Dead Sushi (2012)

First published by Little White Lies

From its original ‘Japanenglish’ title (Deddo Sushi) to its focus on a homegrown comestible “known around the world”, Iguchi Noboru’s Dead Sushi seems determined, quixotically, to export its local fare to international plates. Anyone familiar with the previous works of writer/director Iguchi (The Machine Girl, Robogeisha), or of fellow ‘splattercore’ compatriots Nishimura Yoshihiro (Tokyo Gore Police) and Sakaguchi Tak (Yakuza Weapon) – all three of whom collaborated on Mutant Girls Squad – will know what to expect here: faux-naïve characterisation, insane narrative leaps, low-budget CG body horror, lurid colour, breezy sexual perversion, gratuitous dancing and geysers of blood, all choreographed with postmodern improbability to a soundtrack of cheesily upbeat J-pop.

Daughter to an overexacting master sushi chef (Bu Jiji) who believes there is “a similarity between sushi making and the martial arts”, Keiko (Takeda Rina) has been reared to feel inferior – so she flies the nest and takes up a waitressing job at the Karinoyu Inn. On Keiko’s first night working there, a group from a pharmaceuticals company comes to try the Inn’s famous sushi, secretly followed by their former colleague Yamada (Shimazu Kentaro) who is now hell-bent on giving the firm that turfed him out a taste of its own experimental medicine. Soon the Inn has been taken over by a flying squadron of zombified sushi, with only Keiko, the fatherly ex-chef Sawada (Matsuzaki Shigeru) and a friendly egg roll to stop all the raw carnage.

“Things have reached the point where they no longer make any sense,” exclaims one character, articulating a suspicion that most viewers will long since have felt for themselves. For between the salacious salarymen, the arrogant chefs and the sashimi that bite, rut and occasionally even sing with gusto, Iguchi’s film serves up a whole lot of crazy, seasoned even more bizarrely with didactic information on the proper preparation and consumption of sushi. It is fun enough while it lasts, but also utterly inconsequential, if not to say forgettable, and as hit and miss as a cheap mixed platter. This is no easy sell for a mainstream English-speaking audience, but anyone with an adventurous palate – and a tolerance for highly artificial colours and flavours – might fancy a sample from this wilfully tasteless menu. Dead Sushi melts on the mouth, without leaving anything to chew on – but overall, it’s a bit of a damp squid.

© Anton Bitel