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Film / The Red Spectacles

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Take off your rose-tinted glasses, and look hard at reality

The Red Spectacles (紅い眼鏡 Akai Megane) is a 1987 Japanese science fiction directed by Mamoru Oshii and written by him and Kazunori Ito. It stars Shigeru Chiba and Mako Hyodo. This film would be in the first entry in the Kerberos Saga before StrayDog: Kerberos Panzer Cops and Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade. The following entry, StrayDog: Kerberos Panzer Cops, is a prequel to this film.

The movie starts in the aftermath of The Kerberos Riot when Koichi Todome is forced to flee from a Tokyo-led crackdown on Special Armed Garrison "Kerberos" unit after a Kerberos officer has brutally killed a civilian while on official duty. This was one of the main reasons why Tokyo wanted the unit to surrender, turn their gear in and disband. Years later, Koichi returns back to Japan secretly in the hopes that he can link up with his ex-comrades who have survived the siege and/or have been released after being incarcerated for mutiny. As he returns to the country, he finds that the city has started to decay at a rapid pace and everything seems surreal and strange. From here on out, the film goes completely insane and turns into an David Lynch esque arthouse film.

Much of the film's cast is composed of voice actors whom Oshii had previously worked with in the anime industry, most notably Shigeru Chiba and Hideyuki Tanaka.

This film provides examples of:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Contrary to the rest of the Kerberos Saga which has an Alternate History Diesel Punk setting, this film takes palace in the dystopian future of 199X where technology is mostly at the same level as the year it was made, but has also made some advancements, like the Protect Gear armor.
  • Chickification: This happens to Midori but the fact that Midori ends up this way is actually something that Koichi is dreaming up.
  • Decon-Recon Switch: Inverted into a Recon-Decon Switch. The movie initially seems to be a straight up 80s' action flick with a cool and badass sunglasses wearing action hero, heroes wearing cool armor and mowing down dozens of mooks with ease. Then the film seems to turn into an over the top arthouse parody where Koichi takes down his opponents in completety ridicilous manners and finally in the end we see the results of what would really happen to such heroes in a ruthless totalitarian country.
  • Drunken Master: Koichi, after enduring a harsh interrogation, breaks free after being force-fed some cheap alcohol.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The film removes all color after Koichi returns to Japan to signal how things are about to get surreal.
  • Dying Dream: It turns out that Koichi died when he was first ambushed in the hotel.
  • Enemy Mime: Koichi gets attacked by a whole army of these while staying in the hotel.
  • Foreshadowing: Notice the Full-Frontal Assault sequence? How a fairly grounded drama has this out of place moment and gets increasingly more absurd as it goes along? The absurd nature is a hint as to movie we're watching is not quite reality, but Koichi's Dying Dream.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Koichi fights off a lot of armed mooks with just a handgun and exaggerated martial arts.
  • Gainax Ending: The entire movie in itself. It also has this purpose for the whole franchise if you approach them in the order of their in-universe chronology.
  • Genre Shift: The movie starts as a science fiction action film and transitions into a surreal film noir after the 10 minute mark.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Played for Laughs as Koichi hilariously slaps and strips the clothes off of a gangster.
  • Le Film Artistique: Considering that it has a sepia gradient, a very small budget, several postmodernist elements, and the fact that all the characters speak primarily in metaphors, this film fits this trope. Not surprising, considering how much influence it takes from the French New Wave.
  • MacGuffin: It turns out that the main reason Bunmei was hunting for Koichi was to get his suitcase which is supposed to contain a suit of Protect Gear, but the suitcase was actually full of Red Spectacles.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: is the The Red Riding Hood girl really a supernatural entity or is she just another part of Koichi's Dying Dream?
  • Mind Screw: Hoo boy. It's about as close to a David Lynch film as you can get without the man himself directing it.
  • Mysterious Woman: The Red Riding Hood who shows up in the movie - nothing is ever explained about her, or why she appears in the situations that she does. Some reviewers did mention that she's there because of something supernatural.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: (No metaphor intended) Koichi's years of preparation for his return ultimately amount to nothing as he's almost immediately gunned down after he arrives to the country.
  • Surreal Horror: The film gets increasingly David Lynch like as it approaches the end. Borders on Surreal Humor most of the time.
  • World of Ham: Especially evident with various characters in the movie, although Koichi tends to shout and yell when he fights (then again, considering who he’s played by, that’s pretty much to be expected).