by Chris MaGee
Takahisa Zeze's "Pandemic (Kansen Rettô)" seems to be the first of many big hits for Toho in 2009, a big budget disaster flick that has audiences pacing the theatres while critics role their eyes. It's definitely not without precedent. In 2006 Shinji Higuchi remade the 1973 movie "The Sinking of Japan" about the chaos that breaks out when the tectonic plate beneath Japan starts dragging the entire country to the bottom of the sea. That one had a huge budget, very impressive special effects and it was bad, really bad. Leave it to the current court jester of Japanese cinema, Minoru Kawasaki, to skewer it in his spoof that came out in the same year, "The World Sinks Except Japan". Now it looks like "Pandemic" is going to get lampoon in the same way "The Sinking of Japan", this time at the hands of Kenji Murakami, the director of “Alldays: Nichome no Asahi” the gay parody of Takashi Yamazaki's wildly popular "Always Sunset on Third Street".
Titled "Saikin Rettô (Bacteria Infection)" the comedy stars the one man entertainment industry Naoto Takenaka as Shogun-sama, a pretty transparent goof on North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and manzai comic Kentaro Sudo as his son. The two are at the center of a mysterious and deadly outbreak of a bacteria that kills anyone infected with it, but not before they suffer through the dreaded “Face of Shogun-sama”. What's that? Basically your hair stands on end, your face puffs up and you start looking remarkably like Kim Jong Il... I mean Shogun-sama... I mean... Well, you know what I mean.
The film is due out in Japan in April and as of now the only thing on its official website is a large poster image, but Nippon Cinema has a couple of production stills including the “Face of Shogun-sama” posted along with additional details of the movie. Check them out here.