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Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 25, 2011 by  



Sexy, stylish and all-out crazy!  “Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City” may lack the underdog style that people loved of Takashi Miike’s first film, but if you love crazy antics, sexy costumes and a lot of action and are wanting to see a superhero storyline done in a J-Pop style…this film is for you!

Images courtesy of © 2010 Zebraman 2 Film Partners. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City

FILM RELEASE: 2010

DURATION: 123 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080i High Definition (16×9 HD Native), Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Japanese, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: November 29, 2011

Directed by Takashi Miike

Screenplay by Kankuro Kudo

Produced by Akio Hattori, Takashi Hirano, Arimasa Okada, Makoto Okada

Music by Yorihiro Ike, Yoshihiro Ike

Cinematography by Kazushige Tanaka

Edited by Kenji Yamashita

Casting by Yoshiko Arae

Art Direction by Akira Sakamoto

Starring:

Sho Aikawa as Zebraman

Riisa Naka as Zebra Queen

Tsuyoshi Abe as Niimi

Masahiro Inoue as Shimpei

The year is 2025. Tokyo has fallen and the world cries out for a hero. It cries for Zebraman. This striped crime fighter is the only hope for those who live in fear of the Zebra Queen, a hooved seductress out to conquer the world with the aide of her Miniskirt Zebra Police.

The Queen has stolen Zebraman’s powers and instituted Zebra Time: ten horrifying minutes each day when murder is legal! Without his super strength, Zebraman is just a guy with a mane – a broken-down hero unable to stop the onslaught of evil. Before he can take a bite out of the bad guys, Zebraman must find the young girl who holds the secret to regaining his ass-kicking powers and prove, once and for all, that a hero never changes his stripes!


In 2004, Takashi Miike (“13 Assassins”, “Ichi the Killer”, “Audition”) would surprise his viewers by taking on a superhero action/comedy film.

Taking place in 2010, the film would feature a story about a 3rd grade teacher and family man named Shinichi Ichikawa who’s life is not going all that great. His wife cheats on him, his teenage daughter dates older men and his son is constantly bullied because his father is a teacher. His students disrespect him.  Life, is not a happy one for Shinichi.

In order to get away from life, he dresses up at night as “Zebraman”, a character from an unpopular 1970’s tokusatsu TV series that he watched as a child. While crimes and murders occur near the school that he teaches, Shinichi decides to confront these criminals as Zebraman but quickly learns that these criminals are actually possessed by aliens and somehow, he absorbs a special power to take on the aliens.

As the film was enjoyed by many, Miike decided to create a second film but this time taking place in 2025, 15 years after the events of “Zebraman”.

This time around, Tokyo has been taken control of governor Kozo Aihara (played by Guadalcanal Taka) who has significantly cut crime in Japan and because of what he accomplished, to further cut down the crime, he has merged Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba and surrounding areas and renamed the region as Zebra City.

At 5:00 AM/PM, the government has allowed for “Zebra Time”, in which Zebra police and his Zebra Mini-Skirt Police can attack and kill any presumed criminal.  And during “Zebra Time”, his daughter Yui/the Zebra Queen played by Riisa Naka) performs for her audience and is a major pop star, while behind-the-scenes, she is a sadistic and psychotic woman!

Meanwhile, we are given a glimpse to what has happened to Zebraman/Shinichi Ichikawa.  15-years ago, he was captured by Kozo Aihara and for some reason, he and a young girl, Sumire (played by Mei Nagano) were experimented on for some reason and now his hair is white.

One day, he is seen running fro the Zebra police during Zebra Time and is shot dozens of times.  He is rescued by Junpei Ichiba (played by Naoki Tanaka) and taken to the White Horse camp that is off-limits to Zebra City and is run by Kohei Asano (played by Masahiro Inoue), a nurse and the leader of the camp.  Asano is shocked to see his former teacher Ichikawa at the camp but it appears he has lost all his memory within the last 15-years.

While rehabilitating, he is introduced by Junpei to the “Zebraman” TV series which Junpei played the hero in costume.  And immediately, Junpei starts to gain some memories and starts to go crazy.  While Asano sedates him, Junpei wants to know the truth of how Shinichi is able to not have any injuries when he was attacked by the Zebra police and Asano tells him the truth… Shinichi Ichikawa is the original Zebraman.

Meanwhile, Yui and her trusted samurai guardian named Niimi (played by Tsuyoshi Abe) are trying to find a girl who has an alien inside her.  If Yui can capture this alien, she can be the most powerful woman in the planet and release “Zebra Time” on the world.  But her father does not want them going after the alien because of the incidents that took place 15-years ago.  If anything, he doesn’t want her to pursue them and focus on bringing “Zebra Time” to the United States.

Back in the camp, Shinichi meets a girl named Sumire, who doesn’t talk.  But for some reason, she begins communicating with Shinichi and when she touches him, she awakens part of his memories and also revives his Zebraman powers.  Shinichi is not sure why Sumire can do such a thing but it also awakens Yui’s power and for some reason, she can feel what Shinichi is feeling.

Seeing her father as a distraction in obtaining the alien, she kills her father and immediately, they put the blame on the White Horse camp.  So, she creates a law to incorporate the camp into Zebra City in order to bring Zebra Time to the camp.

This leads to a clash between both Zebraman and Yui and Zebraman just realizes, she is him?  The darker side of him?  He sports the white for good, she sports the black for evil.

