Karate Robo Zaborgar
Film review by: Witney Seibold
I didn’t know this going in, but evidently the new feature film “Karate Robo Zaborgar” is a film adaptation of a short-lived and not-very-popular 1974 cult TV show from Japan called “Denjin Zaborger” which, in terms of its cultural status, falls somewhere below “Inframan” and “Ultra-Man.” Even at the time, it was considered cheesier than its relevant counterparts, and lasted less than a season. The show was about a helmeted hero type named Yukata Daimon, who would bark orders into a headset on his helmet, making his robot sidekick/transformer/intelligent motorcycle fight alongside him in an effort to curtail the invasion efforts of aliens and supervillains.
Knowing the details of “Zenjin Zaborger” may help you with the images being shoved frenetically into your eyeballs in Noboru Iguchi‘s 2011 film adaptation, but it sure won’t help you understand the sheer, humorous oddball weirdness of the affair. Make no mistake: While “Karate Robo Zaborgar” may be a colorful spoof, and a campy blast, it’s also a weird, weird film. And I’ve seen a lot of weird ones in my day. This is a comedy/action film that features not only giant monsters, quirky supervillains, and a character named The Diarrhea Robot, and is not only possessed of that particular superlative Japanese fight language (“Super Fire Triple Dragon Spin Kick! GO!”), but features several strange tragic twists that leave you questioning the intentions, and perhaps the sanity, of the director. Camp-lovers, and fans of animewill love this film.
In the near future, Tokyo is protected by the heroic Yukata Daimon (Yasuhisa Furuhara), and his motorcycle sidekick Zaborgar (several stuntmen in an ungainly plastic robot suit). The world is currently at risk from the evil, one-eyed Dr. Akunomiya (Akira Emoto), who is using his lackey Miss Borg (porn star Asami), complete with steel underpants and missiles for breasts, to extract the DNA of important Japanese politicians, and use it in his evil plot to make a gigantic kaiju monster and take over the Earth from his floating dictatorship castle. If you’re still with me, you might like this film.
I don’t want to get into the twisted story or the strange plotting, so I’ll just list some of the things I managed to see through the hyperactive sugary haze:
- A robot monster with lips for a face.
- A gigantic truck with a bulldog face called Bulldog Truck Robot
- A trio of color-coded, bikini-clad football girl robots.
- A trio of ever-smiling old men in helmets and pink costumes
- A newly discovered element that turns living things into robots.
- A robot/human fetus.
- The Diarrhea Robot.
- A 100-foot-tall schoolgirl with antennae.
- A motorcycle race across the surface of her body.
- Other things that I can’t remember right now.
There is a curious point about two-thirds of the way through the film, when is inexplicably skips ahead 25 years, and shows the characters, now aged and decrepit, and largely defeated by life. Daimon is played by Itsuji Itao now, and has to stop in the middle of arguments with his boss to take his insulin.
What Iguchi was trying to do was, I think, simultaneously deconstruct Saturday Morning Heroes of generations past, and and satirize the super-ridiculous cycle of 1970s Japanese robot shows. And while, to most audiences, it may seem weird and crazy, just remember this: Hollywood once made pseudo-comic, partially self-referential film versions of “Scooby-Doo,” “Josie and the Pussycats,” “Get Smart,” “Mr. Magoo,” and, well, countless others. “Karate Robo Zaborgar,” luckily is so alien and so joyous and so bugnuts crazy, that it’s much more enjoyable than any of those.