Full Metal Yazuka

May 14, 2006

Movie Review By: SFAM

Year: 1997

Directed by: Takashi Miike

Written by: Itaru Era (screenplay), Hiroki Yamaguchi (story)

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Medium

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Low

Key Cast Members:

  • Kensuke Hagane: Tsuyoshi Ujiki
  • Rating: 5 out of 10


    Full Metal Yuzuka screen capture

     

    Overview: Full Metal Yazuka is simultaneously a campy low-budget Robocop Rip-off done with gangsters and an exercise in a mild form of extreme Japanese cinema. Director Takeshi Mike (best known for Ichi the Killer, but also did Andoromedia) does his trademark extreme blood spatters, and includes lots of head chopping, gun fighting, and a torture-rape-suicide scene thrown in for good measure. You won’t get any big picture thoughts out of this flick, but you might want to tune in for the crazy action and visuals.

     

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    The Story: Kensuke Hagane (Tsuyoshi Ujiki) is a slacker junior gangster who doesn’t show a lot of potential. In his mind, he wants to be a Yazuka – a tough guy with a code that’s feared by all. Unfortunately, he just doesn’t have what it takes. He sucks at fighting, enforcement, and worse – he even sucks at love making. He idolizes the older Tousa, a gangster tough guy extraordinaire that has a detailed dragon tattooed on his back. After Tousa gets taken prisoner for 7 years, Hagane perseveres to become an enforcer. Unfortunately, when released, the Yazuka gang betrays Tousa and shoots him down – Kensuke gets killed in the crossfire.

     

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    Then the weirdness begins – Hagane wakes up in a strange lab, and finds out that his head has been removed from his body and is now attached to a cyborg body, partially made up with Tousa’s remains. He has Tousa’s heart, hands, feet, tattooed back, and most importantly, his very large “member.” An insane genius scientist ((TETSUO’s Tomorowo Taguchi), for reasons never explained, has brought him back to life, but before Hagane agrees to work with the scientist, he must take revenge on those who killed him and Tousa.

     

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    Hagane goes all out, killing his way to the top, but eventually stops due to the pleading of his former friend. Along the way, he also finds Tousa’s mistress (Shoko Nakahara), and falls in love with her. Things go horribly wrong when she is taken prisoner. Hagane now has to finish what he started.

     

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    Yes, He’s a Cyborg, But…: Nothing in this movie should be taken too seriously, especially the cyborg aspects of this. Kensuke eats bullets and other assorted metals for energy, but apparently doesn’t even need to grind his teeth to chew them. His body is fully metal, but apparently he’s had an extra large dick grafted on as well. He does weird chants in order to temporarily turn off his emotions (apparently, this trips a jump switch of some kind). I could go on, but nothing in this depiction of cyborgs is intended to be anything other than the creation of a setting.

     

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    The Visuals: Full Metal Yazuka gives us a number of trademark Takeshi Mike shots, including massive screaming, gratuitous blood spurts shooting in all directions, torture and rape, and a variety of surreal action scenes. From a cyberpunk standpoint, the interesting visuals take place when Hagane is first transformed into a cyborg. In many ways, they resemble a lighter version of Android from Notre Dame’s visuals.

     

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    The Bottom Line: Full Metal Yazuka is interesting in that it was apparently made for a very low budget. There is enough here in terms of strange, extreme cyberpunk visuals that many might really enjoy this flick. Just don’t be expecting too much from the story. There are whole sets of scenes that go absolutely no where (the female cyborg chick, for instance), and many more that strain the bounds of coherence. But if you’re interested in watching a campy, extreme Japanese, non-sensical cyberpunk flick, you might want to give Full Metal Yazuka a try.

     

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    This post has been filed under Cyberpunk movies from 1990 – 1999, B Cyberpunk Cinema, 5 Star Rated Movies, Man-machine Interface by SFAM.
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    Serial Experiments: Lain

    January 19, 2006

    Year: 1998

    Directed by: Ryutaro Nakamura

    Written by: Chiaki Konaka

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Very High

    Key Cast Members:

  • Lain Iwakura: Kaori Shimizu
  • Rating: 9 out of 10


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    Overview: Serial Experiments Lain is a psychedelic, post-modern cyberpunk series that one wonders how the director ever managed to make. Lain centers on a very shy school girl who slowly begins to figure out that she is not what she seems to be. After getting a computer and connecting to the “wired,” something with is far more expansive than the internet, Lain begins to realize that she may not be human, and that truly, reality and the “self” is exists (or does not exist) on many different levels. As the story progresses, Lain “evolves” in terms of understanding what she is and her place in a very post-modern world. We also get many interesting side stories, including crime, teenage coming of age issues, and dastardly plots.

     

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    The pacing of Lain is just strange. Lain is NOT an action fest, nor is it by any means straight forward. Lain starts out rather slowly and gets weirder every episode. Truly, the story is told in a very “traditional” post-modern fashion in that we have fragmented vignettes structured in a seemingly random non-linear manner. Lain uses disconnected visuals to continually barrage the viewer with different textures, color schemes, and sounds. Yet over time, it becomes clear that the story is being spunk in seemingly a cyclical fashion, almost as if we are exploring a large Mandelbrot by starting at an outside spiral and slowly working our way around to the big picture. Each fragmented vignette gets added to until, at the end, we have a rather expansive tapestry to explore.

     

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    Many different and interesting philosophical ideas. But it is pure philosophical cyberpunk. Many key issues are discussed here, including:

    • What constitutes “reality”?
    • How real is time?
    • What constitutes the “self” as a singular entity?
    • What constitutes “God”?
    • How are sentient programs different from humans?
    • Is there such a thing as collective humanity?

     

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    The visuals in Lain really aren’t there to “Wow” us as they are in some animes – instead they are often designed to provoke moods and thought patterns (BTW, there are so many screen caps available, that there was no need to take my own). Among the thought provoking visuals, we get:

    • Psychedelic visions that explore multiple “selves” versus a singular “I”
    • Juxtapositions of noise with false clarity
    • Information Theory described visually
    • An ever increasing feeling “disbelievability” each time the drab and normal school scene is shown.

     

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    The Bottom Line: In the end, we are left with very open-ended thoughts. Serial Experiments Lain does not provide us with answers, instead, it opens us up to questions. And while I might argue that the post-modern pacing got too circular in places, and that I might argue the same tale could have been spun in half the time, the overall effect is rather extraordinary.

     

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    Tags: cyberpunk movie review anime Serial Experiments Lain

    This post has been filed under Cyberpunk movies from 1990 – 1999, Hacker Movies, Surreal Cyberpunk Movies, VR Movies, Animes, 9 Star Movies, AI (no body), Awesome Cyberpunk Themes, Made for TV by SFAM.
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