested in them than in saving Japan, there are still some entertaining kaiju action scenes, plus another theme which, rumour has it, has its roots in a long-ago discarded Toho script. What do you do when a giant piece of seafood sliced off from the end of a tentacle lands in your neighbourhood? If you're a restaurateur, you certainly won't want it going to waste. And when the people of Tokyo realise just how good kaiju sushi tastes, a mad craze for the stuff ensues. Scenes depicting this are by far the best part of the film (showing, amongst other things, that here's some genuine talent in the crew), and are marvellously entertaining. It is strongly advisable that you have sushi to hand because they will make you very, very hungry.

As ridiculous as it is, Monster Seafood Wars will not be for everyone, but most of those who get past the title will already be sold. Not the best of its kind, it drags in places, but it has moments of real brilliance and its anarchic cheerfulness is fun throughout. It also has a fantastic Tokyo-stomping end credits tune.

Reviewed on: 20 Aug 2020
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Monster Seafood Wars packshot
A young master at the Tsukiji Fish Market, accidentally drops his meal of mixed seafood into the Sumida River. Some time afterwards a gigantic mutated squid monster arises from the water.

Director: Minoru Kawasaki

Writer: Minoru Kawasaki, Masakazu Migita

Starring: Yûya Asato, Ayano Yoshida Christie, Hide Fukumoto, Kei Grant, Hikomaro

Year: 2020

Runtime: 84 minutes

Country: Japan


Fantasia 2020

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