Saturday, March 14, 2015

K-20: The Fiend With Twenty Faces (live action movie), on DVD

K-20: The Fiend With Twenty Faces is a Japanese alternate history action movie. It was another one of my bargain bin finds. I'm happy to say that this one was more than worth what I spent on it. After the mess that was Aquarian Age: Juvenile Orion, I can honestly say that I'm so relieved.


According to the container, this movie is based on a book by Soh Kitamura, which, as far as I can tell, has not been translated into English. In this alternate history Japan, World War II never took place and the aristocrats continue to thrive while the poor grow poorer. The year is now 1949, and the only thing the aristocrats have to fear is K-20, a masked man who can perfectly assume anyone's identity and who has been stealing valuable artifacts from the rich. His latest theft is unusual: a creation of Tesla's (or based on one of Tesla's inventions? I can't remember) that could potentially either provide the world with cheap and wireless power, or bring the world to its knees. K-20's greatest foe among the aristocrats is Baron Akechi, the lead detective trying to capture him.

Heikichi has nothing to do with any of that. He's a circus acrobat and illusionist whose greatest worry after a successful show is whether all his doves are back safe and sound. His ringmaster's worsening health prompts him to accept a somewhat fishy job offer that requires him to use his skills to take a picture of Akechi's engagement to Duchess Hashiba (from here on out referred to as “Yoko”). Unfortunately, Heikichi was tricked, and he soon finds himself framed and imprisoned for K-20's crimes. If he wants to take down K-20, clear his name, and save the city, he'll have to become more skilled than K-20.

This movie was long, but so much fun I didn't care. It reminded me of a superhero movie, a mix of Batman's athleticism and techie toys (sort of) with Spiderman's sense of humor and joy.

Heikichi was a great character, aside from one moment that rubbed me the wrong way. I hated it when he put down the thieves who saved him (basically, "stealing is wrong and you thieves would as soon betray each other as help each other"), and I hated it when the thieves put themselves down while declaring that they would help him ("you don't have to stoop to thievery, Heikichi, we'll support you!"). Aside from those moments, though, Heikichi was fabulous. He was incredibly good-hearted, but also sometimes a little foolish and hasty.

I'm still not sure how I feel about Yoko. On the one hand, she could fly a plane (stretching the boundaries of believability by declaring that this was just the basics of being a lady - riiight) and easily throw a careless Heikichi. On the other hand, she was pretty worthless against K-20. I kept waiting for her to at least throw something at him to distract him, and yet she did nothing. I suppose a lot of it could be explained by her being a delicate and naive aristocrat, but it didn't quite gel with the evidence that she'd had at least a little self-defense training.

Anyway, this movie was slick, fast-paced, and good-looking. Although there was some tragedy (a lot of Heikichi's circus family is killed off-screen early on), it didn't weigh things down at all. The action and humor were more at the forefront. I loved Heikichi's training scenes, and his joy at trying out the newest techie toy Genji had made for him was wonderful.

I loved this movie and am glad I took a chance on it. Watching Heikichi learn new techniques and take on K-20 was loads of fun, and one of the reveals at the end managed to take me completely by surprise.


One subtitled Japanese trailer, 15 Japanese original trailers, and “Viz Pictures presents” trailers for all three live action 20th Century Boys movies (dubbed in English, ick).

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