The plot is a staple of children's classics from BAMBI to WATERSHIP DOWN: cute, little anthropomorphic animal creatures band together for survival when they are threatened by oafish humans. There is a difference, though. In this case, it is quite forgivable to root for a "sad" ending. As the title implies, the cute little creatures this time around are...read more
The plot is a staple of children's classics from BAMBI to WATERSHIP DOWN: cute, little anthropomorphic animal creatures band together for survival when they are threatened by oafish humans. There is a difference, though. In this case, it is quite forgivable to root for a "sad" ending. As
the title implies, the cute little creatures this time around are cockroaches, those greedy, scurrying little insects who foul your food and infest your kitchen. They carry diseases. They have made many a city apartment uninhabitable. And they're the heroes? Go figure.
Naomi is the spunky roach-heroine who has grown up living the easy life with her colony in the apartment of slovenly single guy Saito (Kaoru Kobayashi), who almost never does his dishes and eats only half his meals, leaving the rest for the roaches to feast on. And feast they do. We also see them
dancing and generally whooping it up nightly, converting Saito's kitchen table into a swinging dinner club. Naomi is betrothed to Ichiro, a feckless young dreamer who has grown soft on the good life at Saito's. As the movie begins the colony is about to celebrate its earlier "victory" over the
humans, accomplished only after thousands of cockroach comrades perished in insecticide attacks by the apartment's previous tenants. But a damper is put on the celebration by the arrival of Hans, the movie's dashing hero, a broad-shouldered flying roach from the colony "across the field," which
has the misfortune of inhabiting the apartment of a woman (Setsuko Karamsumaru) who is more fastidious than Saito. In fact, she despises roaches and smashes, poisons, and sets sticky traps for them. (This is tragic?) The plot thickens when Naomi falls in love with Hans while he stays with Naomi
and her aged father to recuperate from the battle wounds that led him to seek refuge with her colony. When Hans returns home, Naomi risks her life by following him across the "vast" field. Losing her way after a sudden rainstorm, she is saved by a pile of talking doggie doo-doo (no kidding) that
puts her back on course. Still trusting humans, Naomi confronts the woman apartment dweller directly, innocently asking where she can find Hans. When her request is met by a rolled-up newspaper, Naomi barely escapes with her life. Rescued and wooed by Hans, she sees firsthand the carnage, as well
as the efforts of Hans and his friends to combat the human menace (their strategy consisting mainly of flying, en masse, into the woman's face). As Ichiro pines away back in Saito's apartment, the story becomes even more complex when Saito and the woman roach-killer begin a liaison. Saito's new
girl friend immediately busies herself with cleaning and roach-proofing his apartment. During the all-out war that follows, the colony is decimated. But don't cheer yet. Naomi, the sole survivor, is told--by a talking toy rabbit, no less--that she is, in fact, the first of a new breed of
poison-resistant roaches destined to keep her species alive and numerous. Having been impregnated by Hans, she is shown in a still, blue-line drawing in the end--the film's animation budget apparently having run out--happily surrounded by hundreds of little baby super-roaches.
Somebody please get that rolled-up newspaper and smack Japanese writer-director Hiroaki Yoshida in the head with it. COCKROACHES doesn't even qualify as a camp classic. Besides being thoroughly deranged, it's also slow, dull, and numbingly mediocre. The painstaking efforts to maintain the
roach-eye view in the live action are negated by smeared, discolored cinematography. Moreover, the animation itself is stilted and lifeless. WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT it ain't. Indeed, it isn't even ASTRO BOY. Besides being too dumb for adults, COCKROACHES may set a new kid-movie precedent by being
equally unacceptable for children. What parents want their youngsters digging through the garbage in search of "pets" after sitting through this nonsense? Yoshida has allegedly described COCKROACHES as an allegory about the fear, suspicion, and hatred with which the Japanese are currently regarded
in other parts of the world, including the US, proving patriotism to be the final refuge of bad filmmakers as well as scoundrels. (Violence, adult situations.)
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