Even when Takashi Miike is in "family-friendly" mode, there is something disturbing about his work. Like John Waters toning down for Hairspray, Miike is capable of eschewing the shocking, but even in such good-natured fantasy films as The Great Yokai War and this one, Zebraman, something of his discomfiting bizarre aesthetic remains. While Zebraman is an exuberantly nostalgic superhero story, calling to mind the simple pleasures of watching men in silly costumes battle each other on television programs like Ultraman, Kamen Rider, and (for American audiences) Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, because it's a Miike film, it also features body cavities filled with glowing green gore, a government agent with an itchy STD, and a minor villain who has a distinctly unwholesome relationship with the hero's teenaged daughter. The wackiness doesn't feel forced -- this is a Miike film, after all -- but it loses a bit of steam as the storyline becomes more linear in the second half and Shinichi (Sho Aikawa) begins to understand what he's up against. Nonetheless, in addition to the same type of triumphant underdog story that screenwriter Kankurô Kudô captured in Ping Pong, and a wonderful deadpan performance from Aikawa, Zebraman captures the childlike sense of wonder of those misspent Saturday mornings and the impact of those shared memories and childhood ideals on who we become as adults. This is as close as Miike comes to "feel-good" entertainment, and it feels pretty good.
by Josh Ralske review