EXECUTIVE KOALA was overlooked by many during its 2005 release, possibly because it is both unique and foreign, but also likely due to the fact that our protagonist is a giant koala.
This horror/ comedy is highly stylized absurdist filmmaking at its best. It’s a world where koalas work for rabbits, and frogs run convenience stores without their human counterparts batting an eye. It is also an extremely intelligent slasher that creates its own universe and never once questions itself. Of course, Tamura is a businessman who just happens to be a koala working for a giant rabbit. Why would you even question that? This unfamiliar universe soon becomes secondary as we forget about the costumes and focus on the mystery and murder.
Tamura is your typical Japanese businessman. He is a hard-working, driven executive koala who any man or frog would be happy to call a friend. But when his girlfriend turns up dead, he becomes the prime suspect. Enlisting the help of his boss, a giant rabbit, and a giant frog convenience store clerk, Tamura attempts to clear his name and find his girlfriend’s true killer.
I know this all sounds silly. But seriously, it somehow works. Actually, the fuzzy over-sized costumes make it even more disturbing as you eventually forget they exist and accept the universe. Somehow by breaking the norms and putting on animal masks, this standard slasher film is transformed into a bizarre and riveting, stylized film that ups the terror and tension, not a far cry from the absolutely horrifying nature of David Lynch’s film RABBITS. Kawasaki’s previous film, THE CALAMARI WRESTLER, also immersed the audience into a world of surrealism and the absurd, not caring the least about the “third wall”.
A satire at its core, EXECUTIVE KOALA seems to be ribbing mostly on Japan’s cult-like devotion to business and a value system Japan’s youth are ready to move away from. Behind the absurdity, there is a frank message about Japan’s past and future. And despite being an idea that could be lost on American audiences, it still makes for a fantastically fun film.