And as the Zebra Police, in a grand army led by Niimi attempts to go to the White Horse camp to get Sumire, will anyone be able to stop them from succeeding?

VIDEO:

“Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City” is presented in 1080i High Definition (2:40:1).  The film definitely looks fantastic for the majority of the film.  The film was shot with a lot of green screen and given a J-Pop heavy black, tad bit higher exposure to have this sort of look that is quite common in J-Pop music videos and also adds an interesting style to the film.  During Yui’s scenes, we are greeted with darker blacks and vibrant colors, while Shinichi’s scenes are daytime earthtones.  During the latter part of the film, at night, I did notice slight banding during the fire scenes but for the most part, the film looks very good.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City” is presented in Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and is presented with English subtitles.  The lossless audio for the film is what stands out the most.  Dialogue is crystal clear, as with the music which has a good amount of bass.  But the surround channels are used for ambiance, sirens and the more action-intensive sequences.  While the soundtrack is not fully immersive, you do get a good amount of surround during the action scenes.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City” comes with the following special features on a second Blu-ray disc:

  • The Making of Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City – (1:26:18) Behind the scenes on the making of “Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City”.  Especially the action sequences for actress Riisa Naka.
  • The Making of the “Zebra Queen’s Theme” Music Video – Behind-the-scenes making of the music video and interviews with Riisa Naka.
  • Interview with Director Takashi Miike – (6:56)  Interview with Director Takashi Miike who talks about the challenge he put on the talent and crew for the making of this film.
  • Interview with Riki Abe – (4:27) Riki Abe talks about playing Niimi.
  • Interview with Show Aikawa – (5:23) Show talks about reprising his role as Shinichi and Zebraman.
  • Interview with Masahiro Inoue – (4:57) Masahiro talks about preparing and playing the role of Asano.
  • Interview with Riisa Naka – (5:13) Riisa talks about playing Yui/Zebra Queen.
  • Original Commercial – (1:21) Original TV spots.
  • Theatrical Trailers – (1:44) The original theatrical trailers for “Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City”.
EXTRAS:
“Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City” comes with a DVD version of the film.

I suppose the best way to describe Takashi Miike’s “Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City” is ambitious and a Japanese popcorn action-film that tries to blend a superhero film with comedy.

And at times, I felt as if I was watching an extended version of a music video, so far from the concept of the original film which was more underdog who has been bullied and disrespected, saving the world from aliens.  In this case, screenwriter Kankuro Kudo (“Ping Pong”, “Zebraman”, “Go”, “Maiko Haaaan!!!”) was incorporating that crazy style that he was known for in “Maiko Haaaan!!!” of make-believe and a serious dramatic story with this sequel, and for the most part, many Japanese film critics and audiences didn’t go for it.

Everyone loves the underdog rising to the occasion type of film but “Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City” was trying to go for a storyline that seemed appropriate for an anime or even a video game, but perhaps that was the goal… to bring something that seemed plausible for those mediums and taking all the unbelievable craziness and bring it to the big screen.

And because the story seems to have unusual pacing, some western viewers may feel turned off by the overall film.

But if you are familiar with Takashi Miike films or even Kankuro Kudo screenplays and are familiar with Japanese action/comedy cinema, you know what you’re going to get, it’s just about how satisfied you feel after watching it.

As a Japanese popcorn action film, I felt that it had a good amount of laughs and action and for most guys, seeing actress Riisa Naka (who usually plays “pure”  dramatic roles) all bound with leather, push-up bra and showcasing a lot of skin and sexy dance choreography, I wouldn’t be surprised if people enjoyed the film much more because of her character role.

As for the Blu-ray release, it’s a pretty good Blu-ray release from FUNimation Entertainment as you get plenty of special features and also a DVD included.  Picture quality was good for 1080i but had some banding issues, but it’s a pretty slick and stylish presentation that I enjoyed.  And the lossless soundtrack was also enjoyable to listen as well.  If anything, I wish the direct-to-video movie (“Zebra Miniskirt Police no Gyakushu) featuring the Mini-Skirt Police was included (this was released several months before the film in Japan and takes place one year before the events of the second film).

But compared to the original “Zebraman”, the storyline of “Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City” is much weaker and also ambitious in trying to balance the action and comedy of this sci-fi superhero film.   There are quite a few plot holes and do we ever find out what happens to the Zebra Mini-Skirt Police?  They were just forgotten…

Needless to say, despite the weakness of the story, I do credit the costume designer especially for the outfit of the Zebra Queen and the final combined Zebraman outfit but most importantly, the visual effects team who did a good job.

For those who are wondering if they can watch this second film without seeing the first, the answer is “yes”.  You get a pretty good backstory to Shinichi and Zebraman but it would be nice if FUNimaton Entertainment does release the original “Zebraman” on Blu-ray.

But “Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City” is a crazy, fun, action film with a weak plot but where else can you find a film where you hear crazy sound effects, such as those that accompany Shinichi’s blinking or a huge alien (that reminded me of the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man of “Ghostbusters”) who is able to hurt people with it’s gigantic fart.

But the way it ended, I felt it was too ridiculous to end the film in such a way and it actually dampered my overall feeling for the film.

Overall, “Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City” may not be for everyone but if you love the crazy antics of action anime and manga series, love superhero films, you may find this sequel to be to your liking.

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