11:30 AM PDT 3/14/2017 by Elizabeth Kerr
Young stars Hisashi Yoshizawa and Shunsuke Daito headline Japan’s latest sci-fi two-parter.
A group of freedom fighters from the future travel to the past armed with a super-powered suit of armor and psychic teleportation abilities to battle alien invaders in giant robot gear in Brave Storm, a short, sharp shock of B-grade mecha action from the industry that practically invented the form. Writer-director and visual effects supervisor Junya Okabe’s debut feature is a typically nonsense piece of science-fiction entertainment that will please fanpersons of the form and have a long life on the specialty genre circuit; part two is forthcoming if the end titles are to be believed. After a domestic release and festivals overseas, download, streaming and DVD outlets will be the way to go.
A boatload of influences and references come into play in Brave Storm, among them The Avengers and X-Men (the group of world saviors and/or mutants), Iron Man (the suit), The Terminator (duh) and Pacific Rim (ditto) — many of whom have cribbed just as much from Japanese pop culture in the past — as well as the industry’s own genre history.
Brave Storm’s cold open unfolds in Tokyo 2050, a time when humanity is all but extinct and the intergalactic invading Kyrgyz have re-terraformed the planet to have an atmosphere that’s a deadly toxic stew. Almost the last of us, the Kasuga brothers build a time machine and send a team back in time to stop the invasion before it happens, including psychically gifted Haruka (Chihiro Yamamoto) and Koji (Shunsuke Daito, Tokyo Tribe) and his supersuit. In one mission, they locate cutting-edge roboticist Kenichiro Kurenai (Hisashi Yoshizawa, I Am a Hero) and convince him to build Red Baron, the giant mecha that will destroy the aliens’ Black Baron, which is scheduled to release the atmosphere-blighting tech in a few years. The second mission has them tracking down the good doctor’s brother, bare-knuckle boxer Ken (Shu Watanabe, Attack on Titan) because he is the key to driving the Red Baron … for some reason. It all ends with an awesome (and freakishly empty) Ginza throwdown before setting up the next part, an increasingly common trend for films of the type (Gantz, Parasyte).
Brave Storm’s plot hinges on the expected sci-fi devices — invasion, environmental ruin, temporal paradoxes — but Okabe has tossed a bit of welcome cynicism into the mix by having the Kyrgyz scout explain that his race chose Earth for resettlement because it was so rife with infighting and violence it would have destroyed itself eventually anyway. Tech specs are fine, even with some rocky F/X (though strong in light of the small budget), and the central performances don’t get in the way of the action — the exception being a hilariously focused Yuki Matsuzaki as an alien hit-man robot.
Production company: Blast Inc.
Cast: Hisashi Yoshizawa, Shunsuke Daito, Chihiro Yamamoto, Shu Watanabe, Yuki Matsuzaki
Director-screenwriter-producer: Junya Okabe
Executive producer: Shuichi Okabe
Director of photography: Yuki Noguchi
World sales: Blast Inc.