Tokyo Zombie’s lost boys & angry women

Helen McCarthy takes on Japan’s walking dead in Tokyo Zombie.

Tokyo Zombie

Tadanobu Asano is a magnificent actor, the Toshiro Mifune of his generation. He works with great directors – Takashi Miike, Nagisa Oshima, Takeshi Kitano. He can play comedy and tragedy, is comfortable in physical and contemplative roles. He’s even making his mark on screens outside his own country, with roles in Kenneth Branagh’s Thor and Peter Berg’s upcoming Battleship.

Like Mifune’s, Asano’s career embraces both serious cinema and the kind often described as disposable. Tokyo Zombie falls into the second category, but don’t pass it by: it’s disposable, yes; flawed, definitely; enjoyable, massively.

Based on the manga by Yusaku Hanakuma, Tokyo Zombie is the story of two downtrodden workers with a passion for ju-jitsu.  Asano shows little of the effortless cool that led Spanish newspaper El Mundo to label him “Johnny Depp’s Japanese cousin” – he’s an Afro-haired dork named Fujio. His bald co-worker Mitsuo (actor-composer Show Aikawa) trains him to fight. They get more fight practice than they bargained for when an army of the undead shambles from a toxic waste dump to rip Japanese society apart.

The buddy-movie beginning looks set to segue into a road movie, but a twist separates the odd couple and pushes us straight into post-apocalyptic territory via an animated interlude. Five years down the line, Tokyo is a feudal nightmare where rich survivors live in protected enclaves, enslaving the poor and forcing them to fight captive zombies for entertainment. Fujio uses the skills his old friend taught him to stay alive and keep his new family safe, but there’s a Mitsuo-shaped gap in his life. The relationship is so brilliantly written and acted that the interplay between the two characters goes on, despite the absence of one of them for a good chunk of the film.

The brilliance is uneven. The gags veer from inspired to gross. The mix of live action, animation, screwball humour and lo-fi sfx is choppy and occasionally annoying. Yet the movie’s heart, the relationship between two likeable losers, is strong and solid. Asano and Aikawa create humanity out of absurdity, credibility out of confusion. Despite the zombie apocalypse, the film has more comedy than gore, because the zombie motif is just an excuse.

Tokyo Zombie is a bleak allegory of modern Japan, where whining, emasculated men and disengaged youth grovel to overbearing women old and young, a gerontocracy where the ultimate symbol of the State is a helpless retard. The women in the movie, dead or alive, are aggressive, unsentimental and terrifyingly adult. The men are passive, infantile and fixated on each other.

This is not a horror movie. It’s a film about growing up, embracing responsibility and accepting that you can’t outrun, or fight off, death without also losing the things that make life worth living – friendship, love and the ability to choose, if not your own path, then at least the way you walk it. Tokyo Zombie delivers a lot of fun, but at its heart is a big question: what happens next for Japan?

Tokyo Zombie is out now on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.

Our Favourite Anime Powers

    With the long-awaited release of the Dragon Ball Z Movie Collections and Dragon Ball Super, we've found ourselves thinking about our favourite anime powers. Here are some of our favourites: SUPER SAIYAN Perhaps the greatest anime power of all. Who hasn’t watched...

Dragon Ball FighterZ Public Launch Event

January 2018 promises to be an incredible one for Dragon Ball fans! Not only are there more Dragon Ball Z Movie Collections and the next part of Dragon Ball Super on the way, there's also the release of the much anticipated Dragon Ball Z FighterZ. To celebrate the...

Manga UK’s 2017 Rewind

We'd like to start this off by saying a big thank you to you for all of your support this year – 2017 has been fantastic for us here at Manga UK and that's all all down to you. Here's what we achieved... At May's MCM London Comic you helped us raise £380 for the Oska...

December 26th – Out This Week

Hosoda Collection: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time Blu-ray Collector’s Edition The Collector’s Edition includes deluxe packaging with a gorgeous premium clear sleeve, plus an exclusive 52 page book full of behind-the-scenes content about the film, including making-of...

Anime Characters We’d Love To Spend Christmas With

    Christmas is almost here! If you could spend the day with any anime character, who would you choose and why? Here are our choices: Hatake Kakashi Naruto Naruto's Kakashi may not be an obvious choice when it comes to spending Christmas with someone, but he's...

Digimon – Favourite Character Poll

With the release of the wonderful Digimon Adventure Tri – The Movie Part 3: Confession finally upon us, we'd like to know who your favourite Digimon character is! About Digimon Tri 3:​ Meicoomon vanishes into the distorted abyss. Shaken, Tai and the others search for...

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This