Minoru Kawasaki’s loving tribute to kaiju movies drags whenever the action moves away from the monsters.
(This review is part of our coverage of the 2020 Fantasia International Film Festival.)
Movies don’t always have to be serious. They don’t always have to reflect real world events, or teach us how to live. Sometimes they can just be about making it to the party of the year in time, or escaping a masked serial killer. Or, y’know, a giant octopus attacking Tokyo.
Monster Seafood Wars will immediately disappear from your mind when it’s over, never to be thought about again, but it’s an extremely good-natured parody of Toho Studio movies, right down to the miniature work and actors wearing monster costumes while stomping around a pretend Tokyo.
Its primary mistake is far too often moving the action away from the monsters in favor of the dull human characters and their dull human character plots. Still, you have to love a kaiju movie that gives a killer squid eyelashes.
Shot as a documentary, Monster Seafood Wars recounts the battle waged against the monsters by the Seafood Monster Attack Team (or S.M.A.T.). Among the team members are Yuta (Ketsuke Ueda), his rival Hikoma (Yuya Asato), and the girl they’re both attracted to (Ayano Yoshida Christie). Yuta is responsible for the sea creatures growing to such enormous size, after experimenting with a mysterious chemical called Setap Z.
When attacking the monsters with a cannon that shoots rice vinegar (which looks hilariously like they’re being pissed on) doesn’t work, the team must work to come up with a different solution before they’re battered and deep fried in revenge.
Monster Seafood Wars will immediately disappear from your mind when it’s over, never to be thought about again, but it’s an extremely good-natured parody.
When Monster Seafood Wars works, it’s delightfully silly, particularly a sequence in which it’s discovered that the monsters, when killed and prepared by professional chefs, are delicious. The comical swooning the character do over the food may make you lovingly reminisce over the best meal you ever had (though it presumably wasn’t made from a giant octopus). I won’t spoil how the team manages to finally bring the gigantic sea creature menace to an end, but it’s as entertaining as any action sequence you’re likely to see this year.
The problem is that the monsters only account for maybe 30% of the movie. Much of the rest of it focuses on unengaging human characters, and a dreadfully tiresome love triangle. It plays out exactly as you’d expect it to, and adds nothing to the overall story. Often, it feels as though Kawasaki only had a half hour worth of plot, and wrote the rest of it on the fly to get it to feature length. That’s a shame, because when it’s on point, Monster Seafood Wars is a lot of fun. Like Fantasia 2019’s Lake Michigan Monster, it successfully walks the difficult line between parody and mockery. It’s clear that Kawasaki loves the kaiju genre. If only he had given the audience more of it.