Monday, July 13, 2020

We Are Little Zombies Review: A Bright, Quirky, Youthful, Japanese Dark Comedy

Release date: July 10, 2020
Running time: 120 minutes
Starring: Keita Ninomiya, Mondo Okumura, Satoshi Mizuno

When four young orphans—Hikari, Ikuko, Ishi, and Takemura—first meet, their parents have all recently deceased.  However, strangely, none of them can shed a tear.  They are like zombies; devoid of all emotion.  With no family, no future, no dreams, and no way to move forward, the young teens decide to take some of the remnants of their former lives and start a band. Tragedy, comedy, music, social criticism, and teenage angst are all subsumed in this eccentric cinematic tsunami.  

Little Zombies has a style all its own that is present throughout but really comes through in the second half.  There are a lot of video game, and especially 16-bit RPG, inspired effects that give this film a youthful, distinctive style.  From the RPG-type video game sequences, to the video game effects, chip tune style music, and 16 bit sound effects, Little Zombies feels youthful and unique.  The young actors who make up the main band members do a great job in some pretty difficult roles.  They have to exhibit a range of emotion while maintaining a cool, uncaring exterior.  And they have to provide a lot of the dark comedy that makes this film so unique.  

The story of Little Zombies is hard to follow, but that might have been because there is so much going on.  Although the story focuses on two main band members, there are four separate band members with their own backstories interwoven that each get some time in the overall narrative.  There is also a dream aspect of the movie that sometimes makes it tough to tell what is dream and what is reality.  However, the story has plenty to say.  It speaks to expectations of youth, to today's social media obsessed culture, and to the manufactured nature of some popular media.  It also speaks to emotions and when to share them.  Some of the themes are dark, but they are handled with an avant garde, childish bravado that completely fits the young protagonists in this movie.  And for a movie about a band, I greatly enjoyed their songs.  Although they aren't the best I have heard, they are original and catchy.  I found myself humming the main tune in the days after watching Little Zombies.  

We Are Little Zombies has a flashy, distinctive style and a dark comedy story fueled by youthful counterculture and a social media obsessed lesson.  It will not be for everyone, but it is a unique enough experience to make it worth checking out. 

Watch it.
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