Karate Robo Zaborgar (2011)



Director: Noboru Iguchi

Starring: Itsuji Itao, Akira Emoto, Yuya Miyashita, Hiroyuki Watanabe, Yuya Ishikawa, Cay Izumi

114 Minutes

Based on the 70’s sentai series Denjin Zaborgar, Karate Robo Zaborgar is a feature length retelling of the somewhat forgotten television series. When Daimon’s father, a renowned scientist, is killed by the terrorist group, he is left Zaborgar, an amazing motorcycle that transforms into a fighting robot. Coupled with his own formidable skills in karate, Daimon and Zaborgar wage war on the evil criminal syndicate responsible for his father’s death.

Taking the self-parodying route for this adaptation, KRZ is told in two parts, first introducing the world and the partnership between Daimon (Yasuhisa Furuhara) and Zaborgar. The beginnings of the machinations of criminal organization Sigma are detailed and the love-hate relationship between Daimon and Sigma lieutenant Lady Borg. Halway through a timeskip, the events come to a head and Tokyo is in danger following the events of the first half. If this sounds too serious, trust me it isn’t.

The acting is tongue-firmly-in-cheek, over the top, and comedy is spot on. It seems to me that the film must have been a hell of a lot of fun to make, because the kind of enthusiasm shown on screen isn’t easy to fake. Some decently shot fight scenes of the Japanese TV variety are on display, and a hilarious series of showdowns featuring a good mix of CG and practical effects help update the film a bit. It is all entertaining and pretty easy to get swept up in it.

With the look of a 70s era television series, the film is spot on for the look it is trying to achieve. Quirky costumes and some surprisingly well done CGI both provide comfort in their familiarity and an updated panache to fit the modern sensibility of audiences. Music is absolutely great with themes reminiscent of classic sentai shows with the thumping of drums and upbeat blare of horns. Dramatic and wildly appropriate, the choice of music is stellar and an excellent addition to the overall feel of the film.

The nature of the in-joke series will limit the viewership a bit, but if you are aware of the series’ pedigree, you shouldn’t have any problem with getting most of the humor. Basically, if you picked it up and had any sense of nostalgia, it’s probably for you. I do have to admit to enjoying the more parody-like first half a bit more, but the final act is pretty satisfying in its own right and despite of VERY odd social commentary, it really and truly fits with the world on display. I have to say the credits were a welcome surprise, but I won’t mention it for those who haven’t seen it, but it is a great way to tie the film up.

Being unfamiliar with the source material, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I have to say KRZ is damn fun. Taking common conventions of the sentai genre, director Noboru Iguchi delivers an accurate and very funny film that celebrates the quirkiness and pure entertainment of that bygone era. Ridiculous costumes, fighting techniques, and speeches about righteousness abound which deliver an entertaining but not serious film. Genre lovers will appreciate the inside jokes and sly nods placed throughout. While hardly made for a wide audience, those who love and enjoy the types of series parodied here, have much to like. I, for one, loved the hell out of it.

You may enjoy this film if you liked: Yatterman, Cutie Honey, Inframan, and Zebraman

Special Thanks to Well Go USA for providing a viewing copy!

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Long time film lover and occasional writer. I watch anything and everything though I have massive love for the works of Shunji Iwai, Jackie Chan, Johnnie To, and Kinji Fukasaku. POP! POP!

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