Review © Mandi Apple, 2003.

Directed by Ishii Sogo, 2000, 55 mins. Starring Tadanobu Asano and Masatoshi Nagase.

Surely, if the Oscar nomination panel ever decided to create a new category entitled 'Award for the Most Berserk, Noisy, Crazed Art-Cyberpunk Short Movie Shot In Black and White', Electric Dragon 80000V would walk off with the little nude golden bloke, no contest. Directed by Ishii Sogo in the same year that he made the movie GoJoe, and again starring the same two megastar pin-ups of Japanese cinema who appeared in that film, Tadanobu Asano (most lately and infamously of Ichi the Killer, but with a whole host of fantastic film credits to his name) and Masatoshi Nagase (last spotted on this site in Suicide Circle, and sporting an equally phenomenal back catalogue to check out), Electric Dragon 80000V is without a doubt the most unbelievably crackers movie to ever have been produced.

Despite lasting a mere 55 minutes, you are guaranteed the most bizarre 55 minutes of solid insanity you could ever possibly hope for. Here is our considered opinion of how the effect of watching Electric Dragon 80000V might be reproduced, in the comfort of your own home, without buying the movie:

1. Take a bucketful of speed and wash it down with some nice cold rubbing-alcohol.
2 . Place one arm in a microwave and the other in a toaster.
3 . Attach both terminals of a car battery to your tongue.

Of course, we do not recommend that anyone should try something as crazy as that, so why not just go and buy it instead - it's a whole lot safer, though not much less berserk ;-)

Drawing massively on clear influences from Shinya Tsukamoto's seminal and groundbreaking black-and-white cyberfantasy Tetsuo: Iron Man, and bearing a close relationship with its much more knowingly-cool guitar-wielding daft head-rush of a spiritual cousin, Wild Zero, Electric Dragon 80000V somehow manages to stay within the same kind of aesthetic vision, while simultaneously bringing the Tetsuo style bang up to date and even transcending the 100% out-there limits of its critically and publically acclaimed predecessor. Movie-making just does not get any barmier than this.

As for the acting, well, it kind of goes without saying that if you put the two of the most well-respected maverick young actors in Japan into this kind of film, where they get a chance to really play the crap out of cartoon-style anarcho-punk roles, you're onto a complete winner. Asano and Nagase obviously enjoyed their roles as (respectively) "Dragon Eye" Jim Morrison and The Thunderbolt Buddha so much that they give flawlessly brilliant performances, full of fun and fire. In point of fact, given Asano's hobby as a completely mad and enthusiastic musician in various Tokyo punk bands, you do have to ask yourself the question: just how close is the anarchic and insane cyberpunk role of "Dragon Eye" to the actual real-life persona of Tadanobu Asano? Strange how this role just suits him so perfectly ;-)

Liberally laced with fantastically laugh-out-loud black humour (here's a good example: while Asano is powering himself up by sticking both ends of an industrial electric cable into his head during the fight in the last scene, he shouts 'Conserve electricity!!!', which had your humble reviewer in stitches the first time she watched the movie), artistically gorgeous in every single shot, unbelievably frenetic and manic, noisier than standing in the backfire of a fighter jet, and only a very simple plot to speak of (and it does have to be said, it's a million times more accessible than Tetsuo), Electric Dragon 80000V is an absolute dream of a movie.


As we said before at the beginning of this review, the plot of Electric Dragon 80000V is such a simplistic one, in keeping with its live-action manga-fashion lunacy, that we can happily post almost the whole entirety of it here, without fear of upsetting anyone with anything so complicated as a spoiler. Electric Dragon 80000V is not important because of its plot; it's the action, dialogue and aesthetics that really make the movie, and the plot has almost nothing at all to do with it.

Basically, the story revolves around two outcast freaks-of-nature: firstly, Tadanobu Asano's character, "Dragon Eye" Jim Morrison (not the dead one - remember, he was the Lizard King, not the Electric Dragon, although considering how closely linked the nature of Asano's role is with lizards, you do have to wonder how tongue-in-cheek Ishii was about giving the character that name), who is a young punk with a troubled history of violence. He was overdosed with electro-shock therapy throughout most of his life to try and eliminate his crazed animalistic tendencies, the effect of which has unfortunately charged his body up with 80,000 volts of electricity instead.

