As a self-proclaimed film critic, I should be choosing review subjects that are easy to describe. Writing is tedious, so why would I want to make it more difficult than it needs to be? I don't know. Call it masochism, if you must. For whatever reason, I have a propensity for saddling myself with the laborious task of outlining the singular minutia of oddball cinema. Perhaps I'm exaggerating. After all, how hard could it be to analyze a Takashi Miike film? Don't answer that. It's a rhetorical question, you boob. Do you realize how many subplots I have to sort through to give you an idea of what Zebraman tastes like without revealing the singular minutia that makes it a masterpiece?

Goddamn singular minutia. Miike is one of my favorite filmmakers, and I love the fact that his films are hard to describe. He has a distinct style, yet he is capable of harnessing the virginal efficacy of any genre. Horror, sci-fi, action, drama, comedy, animation...hell, my favorite Miike joyride is a musical! I'm referring to The Happiness of the Katakuris, a crown jewel that bears a certain warmth that you'll find in most of Miike's genre efforts (even his most violent works). Barring profanity, Zebraman is suitable for all ages. It's a superhero flick. Ichikawa is a middle-aged man with a disinterested family. His wife is cheating on him, and his children barely acknowledge his existence.

In his darkest hours, Ichikawa falls back on his hobbies to achieve modest contentment. It just so happens that he is a huge fan of "Zebraman," a fictional TV show that only ran for six episodes. He wants to be Zebraman. He dreams of becoming the striped sojourner, fashioning a costume and practicing "zebra strikes" in front of a mirror. It isn't long before his black-and-white duds give him special powers and superhuman strength. Along the way, we're introduced to gummy aliens and a handicapped boy who acts as the afflatus that propels Ichikawa into the skies. If you were confused by that sentence, don't be alarmed. I was, too.

That's all that I'll allow myself to type with regards to the plot. The characters are three-dimensional, the pace never lags and poignant stretches of tension are broken up by well-placed bits of humor. The script is engineered in such a way that it swells to an upsurge of emotion at precisely the right time. I'll regret admitting this, but the resultant crescendo thumped my heart so intently, that I was nearly driven to tears. That doesn't happen very often, folks. While Miike didn't pen the screenplay (he was probably too busy; the guy churns out movies like nobody's business), he was responsible for bringing it to life. Zebraman could have crumbled in the hands of a lesser auteur.

I would love to give this film a perfect rating, but I'm afraid that the special effects hinder the viewing experience. The CGI is dodgy. No, that's being too kind. It's fucking atrocious. The space goblins reminded me of the Zols from The Legend of Zelda. If you're not a Nintendo nerd, Zols are green blobs, and unfortunately, the digital "wizardry" on display in Zebraman didn't look much better than 8-bit graphics. Aside from those unsightly gaffes, I can't recommend this magnum opus with enough zeal. Add it to your Netflix queue today. Zebra screw! Zebra double kick! Zebranurse!

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