Tomomatsu Naoyuki’s Zombie Self-Defense Force (Zombi jietai) is one of the most ridiculous genre spoofs out there…and I mean ridiculous in a good way. A UFO crashes in a forest and releases radiation that can reanimate the dead. In close vicinity to the crash are a gang of yakuza and their chinpira lackeys, a photography crew on location to shoot a Japanese idol, and a few members of the Jietai (Japan Self-Defense Force) on a training mission. Pop idol Hitomi, Yuri (Watase Miyu) a female solider who is more than meets the eye, and a few others manage to survive the initial carnage. They band together and take cover in an isolated hotel. Zombie/alien/fetus/ghost/android madness ensues.
But, honestly, the actual plot is inconsequential. What the film lacks in budget and screenwriting it makes up for in some genuinely funny parodies.
Zombie Self-Defense Force oozes references to previous zombie movies, all of which will be immediately obvious to any zombie aficionado. Night of the Living Dead? Check. Dawn of the Dead? Check. Personally, I loved the undead baby the most, which reminded me of both my least favorite part of Zach Synder’s remake of Dawn of the Dead and the ALIEN franchise.
The movie also makes fun of Japan’s otaku and idol culture. Real-life idol Mihiro, who plays the obnoxiously cute idol Hitomi, steals most of the show with her ruthless manipulation of the weaker sex(which would be men, if that wasn’t already clear =P). She manages to survive the zombies by dangling her innocence and sex appeal in front of both the stupid chinpira (Saeki Shun) and Hayakawa (Yamazaki Jun), the nerdy star-struck otaku. But eventually she gets eaten out by both of them…literally.
The biggest running joke is the Japanese Self-Defense Force itself. The movie opens with an extreme rightist narrator, who sympathetically reinterprets Japan’s wartime past, vilifies American militarism and demands that Japan officially transform the Jeitai into a legitimate Japanese military organization. However, the entire premise of Zombie Self-Defense Force shows that audience should take the narrator as seriously as the farcical gore-fest that follows.
The Jietai soldiers in Zombie Self-Defense Force are laughably inept, all except Yuri. Turns out, Yuri is a military cyborg prototype designed by the Japanese government to be the ultimate fighting machine. Armed with deadly skills and intense patriotism, Japan wants to mass-produce the Yuri model and use them to defeat the United States of America in what I will call ‘World War II: The Sequel.’ The sole survivor of the zombie onslaught, Yuri heads off to confront the alien spaceship when she encounters the spirit of a WWII Japanese soldier, complete with regulation rising sun bandana. Armed with a perfect sense of patriotism, Yuri recognizes the spirit as Japan’s true enemy and engages him in a sword fight. The absurdly cute and cuddly alien is sliced through without a backward glance. Yuri defeats the evil spirit of the WWII Japanese soldier and walks off into the sunrise with ‘a flame of patriotism burning in her heart and a message of love and peace to lead Japan into its bright future.’
Since the 1950s the Japanese public has viewed the Jietai with either disdain or mockery. Both a reminder of Japan’s defeat in WWII and its subservience to the United States (who has been pushing for Japan to expand its military responsibilities since the 1950s), the Jietai is found offensive to both the right (who want the Occupation constitution revised and the Jietai to be upgraded into a national military) and the left (who despise its very existence). It’s not particularly clear whose side Zombie Self-Defense Force is on, especially since the ending narration is just as sarcastic as when it opened the film. The aliens crash their ship into Mt. Fuji, which promptly erupts…presumably destroying all of Japan with it. Hmmm, I guess Japan is doomed after all.