Dead Sushi combines two of my favorite things from low budget Japanese cinema – Rina Takeda and Noboru Iguchi! While I wish these two combined to make something amazing, Dead Sushi turns out to just be above average. While certainly a lot better than either of the prior Iguchi and Takeda films I have seen (Zombie Ass and Kunoichi), Dead Sushi suffers from trying to be too many things. Sure, it’s got zombies, killer sushi, and face kicking, but there is also a big lecture on the proper way to make, eat, and appreciate sushi. Dead Sushi takes as much from Jiro Dreams of Sushi as it does from Machine Girl or High-Kick Girl! Unfortunately, they drag the movie down to a more average range.
The two main attractions to Dead Sushi are the gore effects and the choreography. First – the gore effects are okay, but not so different from what we’ve seen before. The humor comes from the instigators of this gore, living sushi pieces that talk gibberish and fly through the air, skeletonizing people. After the gimmick wears off, Dead Sushi gives us zombies to allow for some actual fighting against something other than CGI and puppets. While zombies are overused and boring (despite these zombies spitting up rice!), the occasional fights against CGI sushi have their fun, and remind me of Birdemic.
The choreography is less disappointing, and is what you should seek out Dead Sushi for. Rina Takeda’s Keiko is a sushi apprentice to her father, the sushi chef skills giving her karate skills because that’s just how it works. There is some kicking and punching of sushi pieces out of the air, and later some battles against ineffectual zombies. Dead Sushi then shakes things up with Kentaro Shimazu running around with a giant fish head and a gianter axe to battle Rina Takeda, while the one good piece of sushi – Eggy – does battle with a giant CGI sushi battleship. The fights keep you entertained, whoever the stunt guy for Kentaro Shimazu is matches well with Rina Takeda’s moves, giving us nice fighting to entertain the people. Bread and circuses. Or Sushi and Zombies.
As Yamada infects the sushi, it comes alive, and begins spreading its infection to other sushi pieces. Yamada has a squid that flies through the air attacking, and soon the sushi pieces do the same, floating around, chomping, and devouring human flesh. They become sushi that bites back. Every aspect of sushi is covered, from the complicated way you should eat sushi (and derision of those who don’t!) to gimmick things like eating sushi off of naked women (how does THAT fit into the proper way to enjoy sushi???) THe sushi lives as puppets and CGI, laughing maniacally as they attack the humans. A salmon roe puppet looks a lot like Pico and Flex from Sifl and Olly.
But it’s not just the sushi puppets and the zombies, Yamada turns into a fish-headed monster that does battle with Keiko. Who counters with….Sushi Nunchaku! If you ever wanted to see Rina Takeda armed with sushi nunchaku battling a fish-headed zombie man with a huge axe, then Dead Sushi is tailor made for you!
Part of the fun of these gore films is finding the subtextual messages they are spreading. Some are brilliant commentaries, while others are just a bunch of junk. Dead Sushi deals with some father/daughter issues, as Keiko’s overbearing father spends all his time berating her skill and blaming her for being a girl, and therefore in his mind, inferior. Keiko runs off after one of his abuse trades. In her new job, she gains the recognition of a former sushi chef who sees her skills, and becomes a sort of mentor to her – though she knows most of what makes a good sushi chef already. But the success of defeating the sushi monsters and using sushi skills while doing so gives her the confidence to come back to her father and show that she has become a master sushi chef, everything her father wanted. At one point as the sushi endanger the lives of everyone, Keiko gives a speech about how you should always fight for life. Her escape from her father’s smothering was her fight for life, and she’s not about to let some deranged food spoil everything.
Dead Sushi features the familiar Noboru Iguchi cast – Demo Tanaka, Yuya Ishikawa, Kentaro Shimazo, and Asami Sugiura. It also features the normal feeling of watching a Rina Takeda film – wishing it was better. Luckily, it’s not so bad, so that feeling is only on the tip of your tongue instead of filling your belly.
I’m sure I’m running the risk of having seen to many of these films and become jaded, but I can’t deny that things could have been better done. As the target audience is people like me who have seen every one of these films, they are likely to have the same feelings. But when it’s all said and done, I’m glad I saw Dead Sushi. My favorite scene in the film has little to do with fighting. Keiko and some of the survivors witness some sushi humping in the woods, and then releasing swarms of baby sushi. A character remarks “Things have reached the point where they no longer make any sense.” That is the perfect spirit for Dead Sushi, and the perfect tag line to speak to the audience who will appreciate it.
Don’t worry, “No sushi were harmed in the making of this motion picture.”
Rated 7/10 (arrogant, owner, infected, squidfected, mean model, mean model, dead model)
Please give feedback below!