Zebraman is a 2004 film directed by Takashi Miike.
A satire/homage of Japanese tokusatsu television, such as Kamen Rider or Super Sentai, this funny and touching movie follows Shinichi Ichikawa, a Japanese father and school teacher. Unappreciated by his family and colleagues, Ichikawa finds solace in daydreaming about his childhood television hero, Zebraman, and an Odd Friendship with a young fan, Shinpei Asano. When mysterious sightings of monsters and aliens begin to spread panic in his neighborhood, Ichikawa begins developing supernatural talents of his own and defending the frightened citizens.
In the sequel, Zebraman 2: Assault on Zebra City, Ichikawa finds himself 20 Minutes into the Future, when scientist Kozue Aihara has somehow made use of the Zebraman motif to turn Japan into a Crapsack World, and his daughter Yui is the face of the empire. Fortunately Ichikawa still has allies, like the now adult Asano - except thanks to Laser-Guided Amnesia, he doesn't even remember how it began and why it's his business to begin with...
Not to be confused with Zebra Girl.
Tropes featured include:
- Affectionate Parody: Of cheesy tokusatsu superhero shows.
- Animal Stereotypes: A zebra makes no more sense than a bat, if you think about it.
- Animal-Themed Superbeing: Zebraman is probably type II since his animal identity is more of an alias.
- Art Shift: The quality of costumes, choreography, and special effects changes through the film, with a few surreal surprises. Ichikawa grows into the role and the look and tone of the movie change accordingly.
- Ascended Fanboy: Ichikawa's sad life revolves around the unpopular superhero whose television show was canceled after only seven episodes.
- Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: With a touch of Make My Monster Grow, because this is the sort of Japanese story where the boss grows in size at the final battle, for no reason other than to step on buildings and force the hero to come up with a new plan of attack. Satirized in the dream sequence midway through the film with the crab-themed villain, with really bad, obvious Forced Perspective.
- Badass Biker: A zebra-themed motorcycle looks badder than you would think.
- Body Horror: Though it's brief, it's intense... poor Segawa.
- Calling Your Attacks: Zebra Kick! Zebra Screw Punch!
- Catchphrase: "Don't Stand Behind Me," followed by a predictably zebra-like defensive attack.
- Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Drives a majority of the action in this movie. Mostly seen when Shinichi finds out he needs to gain the power to fly or he'll lose the final battle, and tries to gain it by throwing himself off heights hoping if he believes in his need for it hard enough he'll get it. It does work, but like in the shows it parodies, it only works the time it really counts.
- Downer Ending: The Zebraman Show Within a Show would've had one: they find the scripts late in the movie and it turns out the villains kill Zebraman and destroy the world in the last episode. Fortunately the "real" Zebraman unlocks the needed power the fictional one didn't, and saves the day.
- I Believe I Can Fly: It's too bad zebras can't fly.
- Intergenerational Odd Friendship: Ichikawa and Shinpei Asano, the New Transfer Student.
- People in Rubber Suits
- Screwed by the Network: In-universe, the Zebraman series was canned at 7 episodes.
- Show Within a Show: Scenes from the canceled show are mixed throughout the film, which in fact do a good job of looking like an actual 70's tokusatsu hero show.
- Spider-Sense: Called "bed head" by jeering students, the hero's hair stands erect like a faux-hawk, in the shape of a zebra's mane, when danger is near.
- Super Mode: First, there's a more streamlined, awesome version of his costume with tornado powers. Then, he turns into a fucking zebra pegasus.
- Theme Music Power-Up
- Throwing Off the Disability: A wheelchair-bound child provides just the inspiration a hero needs.
- 20 Minutes into the Future: The film takes place in 2010. Its sequel which came out in 2010 takes place in 2025.
- The Virus: The aliens are green goop that infects humans, although they can gain shape eventually.
- Zorro Mark: Zebra starts with a Z, too, you know.
Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City has examples of:
- Badass Longcoat: Zebraman junks the cape in favor of this in the sequel.
- Crapsack World: In the sequel.
- Dystopia: Zebra City.
- Egopolis: It used to be called Tokyo. An aversion as Ichikawa/Zebraman had nothing to do with it.
- The Dragon: Yui has the katana-weilding Niimi; Yui herself can be considered one to Kozue until the end.
- Dragon-in-Chief: Turns out Yui Aihara was pulling the strings all along.
- G-Rated Sex:
- As the narration states that the corrupt government officials were also guilty of rape, the re-enactment we see has one such official doing a wrestling maneuver on the woman instead.
- When Zebraman has to take Yui Aihara into himself to reunite both halves of his powers, we have them locked in a tight embrace... then blinding light... then the now-complete Zebraman throws down an empty condom pack.
- Karmic Death: Kozue Aihara is ditched by Yui in the slums, the very killzone he established, to be killed by his own black ops police.
- Katanas Are Just Better: Niimi certainly believes this, and the fact that he only loses after Zebraman wrests it with a Barehanded Blade Block, and only dies from committing seppuku with it seems to reinforce that.
- Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: Invoked with Kozue Aihara and his daughter, Lady Gaga Expy Yui except she's not his daughter, and not even human.
- Older Than They Look: Sumire, one of the refugees at the White Horse house is a 25-year-old who looks about 10 thanks to experimentation on her alien infection.
- Painting the Medium: Yui Aihara's music videos shown are apparently broadcasts during Zebra Time.
- After the 'union' of Zebraman and Yui Aihara, he throws down a condom pack and the slogan Stop AIDS appears on the screen.
- Patient Zero: Sumire is an inversion, as the last alien infectee who gets captured and experimented on.
- The Remake: After the events of the first movie, the Zebraman scripts are dredged up, produced and broadcast completely this time.
- Revenge of the Sequel: Zebraman 2: Vengeful Zebra City
- Rule of Symbolism: The sequel does a heavy Yin-Yang motif with the introduction of Yui Aihara, a female despite being born of the black half of Zebraman's powers.
- Shout-Out: Kozue Aihara's Zebra Police have black masks with white lines meant to be a zebra head motif, but may also remind some of the Shocker Mooks.
- Slept Through the Apocalypse: How Ichikawa wound up at the start of the sequel.
- Stylistic Suck: The Zebraman remake Show Within a Show. Despite being an updated version, it deliberately zigzags the level of quality, from ropey makeup, an updated Zebraman outfit comparable to Heisei Kamen Rider, and obvious SFX.
- Typhoid Mary: Sumire, the last alien infectee, is a subversion as The Virus needs to be forced out of her.