In fact, he's so electrically-challenged that he even has to ground himself before bolting himself onto his bed at night. His only outlets for his violent frustrations are his home-built guitar, and his collection of pet lizards. Believe it or not, "Dragon Eye" Jim Morrison is definitely meant to be the hero of this movie, an idea displayed clearly by the fact that he doesn't interact or interfere with anyone at all outside of his job, which is looking for lost pet lizards on the streets of Tokyo.

Masatoshi Nagase's character, The Thunderbolt Buddha, is slightly more well-adjusted (which, honestly, isn't saying much) and yet somehow infinitely more devious and evil, and he is accordingly cast as the anti-hero of the story. Due to an accident he had as a little boy when he was struck by lightning whilst climbing a pylon, he got somehow charged up with 20 million volts of electricity, and entirely half of his body has had to be encased in metal, to earth him. The interesting thing about this is that not only is he divided into two halves physically - the metal and the flesh, very reminiscent of Tetsuo in that manner - his mind is also divided into two halves, which are constantly in schizophrenic battle with each other. In fact, one half wants him to destroy himself completely, while the other half wants him to live.

For no apparent good reason, Thunderbolt Buddha decides to pick a fight with "Dragon Eye", and begins a pretty major plan of provocation attacks, to wind him up to a point where he'll come looking for him. My own theory on the reason for this is that possibly poor old "Dragon Eye"'s nightly screaming electrical discharges of electricity are messing with the frequencies of Thunderbolt Buddha's own electrically-charged body, and therefore the situation has come down to the bottom line of "This town ain't big enough for two Electric Dragons charged up to the eyeballs with a gazillion volts of electricity". And so, for whatever reason, the entire film is pretty much just one long build-up to a gargantuan, climactic, lightning-fuelled fight to the death.

Beautiful on the eyes, exciting, totally silly and deliriously funny, and with some of the very, very loudest - and worst - guitar solos your eardrums will ever have the misfortune to be assaulted with, massive explosions, flying sparks, anarchic humour, crackling lightning bolts and a humoungously climactic electrical punch-up, Electric Dragon 80000V is a totally essential and enjoyable movie - given its death-or-glory, anarcho-avant-art, balls-out nature, you'll either love its brand of lunacy, or you'll hate its pointless stupidity. Either way, we recommend it most mightily. Fast, frenetic, funny and stylish madness.

Snowblood Apple Rating for this film:
Entertainment value: 10/10
Violence: 11/10
Shocks: Electrical, obviously
One-liners: hilarious
Massive Lightning-Fuelled Punch-ups: 1
Dreadful Teeth-Vibrating Industrial Noise Guitar Solos: about 30-minutes' worth out of a 55-minute film
Smoking Hair: Tadanobu Asano (previously seen as Smoking Cheeks in Ichi The Killer)
Litres of Tomato Ketchup: 0, but they must have run up one hell of an electricity bill - do you get a discount if you buy in bulk?

***Highly Recommended!!!***

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Electric Dragon 80000V Wallpaper

You can download this wallpaper here: [800x600] [1024x768]
Wallpaper credit: Alex Apple, 2002

Snowblood Apple Filmographies

Ishii Sogo
Tadanobu Asano
Masatoshi Nagase

Links - Gareth Evans's outstanding and incisive review at your completely essential guide to Japanese films, JP Review - as ever, a brilliant and perceptive review from Midnight Eye's Tom Mes - full cast and crew information and filmographies at the JMDB [Japanese only] - great pages at Rapid Eye Movies, replete with images and trailers - another fab review from KFC Cinema, with some nice images - Italian review with loads of pictures and downloadable chunks of the movie at your disposal [Italian only] - a brilliantly spot-on and funny review at Tomb of DVD - a completely alternative opinion of the movie, but hey! - the first bad review I've read, and it totally rocks - it actually sounds more like a recommendation, thanks to Andrew Mackay's fantastic powers of description!

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