A one-joke mockumentary (is there any other kind?) about a misfit superhero, Hitoshi Matsumoto’s kaiju eiga comedy milks a slight idea for all it’s worth and then some. Framed as a TV-show portrait of Big Man Japan (Matsumoto)—derided scion of a family of superheroes—the movie gets substantial mileage out of its protagonist’s hilariously dazed affect. Fielding questions from his cluttered home, this rumpled slacker discusses his monster-slamming duties with all the charisma of the world’s least pretentious stamp collector. The film’s erratic pacing only adds to the humor value, enhancing the sense of artlessness.
Like Will Smith’s Hancock, our hero hasn’t exactly inspired fan clubs. During an interview, his young daughter keeps her identity hidden. When the big man juices himself on electricity to turn into a giant, the public complains he’s wasting energy. His biggest source of income is ads. (“Try to keep the logo visible, please,” his agent complains during a televised monster smackdown.) The film grinds to a halt during its animated fight sequences, which interrupt the mock-doc illusion and seem too sincere for their own good. That sense of cheerful zaniness eventually becomes enervating; reserving its weirdest structural experiments for the end, Big Man Japan itself feels slightly bloated.