[FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL] ‘MONSTER SEAFOOD WARS’ TAKES A BITE OUT OF CAMP

Director: Minoru Kawasaki
Writers: Minoru Kawasaki, Masakazu Migita, Eiji Tsuburaya
Starring: Keisuke Ueda, Ayano Yoshida Christie, Yûya Asato, Ryô Kinomoto

All Yuta had to do was deliver the seafood to the temple for an offering. His father, a sushi chef, selected the choicest items: A squid, an octopus, and a crab. However, Yuta’s offering is stolen, and soon, an experimental drug is used to create MONSTER SEAFOOD WARS!!!!

The giant monsters duke it out, cause destruction, and then retreat to the ocean to rest(?) before resuming their monster wars. Meanwhile, Yuta (Keisuke Ueda) knows he is at least partially responsible: Aside from delivering the offering, he’s also a bright young man who worked at a lab in an attempt to solve world hunger. His solution? The experimental Setap Z, which would gigantify all food items. His work is stolen, perfected, and then used for ill by creating the giant monsters.

Yuta offers his services to the government task force in charge of taking down the monsters: Seafood Monster Attack Team (SMAT). Yuta is quickly out-shined by his former lab partner and current foil (Yûya Asato), who says the solution to defeating the monsters is … rice vinegar cannons. The plan seems to work, until the giant crab shows up with its crustaceous shell. The team goes back to the drawing board … but not before sampling the monster meat left behind after the giant crab cuts off pieces of the squid and octopus. Monster meat, as we soon learn, is very, very good.

SMAT is still without answers on how to take down the monsters when they finally accept Yuta into the team to come up with a plan. Yuta and his adversary, meanwhile, are stuck in a romantic triangle with one of Yuta’s childhood friends and a current SMAT scientist (Ayano Yoshida Christie). To solve their rivalry, they wager that the man who comes up with a solution for the monsters gets to date her (of course, ignoring her objections that neither of them actually have the right to treat her like property).

Can Yuta defeat the monsters and solve world hunger? Will we ever figure out who stole Setap Z and created the monsters in the first place?

Yes, Monster Seafood Wars about as campy as the title (and poster) make it out to be. You get your first glimpse of the monsters early on, and I have to say, it’s pretty glorious. Think OG Power Rangers after Rita Repulsa delivers the episodic “MAKE MY MONSTER GROOOOW” line, and these are your giant crab, squid, and octopus.

Knowing that this is a full-out, campy kaiju film, it’s easy to set aside your expectations of Fine Cinema and forgive the absolute ridiculousness of the concept, the loosely-threaded plot, and the bad special effects. Director Minoru Kawasaki also has a fascinating origin point for his kaiju film: An unfinished project from special effects artist Eiji Tsuburaya in which a giant octopus lands in Tokyo and causes a rampage before being killed by a vinegar gun at the foot of Mt. Fuji, which is then eaten by the people of Japan. That project ultimately went on to become Godzilla.

Kawasaki also does an efficient job setting up our characters’ backgrounds and motivations and creates (albeit intentionally cheesy) tensions within SMAT sans monsters that moves the movie right along. And, with the special effects side of things, the film leans heavily into the camp, which comes off brilliantly. Watching grown-ass adults whip around like balloon men in ridiculous costumes does not get old.

There’s a lot about the movie. However, that does get old pretty quick. Knowing the nature of this movie, I wanted to be forgiving of the acting. I wasn’t expecting much. But, aside from Yûya Asato playing up the villain role and Ryô Kinomoto owning his role as the grizzled SMAT commander, the acting was not stellar. Part of the problem was that the actors weren’t great at concealing that they were in on the joke, which resulted in the funny moments missing more than hitting as well as stiff performances where the actors desperately tried to appear serious. All in all, they did not own the camp.

Another problem was that the movie felt way too long, even if its runtime is about 84 minutes. One of the obvious culprits was the gag involving monster meat taking over the world. The original scene where the team samples the meat (for research purposes, of course) starts brilliantly and then carries on way too long. Then we see the rest of the world getting a taste, and, again, this gag starts great and overstays its welcome. But, I will say, the food on the screen looked mouthwatering.

So, while Monster Seafood Wars had the right spirit, I walked away feeling like the cons outweighed the pros, unfortunately. Bad costumes wailing away at each other can only take you so far. The fight scene at the end almost makes the movie worth it. Almost.

Monster Seafood Wars

4.8

Concept

8.0/10

Campy Special Effects

9.0/10

Acting

2.0/10

Runtime

2.0/10

Gags

3.0/10