I can still remember my middle school days during the mid 2000’s when my friends and I had watched YouTube for the first time. It was an amazing discovery beyond the realm of standard programming. When you wanted to watch cartoons for free, whatever memory you wanted to visit from the original comic book, you would find its home made music video counterpart on YouTube with cartoons such as Naruto and Dragon Ball Z paired to music by Linkin Park or Eminem. What these clips had represent for a lot of cartoon loving kids was not only a love for anime’s over the top humor, but for the discovery of Japanese culture itself. A representation of this culture can be represented by the short film Rolling Bomber Special (2002), directed by Tetsuya Nakashima featured on the Japanese program SMAP. Set as a parody to Super Sentai (the original the Power Rangers), is a Japanese anime in literal live action form.
The story is about Katori, an apathetic teen who somehow gets involved with a group of masked superheroes who set a bounty on his head. He doesn’t understand why or what these people want from him, but they tell him that he must be stopped before he destroys the world. The super heroes look like the Power Rangers you see today, each equipped with their own powers and abilities, but they somehow miss every opportunity they get to defeat Katori, only to retreat when a bag of groceries knocks down one of the female members of the group. Katori eventually receives a letter from a super villain named Zaree who tells him that he is chosen to be the mastermind for all evil. The villains show up at his door and they go out for a night of drinking and dancing and the rest has to be seen to believe it was actually made. I’ll wait…
The film is on a plane of its own. Every scene is timed with such imperfection and cheese you would think you were being tricked by the action figures from the dollar store. You can start with the failed attempts of the rangers. One would think that their combined powers could take down a regular guy on the street, but their Hurricane Beam attacks and cannon balls do nothing to take the main character down. After all is said and done, the main character just looks at the audience and make a meta cheer like everything is a joke. Which it is for all of its intended purpose.
And then there’s the scene where the pink ranger walks into a laundromat to wash her costume dressed like a part time student. Of course Katori can’t help but check her out when the other rangers suddenly jump out of nowhere to make their threats known. They take themselves very seriously and yell obscene comments at Katori. It’s like they try to be a Kamen Rider or Ultraman, but they can’t do their jobs well at all. The comedic timing and references are gold and make for great fun to laugh at.
The film is a representation of a media saturated age. The teenager Katori feeds himself with junk food, watches tv, and doesn’t think about anything else in life. The splashes of color are like the choices Kaori has to make as a young adult. Like the costume every ranger wears, its colors reflect their own identity. To Katori, he is a teenager who is in conflict with the world. He lays in his room by himself with a million other things scattered all over. He hangs out with the wrong crowd and doesn’t know the reasoning for his actions. But the rangers, who wear masks that pose as a sort of authority figure, seem to force him to discover his true self by the end of the film.
This short film is a representation of Otaku culture at its most absurd and its most humorous. The cinematography and the colors of the film display a dramatic and youthful world seen through a child. From the colorful costume each hero wears to the pop punk soundtrack and the video game sounds, the main character is a lover of all things pop and cartoon. It is a culture of east meets west at a time of rapid expansion that can be seen in the way Katori dresses and his tastes in music. His room is filled with random trinkets, action figures, posters and many other things that reflects this lifestyle. The humor brings back influences to movies like Shaolin Soccer with its frugal slap stick humor or to over the top anime/manga like Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo or One Piece. There is confusion, but that makes it all the more fun. The film not only a look at the medium of anime itself through its comedic action, but also at the audience who watches it to ultimately ask the question we all have sometimes in life: “Who am I?”
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