Keiko (Rina Takeda) is the daughter of a legendary sushi chef, but his disdain for women and her general ineptitude mean she cannot live up to his standards. Sick of his vicious and gruelling karate-style sushi training, she runs away and finds a job at a rural hot springs hotel renowned throughout Japan for its sushi. Unfortunately, she is an even worse maid than she was a sushi maker, and is relentlessly tormented by the other staff and the corporate employees who stay there for their company retreat. However, everything is turned upside down when a disgruntled former researcher for the company turns up with a serum he’s developed that resurrects dead flesh (in this case the sushi) as ravening monstrosities.
Dead Sushi is a movie where everything is in fact more ridiculous than it first sounds. Director Noboru Iguchi specialises in films that revolve around stretching a ludicrous premise as far as it will go, and this is no exception. The sushi is hilariously badly animated (alternating between primitive puppets and very low-budget CGI) and the largely CGI gore and deliberately-ridiculous prosthetics only add to the general sense of chaos.
And yet, the whole thing somehow holds together. Keiko is an engaging character, the fights are well-staged and the comedy is pretty damn good. It’s hard to tell how much of the humour I missed because it was culturally-specific (there’s a lot of jokes at the expense of self-proclaimed sushi connoisseurs which made sense, but might well have been more cutting if I was Japanese) but anyone who’s watched enough Japanese movies will have a general sense of the tropes that Iguchi is riffing on. Akira Kurosawa fans will particularly enjoy the parody of Toshiro Mifune in full Seven Samurai shout-at-everything mode.
I have a single gripe – which is that the treatment of women throughout the film is kind of shabby. Aside from Keiko, all the female characters are nasty, devious, shrewish, and use their sexuality as a weapon to control men – and the film seems to delight in “taking them down a peg or two”. It’s unclear whether this is a product of Iguchi’s background as a porn director, a product of wider Japanese nerd-culture, or a piece of satire that fell foul of Poe’s Law. Whichever it is, it adds an unpleasant undertone to a number of scenes that are clearly supposed to be played purely for laughs.
That aside, this is a gloriously, willfully stupid idea carried unflinchingly out to its logical conclusion – a final battle against a giant flying battleship made of salmon roe, rice-spewing zombies, and a man with a massive axe and the head of a tuna fish. Recommended.
DIRECTOR(S): Noboru Iguchi | COUNTRY: Japan | YEAR 2012 | DISTRIBUTOR(S): Madman | RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes