Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Minoru Kawasaki Collection

Up-and-coming pickle-factory executive Mr. Tamura is sweating out a deal to package kimchi for a South Korean company when he gets some terrible news: his girlfriend has been murdered, and he's the prime suspect. For Tamura, who's obsessed with fitting in, this accusation is disastrous. Still, he does have a tendency to fly into blind rages. Also, he's a giant koala.


Over the last four years, Japanese director Minoru Kawasaki has directed more than a dozen films: some short, some feature-length, and a sizable percentage of them fantastical comedies about human-sized animals co-existing with the general population. Executive Koala is the most highly regarded of the bunch, and with good reason. While funny in the "boy, that's odd" sense more than the "laugh 'til you ache" sense, the film is fast-paced and freewheeling, mixing in martial arts, a musical interlude, plot twists galore, and a few pointed comments on Japanese xenophobia. It's easily the most entertaining, imaginative movie ever made about a murderous marsupial in a business suit.

The two other films in Synapse's "The Minoru Kawasaki Collection" (each available separately) offer a similar mix of corny synthesized music, broad acting, intentionally fakey effects, and slapdash social messages. But only one of the two is as lively as Executive Koala. The disaster-movie parody The World Sinks Except Japan (a riff on the unseen-in-America blockbuster Japan Sinks) imagines how Japan would handle an influx of wealthy foreigners fleeing their submerged countries, and though it's fairly corrosive at times, the low budget and wider scope don't mesh well, making it a chore to watch. The police-show spoof Rug Cop fares far better, because Kawasaki keeps the running time short, and because he surrounds his hero—a balding detective who curtails criminals by flinging his deadly toupee—with a supporting cast that includes a nerdy cop who sports an enormous lightsaber erection, a chubby cop who emits lethal flopsweat, and a handsome cop who elicits confessions with his power of handsomeness. Throw in a musical montage featuring lyrics like "When a man wears a rug / He hides his head," and you have classic Kawasaki. This is a director who makes movies designed to leave audiences saying, "I watched the weirdest thing last night."

Key features: Extensive behind-the-scenes footage on each.