by Chris MaGee
It was just last night that myself and VCinema's Coffin Jon were discussing (for an upcoming VCinema Podcast) a quote from Yoshinori Chiba, the main producer behind Nikkatsu's genre wing, Sushi Typhoon, that was taken from an interview at Variety.com and posted at Wildgrounds. With the film scene in Japan becoming bleaker and bleaker by the minute in Japan for independent artists Chiba was quoted as saying, "The (Sushi Typhoon) brand is just a platform. Through the diffusion of the brand, we can provide young Japanese directors a place where they can make interesting films. The films being made by the big film companies have become standardized, and it’s become harder to make films that have an individual vision or a socially challenging theme."
This is indeed a noble goal during a time when many indie filmmakers in Japan can't make a living doing what they love most: making movies. That being said, both Coffin Jon and I were scratching our heads a bit wondering how Chiba thought that the current batch of Sushi Typhoon films such as "Alien vs. Ninja," and "Mutant Girls Squad" represent films with a "socially challenging theme". While you'll never find me becoming a voice for some kind of stodgy moral majority, a look at the Sushi Typhoon preview reel (below) will have most people asking themselves the same question I have - How are these films communicating socially challenging themes?
Sushi Typhoon is, at the moment, churning out exploitation films that are making money on the North American genre film fest circuit, and good for them! Chiba and Sushi Typhoon is doing what so very few filmmakers and producers can do in Japan at the moment, namely turn a profit; but at least call the films for what they are: exploitation films. Hopefully there will be films coming from Sushi Typhoon that will inject some edgy social themes into them (maybe Sion Sono's "Cold Fish" will be that film), but as of right now Nikkatsu's genre wing is making audiences cringe, laugh and sometimes throw up in our mouths just a little, while we happily buy tickets for the privilege.
Let the debates begin in the comments!
UPDATE: We received a message from Variety.com's Mark Schilling, the author of the orginal article and the man who interviewed Yoshinori Chiba. Here's what MarK had to say:
"As the writer of the Variety story on the Sushi Typhoon label I ought to clariy that Chiba used the term "hanshakai," which translates literally as 'anti-social.' I used 'socially challenging' since I thought he was speaking of films that challenge society's taboos and conventions, not celebrate anti-social acts -- say the murder of innocents -- as such. Wasting aliens is another matter, of course."