This year at the 2010 New York Asian Film Festival was the launch of a new studio, Sushi Typhoon. This event marked the world premiere of ALIEN VS NINJA and MUTANT GIRLS SQUAD and officially announced to the world the film collective of acclaimed cult directors Seiji Chiba, Yuji Shimomura, Noboru Iguchi, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Tak Sakaguchi, Sion Sono, Yudai Yamaguchi, Takashi Miike, all brought together by producer Yoshinori Chiba.
These gents are the dynamic powerhouse of today’s splatter-core cinema, pushing the envelope of WTF-ness by producing outrageously entertaining films at a break-neck speed on largely shoestring budgets and leaving a trail of mutilated corpses in their wake. They are the same maniacs that brought us MACHINE GIRL, TOYKO GORE POLICE, MOON CHILD, DEATH TRANCE, ROBO-GEISHA, ICHI THE KILLER, VISITOR Q, and so many more. Mark my words, Sushi Typhoon will single handedly produce some of the most jaw dropping, eye gouging films to be discussed for the next 5 years.
What makes this even more unique is that while the content of their stories is engineered from their home turf, their marketing strategy is aimed right at America. This business model showcases their blend of contemporary Japanese cinema as a means of funding their collective future endeavors through DVD sales. Sushi Typhoon is determined to offer American audiences a more mainstream pipeline into the often hard to find and obscure foreign exports that only die-hard fans seem to know about and truly appreciate. This is refreshing news for most American audiences that have grown tired and disillusioned with Hollywood’s lackluster remakes and tawdry PG-13 offerings.
A press release from the Sushi Typhoon website heralds their distinct call to action and peaks my attention in anticipation.
The brainchild of veteran producer Yoshinori Chiba, responsible for introducing directors Takashi Miike, Noboru Iguchi and Yoshihiro Nishimura to Western audiences, The Sushi Typhoon seeks to satisfy audiences who crave the good taste of bad taste, and for whom too much is never enough.
The Sushi Typhoon has brought together the best and brightest of Japan’s genre entertainment world, with Miike, Iguchi and Nishimura joined by the festival award-winning Sion Sono, Tak Sakaguchi and Yudai Yamaguchi. A tour-de-force of inventive, boundary-pushing entertainment, the first phase of The Sushi Typhoon’s films will be released in late 2010 and early 2011, with the company self-distributing their titles in North America with the assistance of FUNimation Entertainment, the Texas-based company responsible for releasing some of the best anime titles in America. FUNimation will begin releasing Sushi Typhoon titles to DVD and BluRay in early 2011.
I was lucky enough to attend screenings for both ALIEN VS NINJA and MUTANT GIRLS SQUAD to a packed house audience that included the filmmakers themselves and cast members from both movies. This year’s festival was geared at revisiting the old school style of Asian cinema, offering a plethora of new martial arts films, off-beat dramas, quirky comedies, men in monster suits, and just about anything for a flick hungry cinephile. The greatest thing about the festival is also the most heart breaking; there’s just too much wicked cool shit to see it all.
ALIEN VS NINJA has critics penning it as PREDATOR meets CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON. I say that’s what happens when someone who owns more Criterion DVDs than they do Troma films tries to describe something as simple and astounding as the next generation of men in monster suit movies.
Set in feudal Japan, a warring Shogun dispatches his clan of Ninjas to recon information on the Goja Ninjas when a fireball lights up the evening sky. Upon investigating they discover that it’s actually an alien bent on bloodshed and using humans as a host for its new parasitic domination.
The fight sequences are fast and frantic. They have exactly the feel of what you’d expect from a ninja; clean, precise, and deadly. Lead actor Masanori Mimoto delivers the goods as a cocky master of crafty martial arts know-how, displaying an on-screen presence as if he had been raised by Jean Claude Van Damme and Sonny Chiba.
The special effects are a blend of practical effects make-up and some instances of CGI, which worked immensely for the riotous crowd that hooted and hollered at the screening. Anytime you being to laugh or question the level of quality in a certain effect it’s not quickly edited out, but rather embraced and coupled with a more outlandish sight gag. Any historical accuracy is thrown out the window in regards to weapons or costuming, but if you’re watching ALIEN VS NINJA, you should damn sure know what to expect. There’s plenty of great blood splatter and the alien is a unique look, almost a Kaiju style dolphin left in a microwave. This is an exuberant film filled with lots of energy and plenty of fun, meant to be witnessed with a group of friends to share in its audacity and sleaze. It serves as a toe-crunching reminder of why ULTRAMAN was cool in the first place.
MUTANT GIRLS SQUAD follows the plight of Rin, a bullied school girl who, on her 16th birthday, must come to terms with the discovery that she is a mutant. When her parents are murdered by a government agency hell bent on eliminating her kind, she is taken in to train with other girls just like her. Her mutant power turns her hand into a razor talon claw. The others she trains with possess the abilities of “chainsaw ass” and “katana boobs” and other mind-melting madness. These powers truly have to be seen to be enjoyed for the adolescent appeal of such depravity. Rin must soon take sides as her new friends and caregivers declare war on normal humans by using their powers and explosives in suicide missions of terrorism.
Fans of TOKYO GORE POLICE and MACHINE GIRL will suck this up as if it poured out the nozzle of cheese in a can. The plot is roughly something out of comic book, pitting our heroine against who she is and her desire to belong in a society that rejects her. The film is divided into 3 chapters with each director offering a unique skill to the look and feel of the feature. Director Tak Sakaguchi also served as action choreographer, with director Noboru Iguchi serving as the writer and director Yoshihiro Nishimura delivering his trademarked special effects.
The action is fun and plucky, almost like you were having your faced ripped off by Tweety Bird. The female cast kicks just as much ass as any martial arts flick you’ll stumble across, but I guarantee this is the only one with nose guns and a decapitated father-daughter moment that will never let you look at birthday cake the same way again. The directors blend a subversive sense of politics with 4 tons of fake blood, boobs, and brain hemorrhaging mayhem. This is one film that could build a perverted X-men style franchise if passed around like a doobie to the rest of the Sushi Typhoon campfire circle. The filmmakers promised that if DVD sales warrant a demand, a sequel is already set to be lensed and developed into a series.
Keep your eyes peeled for the next round of releases from Sushi Typhoon. They include the slow burn drama from director Sion Sono, spun about a serial killer fish store owner called COLD FISH. Also there’s the Yoshihiro Nishimura flick HELLDRIVER, about a car full of Japanese school girls versus the transformed walking dead of Tokyo. KARATE ROBO ZABORGAR revolves around a man that has declared revenge on evil after his scientist father has been murdered. Taking on an experimental body suit, he transforms to fight crime. And following that are cyborg robotics overtaking the underworld of gangsters in YAKUZA WEAPON.
Be sure to check out Sushi Typhoon’s official website for news about local screenings and upcoming releases.