These days, the Anime phenomenon has swept the world with reckless abandon with an insane amount of titles released all the time to sate ravenous hunger it’s fans have for the product. Over that passage of time, some series have continued to evolve into new series to mix things up (Dragon Ball Z) while others have seemed to fallen into obscurity despite numerous adaptations and even Americanized live-action versions and one of the most endearing of these is The Guyver. Released in it’s original Manga form and adapted into Anime three times in 1985, 1989 and 2005 respectively, Bio-Booster Armour Guyver told the story of Sho Fukamachi, a teenager who stumbles across an extra terrestrial form of bio-armour which encased his body and allows him to fight a race of genetically modified race of monsters known of Zoanoids. However, in 1991 The Guyver managed to score a movie version funded by Re-Animator producer Brian Yunza, but Anime hadn’t really achieved the level of success in America then than it does now, so it’s budget was hardly in the same realm as Alita: Battle Angel or Ghost In The Shell. Nowhere fucking close, as it happens…
The Chronos Corporation is one of those shifty conglomerates much like Resident Evil’s Umbrella Corporation that seems to sink every dollar it earns into orchestrating the downfall of mankind. It’s uncovered the secret that humans were actually created by aliens in order to be the ultimate weapon (sorry, religious people…) and have harnessed this power by evolving people into having the ability to transform into monsters called Zoanoids. However, Dr. Segawa, one of their scientists, has had second thoughts (possibly because he now has the ability to transform into a fish monster to go along with Chronos’ dental plan) and has stolen a mysterious, hubcap looking artifact known as the Guyver Unit. The Doctor is killed after hiding the item, so Chonos’ bully boys figure that maybe his unsuspecting daughter Mizuki might know of the whereabouts of their prize when it’s actually her put-upon boyfriend, Sean Barker, who’s found the Guyver Unit hidden in some trash. Accidently activating it while getting mugged, the unit coats Sean in genuinely bitching living armour and he uses it to fight the Zoanoids at their own game but then is seemingly defeated and melts into a bubble of goop when the mutants discover the suit’s weakness. As Mizuki is escorted to meet the head of Chonos – a crazy-eyed megalomaniac named Fulton Balcus – weird shit is going on downstairs in the lab; it appears that there’s still life in what little remains of the Guyver Unit – but what does it mean? Can Sean possibly recover from a full meltdown (physical, not mental) and still manage to save his girlfriend and the world with more, high-kicking Bio-boosted shenanigans?
First of all, let’s get onto the subject of a shamelessly slumming Mark Hamill. Despite what the poster is blatantly suggesting, the once and future Luke Skywalker is NOT the one to transform into The Guyver and he in fact plays a beleaguered CIA agent trying to expose Chonos for the shady freaks that they are. While some of you may let out a groan in disapointment that the man with the best Joker voice in the business doesn’t get encased in suffocating killer armour (he’s far more interesting in the single-serving slice of bland white bread who’s actually the lead here), he does (spoiler warning deployed) end up transforming into a magnificent giant bug, courtesy of special effects guys turned directors Steve Wang and Screaming Mad George who helmed this exceptionally silly kung-fu monster mash.
Featuring possibly the most uneven tone of any genre movie released in the 90’s to say The Guyver is all over the place is quite the gross understatement and the filmmakers seem to have utterly no clue as to who their target audience is supposed to be. As transferring the adolescent themes and hyper violence of a typically average anime was essentially unexplored territory, the film bounds from excruciating 90’s “hilarity” (a rapping, hip-hop monster, you say? Oh good!) to genuinely strange violence that would freak out any child who plonked themselves down to watch it. This is most likely because of the involvement of horror producer Brian Yunza who seems to have genuinely forgotten what genre he’s trying to make and insists on stocking the supporting roles with as many horror icons as he can because he seems to think that some 11 year old out there will find the casting of the guy who played Herbert West in Re-Animator as a character called Dr. East fucking hilarious. Racking up fun appearances by The Hills Have Eyes’ Michael Berryman and a cameo from 80’s screen queen Linnea Quigley also lends credence to this theory but it’s all but confirmed by the inclusion of David Gale (another Re-Animator allumi) and has him perv all over the female in a barely PG version of a scene in Re-Animator where he molests a naked woman…
Anyway, head scratching tonal shifts aside, while The Guyver falls down on multiple points that include an overly screamy female lead, vaguely racist humor, the aforementioned rapping and the fact that every scene change comes with a burst of music and a violent screen wipe in an attempt to be more “comic booky”, the fights and monsters are actually pretty fucking sweet in a Power Rangers/Japanese monster movie sort of way.
Wang and George’s may be a tad flawed, but their menagerie of creatures certainly aren’t – George is an arch surrealist and Wang worked on such movies as Predator and their outlandish output impressively belies their meager budget. Take the character of M.C. Striker for example, who turns into a creature that looks like Jar Jar Binks went off the rails and has been living in a slum huffing glue for five years and yet is still cool despite being voiced by Jimmie Walker from the American sitcom Good Times (yes, he even manages to squeeze in a “Dyno-MITE!” before the end credits). The Guyver itself, which thankfully has arguably more screen time than the dude that’s supposed to be wearing it, is resplendent and is in with a good shout at being the most comic accurate super-suit that no one has ever heard of. The movie even exceeds your monster movie expectations by somehow loading up the rousing finale well Balcus transforms into a dinosaur-sized “Zoalord” who wrecks the place like a claustrophobic Alien Queen trapped in an escape room. All these latex creations are put through their paces by the energetic action (shot by Wang who went on to make the sequel solo) and the fact that it’s monsters that are getting their heads messily crushed, bandsaw blades thrown into their skulls and their throats slashed by the Guyver’s handy, dandy elbow blade means that the gore isn’t too intense.
Dopey, stupid and indulging in some lead actor white washing before Scarlett Johansson was even in her teens, The Guyver is nevertheless choice viewing for fans of rubber monsters aggressively getting their faces kicked in.
What’s got two thumbs, kills monsters and appears in a stupidly fun movie?