Japanese director Minoru Kawasaki’s follow-up to his cult hit THE
CALAMARI WRESTLER was this goofy 2005 psycho thriller about a
businessman koala bear who may or may not be a murderer. That
description should tell you all you need to know.
Minoru Kawasaki’s THE CALAMARI WRESTLER (or IKA RESURAA),
from 2004, was about a squid who becomes a champion wrestler. In the
following year’s EXECUTIVE KOALA (KOARA KACHO) Kawasaki tried his hand
at another animal-themed movie, though far less successfully. Subsequent
Kawasaki productions include KABUTO-O BEETLE (2005), about a wrestling
beetle, THE WORLD SINKS EXCEPT JAPAN (2006--no animals in this one), and
PUSSY SOUP (2008), about a soup-making cat!
Tamura is a six-foot koala bear working in the office
of a pickle distribution company run by a rabbit. One day Tamura’s
girlfriend Yoko turns up dead, having been stabbed 30 times, and Tamura
becomes the main suspect. A letter turns up (apparently) from Yoko,
claiming she fears for her life because of Tamura’s abuse--of which
Tamura himself has no memory.
Yet Tamura begins to wonder if he is indeed the sadist
described in the letter, especially after he experiences horrific
nightmares in which Yukari arises from the dead and comes after him with
an axe, and he, with flashing red eyes, menaces his co-workers. Upon
awakening one day Tamura finds the mutilated corpse of one of those very
co-workers at the foot of his bed.
Tamura is put in prison for the killing. There he’s
beaten savagely, starved and has more nightmares (of which there’s no
shortage in this movie). His friend, a frog convenience store clerk,
sends in a ferret with a set of keys to let Tamura out of his cell. But
there are powerful people who want him out of the picture, and will stop
at nothing to accomplish their goal!
As in THE CALAMARI WRESTLER, the aim here was to
insert guys in ridiculous animal costumes--a rabbit, frog and of course
koala--into a more-or-less straightforward drama, with the human
characters totally unfazed by the presence of these critters, or the
(apparently deliberate) cheapness of their costumes (note the visible
zippers!). This approach worked reasonably well in CALAMARI but not so
As a psychological drama EXECUTIVE KOALA fails: the
story is poorly developed and over-reliant on repetitive dream
sequences, while the title character is never as endearing as Kawasaki
seems to believe. As a surreal comedy (complete with campy music numbers
and a goofy martial arts sequence) the film also fails--in short, it’s
not serious or outrageous enough to succeed.
EXECUTIVE KOALA (KOARA KACHO)
Director: Minoru Kawasaki
Producer: Shuntaro Kanai
Screenplay: Minoru Kawasaki, Masakazu Migita
Cinematography: Yasutaka Nagano
Cast: Ryu Hariken, Elli Rose, Hironobu Nomura, Lee Ho, Eichi Kikuchi