A! Ikkenya Puroresu, 2004
Director, Naoki Kudo, working from a co-written screenplay by Akira/Sukeban Deka scribe Izo Hashimoto, adds another title to the growing pile of wacky wrestling themed movies, this time with a romantic tale of one man’s fight for happiness.
The late Shinya Hashimoto of New Japan Pro Wrestling plays Kota Shishio, leader of one of Japan’s greatest pro-wrestling organisations. Shishio has decided to hold a house warming party having recently completed his dream project of building his beloved wife Asami (Urara Awata) the perfect home. However, when a man by the name of Ichijoh (Nicholas Pettas) gatecrashes the event, harbouring a deep grudge against Shishio for the death of his brother, all hell breaks loose. A huge fight involving dozens of wrestlers breaks out, leading to the destruction of the new home. Tragically, Asami is caught in the blast and is taken to hospital where upon she’s soon diagnosed with having an unusual skin condition: fish scales begin appearing all over her body, with no known cause as to why.
Standing by his love, Shishio vows to rebuild their home, with the hopes that it will cure Asami of her ailments. But with a lack of funds he finds himself in a difficult situation and even has to approach local gangsters for a loan. Enter Yamaji (Shiro Sano), a documentary film-maker who’s interested in covering Asami and Shishio’s story. He convinces Shishio that he must make a unforgettable return to the ring in a battle for his wife’s honour; a live televised event guaranteed to make headlines and see Shishio back in pocket. But Yamaji isn’t quite what he seems, and soon his corruption will become all too apparent when Shishio places his very life on the line against a line-up of beastly participants.
Another example of a terribly translated Japanese title for the overseas market, Oh! My Zombie Mermaid is amongst the most misleading. Sure there’s a mermaid, only she isn’t a zombie, and there is indeed a zombie of sorts, but only one at that, so go figure. Still, the film is an oddball mixture of genres, one which happily divides its time between semi-serious drama and goofy action, while offering fond homage’s to various modern world cinema classics. Much of the first half sees Shishio attempting to overcome personal barriers and wrestle – as it were – with making the right ethical decisions; there’s very little spread across the first 45 minutes that actually manages to surprise us, with the director squeezing just about every cliché that he can, involving a predictably twisting and turning back-story which explores fierce rivalries and corrupt executives. Our actors play it entirely straight, par the course for contemporary Japanese parody features, as they capitalize upon well-worn themes of revenge and sinister cover-ups in true melodramatic style. If anything it comes across as a ridiculously glorified soap opera, rather befitting of the kind of wacky weekly plots employed by the likes of WWE. It’s all admirably performed though, even if through the script’s sheer nonsense it falls short off triggering our heartier emotions despite the cast’s sincerity.
However, once the evil mastermind of the piece is well established and the challenge is laid down before our hero, the film takes on a new lease of life. The influences readily make themselves apparent as the picture transforms into a cross between The Running Man, with its commentary on media sensationalism and Game of Death, as our hero ascends several floors, each one home to a unique fighter whom he must defeat in order to progress to the next level – the original title of Ah! House of Pro Wrestling naturally proving to be a lot more apt. And plenty of fun it is too: from a scuffle in a toilet cubicle to a battle held over electrified water and finally onto the obligatory showdown between hero and main boss villain, the director helms a good looking picture; franticly paced, well edited and just all round bonkers.
Oh! My Zombie Mermaid is a fun, slightly deranged feature that proudly wears its influences on its sleeve and showcases a roster of very entertaining talent. If you’re an Asian cinema fan and have found yourself enjoying the likes of The Foul King and the works of Minoru Kawasaki then there’s a good chance you’ll dig this too.