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TOP KNOT DETECTIVE – Cutting Comedy

top-knotDirected by Aaron McCann, Dominic Pearce
Starring Toshi Okuzaki, Masa Yumaguchi, Des Mangan

This is a Screenwest, Screen Australia and SBS produced mockumentary that dives straight into the heart of fandom to explore the consuming fascination with pulp shows. In this case it is obscure (and non-existent) 90’s pulp classic Ronin Suirai Tantei, or Top Knot Detective as it is commonly known in the west.

For those of us not familiar with the story of Top Knot Detective, it revolved around a samurai seeking vengeance on the shadowy conspiracy that murdered his master. With his swords, and the power of “deductive reasoning”, he wanders through feudal Japan, killing ninjas as he goes. Behind the scenes the show is a power play between it’s out of control star, Takashi Takimoto (Toshi Okuzaki), his co-stars and the their corporate masters at Sutaffu.

Told through a collection of interviews, narration, and clips from the various associated shows, this mockumentary is an epic dose of craziness. Yet Top Knot Detective is wild and wonderful for that. It covers a wide range of Asian pop culture (predominantly Japanese) and the skewed western perception and fascination with it. Hence it is a bewildering mix of samurai, ninjas, robots, robot ninjas, incomprehensible game shows, baseball playing sentai heroes, kittens, J-pop, demons, and of course…a penis monster. It’s full of blood, action, revenge, sexy ninjas and karaoke – and that is just the show. The private lives of the cast and crew behind the scenes are juicier still.

perth-cast-crew
Perth Cast & Crew

There is an incredible understanding here of the genres in play, and a riotous deconstruction of their appeal. Top Knot Detective is anarchic comedy, bombarding you with cultural strangeness, but there is a depth of understanding here beneath the rawness and the homage to shitty films. Whether that is a parody pushing the gore of Lone Wolf and Cub to ludicrously comedic levels, or a subtle dig at execution falling well short of artistic vision, TKD knows its stuff. Little wonder that you have the likes of cult aficionado Des Mangan, Danger 5 Director Dario Russo, and X-press’ own Travis Johnson appearing in it.

What is a surprise is that there is some genuine depth here too. There is an emotional resonance at play in the behind the scenes tale. More than just the insanity of the Ronin Suirai Tantei show, this runs the gambit of emotional response. As the behind the scenes story progresses there are moments of pathos that catch an audience unaware. Unexpected, but certainly not unwelcome.

Top Knot Detective is a jolt of cult craziness aimed straight at fandom. It hits it target with the unerring accuracy of a ninja star.

DAVID O’CONNELL