blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Tokyo Zombie (2005, Satô Sakichi)

Asano Tadanobu and Aikawa Shô star in TOKYO ZOMBIE, directed by Satô Sakichi for Toshiba Entertainment Inc.

It’s probably impossible to describe Tokyo Zombie’s wackiness. It is a comedic zombie movie, but the zombies themselves aren’t comedic. They’re really not a part of the film except as… I don’t know. They’re not villains or monsters. They’re just silly. The center of Tokyo Zombie is love. Specifically, the love of jujitsu. The story follows two losers (Asano Tadanobu and Aikawa Sho) who work at a fire extinguisher factory through a zombie apocalypse. Aikawa is a jujitsu master and Asano is his student. The film’s at its funniest when its a serious–think Miramax Oscar-bait–rumination of these two men’s love of jujitsu. It’s absurd and wonderful at those times.

Tokyo Zombie isn’t particularly high-budgeted. It’s reserved when it’s on location and the CG buildings aren’t particularly good (it doesn’t matter), so director Satô Sakichi’s success stems both from his script and his handling of the situation. It works perfectly on this small scale, half because Satô’s willing to hang on to moments until they come to fruition (he’s got a four minute shot in here) and also because the characters are all so damned funny. The film’s full of violence and, in the beginning, there’s a lot of mean-spirited stuff. Except it’s not mean-spirited. Satô has a unique ability–he can make anything funny over a sustained period of time. It’s an extreme black comedy, mixed with slapstick and some other things. It makes fun of black comedy approach a little too, especially in the second half when poor people are at the mercy of the rich–who feed them to the lions zombies. Narratively, Tokyo Zombie looses its footing during the transition, especially since it establishes a five-year history between two characters without showing any of it. Satô pulls it all together for the end.

I just found out a) Tokyo Zombie is from a manga, which explains a lot, and b) it’s not available (traditionally) outside of Asia, which is a shame. I haven’t been as amused–maybe not laughing aloud, but truly enjoying the experience of watching the film–in a long time.



Directed by Satô Sakichi; screenplay by Satô, based on a manga by Hanakuma Yûsaku; director of photography, Ishii Isao; edited by Shimamura Yasushi; music by Futami Hiroshi; produced by Toyoshima Yuusaku and Umekawa Haruo; released by Toshiba Entertainment Inc.

Starring Asano Tadanobu (Fujio), Aikawa Shô (Mitsuo), Erika Okuda (Yang Geun-chan), Furuta Arata (Ishihara) and Matsuoka Hina (Fumiyo).


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