2020 must have been a great year for sea monkey sales. Apparently, you could raise capsule kaiju the same way in Japan. Of course, you never really know what you might get when you raise kaiju in your apartment, but an unemployed actor hopes his kaiju will battle the CCP’s Coronavirus in Shunji Iwai’s The 12 Day Tale of the Monster that Died in 8, which screens as an on-demand selection of the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival.
Iwai probably got his minimalist Zoom-style movie in just under the wire. It is time to declare a moratorium on video chat pandemic-era films, because you have a standout like Rob Savage’s Host on one hand and all the other dreary ones on the other. Frankly, the Zoom chatting also grows tiresome here too, but there is something appealing about the film’s surreal premise.
With nothing to do, Sato orders a capsule monster to raise. It makes sense considering Shinji Higuchi (the director of Shin Godzilla and an upcoming Ultraman movie, playing himself) is available to advise him. Unfortunately, his kaiju eggs only slowly morph into what look like misshapen kaiju eraser heads. In contrast, the alien his friend bought is growing like a weed. Unfortunately, it is invisible on online chats, so he can’t see it mocking him.
12 Day Tale is just short of 90 minutes, but it still feels a bit too dragged out. The concept is clever and the execution hits the right melancholy notes, but this project probably should have realized as a forty- to fifty-minute short film instead.
As minimalist cinema goes, 12 Day Tale makes Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes look like Lawrence of Arabia, but its not nearly as clever as Junta Yamaguchi’s time-trickery. Nevertheless, Iwai and company find a way to pay tribute to Japan’s cinematic kaiju legacy at a time when life was otherwise shut-down. It is nice, but not essential. Recommended for fans of Iwai and Higuchi, The 12 Day Tale of the Monster that Died in 8 screens as an on-demand selection of this year’s Fantasia.