Anyone who knows me knows I love monsters. I love creatures. And, as the poor unfortunate souls had to deal with me during the build-up and release of last year’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters, they learned I also love kaiju. A good kaiju movie is like a warm, fuzzy blanket that makes you want to snuggle. It makes you feel light and giddy again, especially if the kaiju are really just men in suits. Fortunately, while the world is spiraling, we have one man who is resurrecting the kaiju-genre with wholesome, silly fare. Minoru Kawasaki is back again with MONSTER SEAFOOD WARS aka Three Monsters Gourmet. And, in the case of this movie, there is a lot to munch down on in terms of kaiju fights, beautiful shots of food, and angsty love-triangle drama.
Minoru Kawasaki directs MONSTER SEAFOOD WARS. He co-wrote the screenplay with Masakazu Migita. The film stars Keisuke Ueda, Ayano Christie Yoshida, and Yūya Asato. In MONSTER SEAFOOD WARS, we are introduced to Yuta Tanuma (Keisuke Ueda) who has a bike accident on his way to visit a shrine with his seafood offerings. Initially, he thinks the offerings are gone for good. However, they undergo a transformation. These offerings have transformed into kaiju aptly named Takolla, Ikalla, and Kanilla. These monsters are as big as buildings and, in the beginning, everyone blames Yuta. However, as the creator of the chemical compound Setap Z that has been connected to the kaiju transformation, it’s up to him to figure out a solution alongside his rival Hikoma (Yūya Asato) and his crush Nana (Ayano Christie Yoshida).
Right off the bat, I’m here to tell you this is not your typical action kaiju flick. No, MONSTER SEAFOOD WARS has a message and it’s going to make sure you learn about it. Narratively, we are taken back and forth between the action events to expositional commentary portions. These moments of commentary both aid and hinder the film. They serve to give the audience more background behind Setap Z as well as how quickly the people of Japan are to forget danger when presented with “Monster Meat”. We get to see how creative people are getting with the introduction of “Monster Meat” to the food supply. However, these moments sometimes linger too long. This had the impact of disrupting the general pacing of the film. For some, this might not be an issue. For me, it was.
Pacing aside though, there is plenty of “meat” to chew on in MONSTER SEAFOOD WARS. First off, the kaiju costume designs are impeccable. It’s refreshing to see Kawasaki bring back the memorable kigurumi tokusatsu. Especially in the age of rampant CGI-usage. The actors in those Takolla, Ikalla, and Kanilla suits absolutely kill it. Ikalla is my personal favorite. Kanilla, in particular, is the MacDaddy boss you are going to want to beat. With that sideways scuttle back and forth before reminding Takolla and Ikalla who is boss, its monster kaiju vocalizations, and the sheer chutzpah the character design carries, it’s clear that Kanilla will capture the hearts of viewers everywhere. It’s also difficult not to feel nostalgic watching the actors running around in the suits. While nostalgia might not have been the aim for Kawasaki, I’d say it’s just the unintentional icing on this fish cake.
While the kaiju were clearly the stars of MONSTER SEAFOOD WARS, the dynamic between the main trio of actors really helped push the storyline forward. Yuta’s more immature personality clashing with his seemingly more sophisticated rival’s personality was fun to watch. Even more so, when the plot itself thickened quite dramatically. Ayano Christie Yoshida’s Nana, as the love interest caught in the middle, really helped to further intensify these two personalities at war. Throw in the added history between Yuta and Nana and you could cut the tension with a butter knife. Having these three interact with one another while battling the kaiju really helped ground the outright silliness onscreen. I wouldn’t have changed anything about that dynamic.
MONSTER SEAFOOD WARS is the kind of film that you put on when you just need to take a load off. It’s comfort food best digested in small doses. It may be a bit much upon first viewing. With its back and forth between action pacing to slow-expositional flashbacks, there is a lot to keep track of. However, the silly, wholesome Kaiju fights are really the draw for this film. You can’t help but feel your soul joyfully escape from your body when you see the Kaiju. With its DIY set designs, the return of the nostalgic-inducing kigurumi tokusatsu, tension-driven trio of human actors, MONSTER SEAFOOD WARS is the type of weekend-reprieve style movie that you need to watch. To put it aptly, it sparks joy.
You can view MONSTER SEAFOOD WARS on-demand during this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival, which will be taking place online from August 20 through September 2, 2020.