reviewed by Tom-Tom
I have mentioned it before but Sadao Abe is one of my favorite comedic actors. This isn’t because he is a naturally funny guy. He isn’t, He’s actually painfully shy in interviews. He seems to have an on/off switch, a mask he wears in which he can do anything and everything. In the wonderfully comic Maiko Haaaaaaaahn, he had carte blanche to do just that and again now, in Shazai no Ooh-sama. The film opens with a scene in a typical Japanese theater with paying viewers waiting for the Feature Presentation while watching pointless advertisements. One of these features three young ladies clad in silly pink leotards and donning unusual hair adornments demonstrating the ultimate Japanese apology stance, the dohgesa, in which one gets on hands and knees and bows his/her forehead to the ground in absolute supplication and deference to the one to whom the apology is being made. It’s quite the embarrassing gesture but is often made by comedians lightly over a trivial matter in glorious hyperbole and in climactic TV dramas between main characters, most notably in the mid-season and end-season finales of the bank finance drama, Hanzawa Naoki. Almost as much is explained in the aforementioned pre-feature advertisement but wait, there’s more! Sadao Abe’s character Kuroshima appears in an intentionally clumsy close-up in which he has just turned energetically to the screen to show that his Shazai Centerseeks to go beyond the dohgesa to the inner dohgesa, or the place beyond dohgesa. The scene changes to a variety of hilarious scenes in which apologies are necessary parodying specific elements of Japanese society. Erika Sawajiri’s bad-mouthing of the film she was in, Movie Piracy etc.
What follows is 6 (7?) cases of apology. The stories are uniquely interlocked with each other. The film jokes about the Japanese predilection with the various situations in which true apologies as necessary as well as the piss-poor way people today attempt to wave off the traditional language used in apology The first case introduces us to one of the back dancers in the silly theater commercials who eventually assists Kuroshima in his various dealing with comically hapless more in need of a smack to the head than apology lessons. The following cases cover all matter of Japanese society from sexual harassment, to celebs taking responsibility for their hellion children, to idiotic politicians who muck up international relations with their thoughtless use of cultural taboos and coarse language.
Kuroshima is hilarious. For a man whose business is apology, he does any number of rather unapologetic things from screaming invectives yakuza style at his clients to making fun of their baldness and lack of acting talent. His ingenious methods for dealing with even the most hopeless of the morons who approach him for help are worth a bucket full of laughs as well as the intermittent commercials for his service. The international scenes are a bit overmuch depicting the withering relations between Japan and a fictional Asian Kingdom which is halfway between Tibet and Bhutan. The Japanese filmmakers still demonstrate their innate xenophobic tendencies here due partly to nearly 300 years of self imposed isolation from the rest of the world resulting in a sort of island mentality of them and us which depicts foreign nationals with all the accuracy of a political cartoon. But, this is a comedy and up until this point, the filmmakers have raked almost all of the Japanese nation over the coals in its expose’ of apology so, its up to we the viewers to gauge the final act in which almost all the threads of the stories come together in a somewhat undercooked finale. Waki kara bo-bo, Jiu no Megami! Torrents Flow From My Armpits, The Statue of Liberty! Who would have known this phrase perfectly translated into a foreign language.
Enjoy the bonus apology song at the end featuring one of the few popular girl’s groups with any singing/dancing talent, E-girls which appearances from select members the equally talented guy group, Exile.