The trailer for Big Tits Zombie (Kyonyu Dragon)—done all grainy and presented by Snobbish International Pictures, no less—is a testament to what irony has done to popular culture. Director Takao Nakano is quite content to straddle the line between genius and insanity, and while he might envy genius, I feel insanity is more his cup of tea.
Look, the concept is simple and one would say, blissfully so. What could an audience want more than zombies and tits? If this was made in the ‘80s, it would be considered the High Temple of Camp—no less than four out of ten hipsters would be carrying an official “20 Year Anniversary Tote Bag”. It has everything that the West has come to expect from “Weird Japan”: nonsensical plots, batshit insanity, gratuitous nudity, cannibalism? Check and CHECK.
But there has to be so much more. The Japanese culture so adored/reviled in the West is not Japanese culture. The truth lies somewhere between the Zen-and-Geisha-and-Tea-Ceremony ideal, and the Anime-and-Neon-and-Schoolgirl-Fetish debasement. And so when a young, irreverent filmmaker makes such a film, a foreign audience might be baffled where a Japanese audience might detect all those digs and jibes at them thar gaijin.
Japanese culture has been expropriated to various ends in the West since at least the rage of Japonisme made Western European artists swoon in fanning adoration. Director Takao Nakano is merely aping that trend. If the likes of Quentin Tarantino can make an homage to old Japanese films based on Western perceptions of Japanese culture, then why can’t contemporary directors make an homage out of that? The hilarious/ridiculous/brilliant Sukiyaki Django did a quite wonderful job a few years back.
And now, we have Big Tits Zombie. It clearly is a joke. The badly narrated English, the misspelled adult model names (Sola? oh, haha, Japanese people can’t pronounce the letter ‘r’), nyotai mori, samurais-geishas-MountFuji-oh my!
There has been a recent-ish trend (of sorts) in Japanese cinema that has been mocking Japanese pop culture. Few other cultures have had the reset button pressed on their national ideas like Japan in the post-World War II period. Films like parody Everything Other than Japan Sinks, Machine Girl, and Big Man Japan can’t be taken at face value: there’s so much misinterpreted baggage left to decipher. You could nearly say, ha ha, that it has been Lost in Translation. Instead, films like this that mock and sneer at the Japanese self should be viewed as one of the pre-eminent forms of national self-mockery—and not as, say, confirmations of those “Japan Is Weird” boo-boys.