It’s laborious to evaluation Iké Boys with out addressing the elephant within the room: that it’s a film steeped in Japanese tradition, made by Individuals from an American viewpoint.
The nice factor is that it tries to deal with that head on, and has factors to make about participating with different cultures on a floor degree.
Sadly, these factors begin getting drowned out because the movie goes on, not solely by a busy, effects-laden second half, but in addition by extra generic messages about friendship and being true to oneself.
Shawn (Quinn Lord, Trick ‘r’ Deal with) and Vik (Ronak Gandhi, All Rise) are two nerds dwelling in Oklahoma throughout the closing days of 1999. Each of them are otaku obsessive about Japanese tradition, or extra precisely, what’s out there to them on the daybreak of the web period in rural America.
They usually’re each a bit too enthusiastic about Vik’s household internet hosting Miki (Christina Higa, Am I OK?), a Japanese alternate scholar, for the vacations.
It’s when Miki arrives when Iké Boys appears to be headed into regrettable territory, however to the film’s credit score, writers Eric McEver (who additionally directed) and Jeff Hammer give her a bit extra to do than merely be the thing of nerdy affection.
Miki, it seems, selected to review in Oklahoma as a result of her personal overriding curiosity in Native American tradition. However like Shawn and Vik, who attempt to impress her by displaying off all their otaku stuff, Miki’s a bit problematic herself – not figuring out the distinction between Indian folks and Native Individuals, she requested to stick with the Kapoor household.
All of this might definitely be a springboard to deeper examinations of cross-cultural relations, however Iké Boys’ principal plot facilities on a misplaced anime that Shawn finds and reveals to Vik and Miki. The film’s prologue explains that the anime’s director, Daisuke Ogata, had a prophecy of impending doom on the finish of the millennium, and turned it into a movie with a view to warn the general public. However the movie bombed, and a warehouse hearth virtually destroyed the final surviving print.
When the film merely stops earlier than ending, the three youngsters are hit by a bizarre vitality blast from the tv. Shawn begins to rework right into a mecha and Vik slowly evolves right into a kaiju – which complicates their friendship, as characters repeatedly level out how mecha combat kaiju.
Complicating issues additional is Vik’s crush on classmate Bethany (Saylor Bell), who makes it a degree to drive a wedge between him and Shawn. This is able to be typical for a coming of age teen comedy, if not for an early line of dialogue that confirms he’s fetishizing her primarily based on her Asian heritage. That side, for higher or worse, is rarely talked about once more after that one utterance.
Iké Boys is definitely not brief on affection, for its characters, for Japan, and for the films it homages. Shawn’s strained relationship together with his father is touching, thanks largely to a welcome flip from Farscape star Ben Browder because the dad. Shawn doesn’t appear to lack for father figures, because the prize scholar to his karate sensei Newt (Billy Zane).
Newt comes throughout as an older model of Shawn at first, equally enamored of Japan, virtually to the full oversight of his personal Indigenous roots. He’s additionally married to Reiko, excellently portrayed by Godzilla Towards Mechagodzilla‘s Yumiko Shaku. Shaku’s casting is among the extra overt nods to tokusatsu, however she’s a beautiful actress, so I can’t fault it. And like Newt with Shawn, Reiko begins to take Miki below her personal wing.
However as the teenager drama and fantasy parts of the film develop into extra pronounced, it begins to take its tokusatsu references at face worth, simply as its characters do. As Shawn and Vik uncover their powers, they’re pitted towards one another by shadowy doomsday cultists out to awaken the Outdated Gods, whereas Miki finally ends up happening an precise imaginative and prescient quest to determine her place on the planet.
Iké Boys finally takes the secure route, utilizing monsters, mecha and magic as broad metaphors for rising up. The ultimate act pays homage to kaiju films and superheroes by way of a mixture of sensible results, lower-tier CGI and animation. Although the trouble is appreciated, the execution is a contact underwhelming. The ultimate battle, nevertheless, lastly finds the precise observe of old-school tokusatsu surprise.
Nonetheless, it’s unhappy that the film settles for bland, heat nostalgia when it may really probe deeper into cultural appropriation. Iké Boys is cute, and higher than the trailer suggests, however it’s a disappointingly shallow look again at the moment in fandom.
Iké Boys arrives On Demand and Digital HD on October 11, 2022
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Produced by Jeff Hammer, Brion Hambel ,Paul Jensen
Written by Eric McEver, Jeff Hammer
Directed by Eric McEver
Starring Quinn Lord, Ronak Gandhi, Christina Higa,
Billy Zane, Yumiko Shaku, Ben Browder