What to Do with the Dead Kaiju?
大怪獣のあとしまつ (Daikaijyu no Atoshimatsu9
Japan, 2022, 115’, Japanese
Directed by: Miki Satoshi
Screenplay: Miki Satoshi
Photography (color): Takada Haruyuki
Editing: Tominaga Takashi
Art Direction: Isomi Toshihiro
Special Effects Supervisor: Butsuda Hiroshi
Music: Ueno Koji
Producers: Suto Yasushi, Furukubo Hiroko, Nakai Yuta, Yamao Umihiko
Executive Producers: Kimura Teruhito, Yoshida Shigeaki
Cast: Yamada Ryosuke, Tsuchiya Tao, Hamada Gaku, Odagiri Joe, Nishida Toshiyuki, Fuse Eri
Date of First Release in Territory: February 4th, 2022
Once a comedy writer who worked on some of the most popular shows on Japanese television, Miki Satoshi released his first feature as a director, In the Pool, in 2005. This and three other Miki comedies – Deathfix, Adrift in Tokyo and Instant Swamp – were screened in a special section at Udine FEFF in 2009. Also, Miki and Kamenashi Kazuya, a member of the J-pop group KAT-TUN, came to the festival in 2013 for It’s Me, It’s Me, in which Kamenashi plays a telephone scammer whose karmic punishment is to see himself cloned into infinity.
Miki returns to the festival this year with What to Do with the Dead Kaiju?, a kaiju (monster) movie parody. Released in February by Toei and Shochiku – two of Japan’s biggest studios – and starring Yamada Ryosuke of the boy band Hey! Say! JUMP!, the film is Miki’s biggest yet budget-wise. Based on his original script about bumbling official efforts to dispose of a giant kaiju after it suddenly collapses and dies, the film’s most obvious target is the iconic Godzilla series, including the 2016 Anno Hideaki hit Shin Godzilla.
Though debuting atop the box office in its opening weekend, the film got bashed by some critics and fans, with a common complaint being that they had gone in expecting a kaiju film and Miki hadn’t delivered one. Another gripe: Miki’s idea of funny wasn’t theirs.
But Miki’s earlier films featured the same style of absurdist humor in What to Do with the Dead Kaiju? In comparison to the many Japanese comedies that go for broad, obvious gags, Miki’s approach to comedy is drier and quirkier. Think a Japanese version of Monty Python.
“Gags come from a very personal place,” Miki told this writer in 2009. “A gag everybody accepts tends not to be funny. The best ones have fifty people laughing and the other fifty not getting it. If you start trying to find gags that are acceptable to seventy or eighty per cent of the audience, the comedy probably won’t be funny.”
So it’s no surprise really that his latest film is also divisive. It’s just Miki being Miki.
The story: The above-mentioned kaiju is already lying dead as the film begins (and never revives afterward). Members of the Special Task Force designated to deal with it find that gas inside it is building to a potentially disastrous explosion. Hearing their findings, the elderly prime minister (Nishida Toshiyuki) meets with his cabinet to decide what to do, but instead they bicker and dither. Finally, the task of disposing the remains falls to the Ministry of Defense, but Yukino Amane (Tsuchiya Tao), the capable secretary to the flaky Environment Minister (Fuse Eri) guesses that the Special Task Force will end up doing the dirty work, while the Defense Ministry grabs the credit.
She also encounters Tatewaki Arata (Yamada Ryosuke), a straight-arrow STF member who is not only her ex- fiancé, but three years ago suddenly disappeared – and mysteriously resurfaced last year. What, she wonders, really happened to him?
This may sound close in approach, if not storyline, to Shin Godzilla, which indirectly commented on the then-recent 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. And, yes, Miki does get in digs at Japanese bureaucrats and politicians, some of whom are scheming to turn the monster into a tourist attraction. But the earlier film’s soft nationalism, with smart, plucky techno and military types uniting to save Japan from the kaiju enemy, is absent in Miki’s film, whose main aim, finally is laughs – for at least half of the audience anyway.
Born in 1961 in Yokohama, Miki Satoshi made a name for himself as a writer for hit TV variety shows, and began directing stage plays and TV dramas, starting in 2006. In 2005 he released his first film, the comedy In the Pool, followed by a string of films. Adrift in Tokyo (2007) received its international premiere at the 2007 Udine FEFF, and was later screened widely abroad to rave reviews. Miki’s follow-up, the absurdist comedy Instant Swamp (2009), was also shown at FEFF; Miki returned to Udine in 2013 with the comedy It’s Me, It’s Me. His latest film, the sci-fi comedy What to Do with the Dead Kaiju?, opened in Japan in February of this year.
2005 – In the Pool
2005 – Turtles Swim Faster Than Expected
2006 – Damejin
2007 – Deathfix
2007 – Adrift in Tokyo
2009 - Instant Swamp
2013 – It’s Me, It’s Me
2022 – What to Do with the Dead Kaiju?