Taniguchi-san has done it again with Shigeo wa Handsome.
In this action packed and emotionally driven piece by the late Taniguchi Takashi, themes of familial love and conflict are explored thoroughly. Interestingly, the piece also tackles the increasingly important contemporary issue of ideological terrorism. Anyway, down to the brass tacks. This review WILL contain minor spoilers but I'll do my best to avoid exposing anything major.
This is arguably where this piece shines. Despite it's short length of roughly three minutes, every important character has their inner goals and desires explored, their inner and external conflicts are exposed and the story is wrapped up in a nice bow by the time your three minutes are up and you're left salivating for more.
It is worth pointing out that the story and the archetypes of the characters are not particularly unique, though no less distinct. It's been a while since I've seen it, but this piece seems to draw heavy inspiration from 'Con Air' the 1997 American action film directed by Scott West, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, written by Scott Rosenberger and of course starring Nicolas Cage and the great John Malkovich. For my less culturally inclined readers Con Air is more or less about a handsome good guy fighting a bunch of bad guys on a plane. Sound familiar? As I pointed out I haven't watched it in several years but I remember enjoying it quite a bit. Modern day audiences might find the choice of putting Nicolas Cage in the leading role strange, but it is important to remember that back in the late 1990s Nicolas Cage was a hot young piece of studio meat and, within the same roughly two year period, appeared in Face/Off, The Rock, and City of Angels in addition to the aforementioned Con Air.
The art in Shego wa handsome is nothing you wouldn't already expect by Taniguchi-san. His consistently expressive art style continues to blow me away as if it was the first time I was watching Onara Gorou again. This again, is how I felt while watching Con Air for the first time.
Since I began writing this review I rewatched Con Air and I must say that the special effects and art direction, not to mention the stellar cinematography, really hold up. After all, if you've got David Tattersall as the head of cinematography you should expect nothing less. For reference, David Tattersall also worked on XXX: State of the Union a 2005 action film directed by Lee Tamahori and starring Ice Cube of NWA and Are We There Yet fame. Ice Cube, the professional name of O'Shea Jackson Sr., might not be your first choice for an american action film, or at this point, an american anything but in 2005 the United States was a different place and Ice Cube was really the only choice for his leading role as the bad ass former US Navy SEAL officer. Here's a fun fact, Vin Diesel was originally signed on for the leading role but had to drop out so he could work on The Pacifier, but that's another story.
A big part of the humor in Taniguchi-san's work is the sound. Every character is voiced by him and it's obvious that he doesn't own, or at least have immediate access to, professional sound equipment. Early on in this short Shigeo's mother makes a joke and suddenly starts laughing, and while you'd be forgiven to think that was part of the script I am inclined to think that Taniguchi-san couldn't control himself and genuinely broke out laughing. The dialogue is delivered for the most part in a very deadpan manner and that suits the piece well. There is one very emotionally driven scene in which Shigeo cries out with the voice of a thousand Samurai but going into any more detail would be distasteful and too much of a spoiler. Humorously enough, Taniguchi-sensei also provides all of the sound effects and they are a joy to listen to.
CHARACTER: Hard to rate, but i'd give it a 6 or 7 out of 10
The Pacifier is a 2005 action comedy co-written by Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant and was directed by Adam Shankman. You might not recognize those names, and that's probably because of what a piece of trash movie this was. Vin Diesel was in this movie, and I think I know why. Certainly it wasn't based on the artistic merit of whatever script he received, which based on the movie consisted of the ramblings of a smallpox afflicted man and descriptions of foul scatological acts. Anyway I'm getting off topic, Vin Diesel plays a US Navy SEAL who for various reasons that aren't worth getting into, has to protect the children of some guy who was killed by eastern Europeans. If you've seen the movie Hostel, you know what I'm talking about. This continues for 95 minutes and then the movie gracefully ends. I'll give Vin Diesel credit, he did a decent job portraying what he was given so I can't really fault him for that.
Shigeo wa Handsome is everything you'd expect if you go into it knowing that it was made by Signor Taniguchi. It's only three minutes long, which is the perfect length for what it is. It's humorous in a silly way and if that's something you like I think you'll get a lot out of it. It's a hell of a lot better than the Pacifier quite frankly.