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Film / Zeiram

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A 1991 Japanese SF/action film, directed by Keita Amemiya, in which a nigh-unkillable alien creature (Zeiram) arrives in on Earth (landing in Japan, naturally). It is followed by Iria, a female bounty hunter from another planet who has been pursuing Zeiram. Upon arriving, Iria, Zeiram, and two electrical workers are drawn into an alternate dimension where they only have a certain amount of time to kill Zeiram.

Zeiram was followed by a sequel, Zeiram II, as well as an anime OAV prequel, IRIA: Zeiram the Animation, which depicts Iria's first encounter with Zeiram. There were also two video games developed by BanprestoHyper Iria for the Super Famicom and Zeiram Zone for the PlayStation.

This film and its followups contain examples of:

  • Achilles' Heel: The only part of Zeiram's body that appears to be mortal is the small face-tipped tentacle in the center of its hat. The movies end with that being shot off, and the anime with it getting sliced in half lengthwise.
  • Aerith and Bob: Iria and Bob. The supporting cast also includes such names as Fujikuro and Gren.
  • The Aesthetics of Technology: Every piece of Iria and Bob's equipment in the films looks like a cluttered, complex piece of Used Future, particularly Iria's suit and her various weapons. More notable, however, are the wonderful designs in the animation; a unique blend of ancient east and futuristic west with origami wing packs, bellows-powered Hover Tanks and pagoda-shaped escape pods and space-capable rickshaws alongside under-shoulder variable-barrel laser cannons with microscope-like lens assemblies and slug-throwers with tape-wrapped grips. It kind of looks like a cross between Star Wars and Tenchi Muyo!.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Iria and Bob spend most of the films speaking Earth languages, despite not being from Earth. It's suggested that before they ever landed in Japan, they were already studying the local language.
  • Ambiguous Gender: Zeiram. While its most iconic form has a vaguely male-coded build, its true face is androgynous, and its twisted final form in the first movie sports a pair of humanoid breasts for some reason. The sequel gives it slightly more feminine coding, giving both the central being and its robotic body pronounced breasts, which the camera continually finds excuses to fixate on.
  • Animal Motifs: Zeiram's mechanical body in the second film sports a kitsune motif, with a face resembling a ceremonial fox mask and horns resembling ears.
  • Anime Hair: Iria's hair is considerably spikier in the anime than in the live-action movies.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: Zeiram's tiny, kabuki-like true face is the only part of it that seems to have trouble regenerating, as destroying it managed to defeat the monster in both the original film and the anime.
  • Bad Job, Worse Uniform: Teppei and Kamiya don't dislike their jobs, but they're not happy with the eye-aching pastel jumpsuits they're required to wear; both are seen wearing black motorcycle jackets over their uniforms. Their company van is painted in similarly garish colors.
  • Badass Cape:
    • Zeiram wears one reminiscent of a traditional mino straw cloak in its primary form, making its already sizable frame feel even larger.
    • Iria gets in on this as well, with her bright red traveling cloak.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: Iria in her second Shower of Angst. The first preserves her modesty through posture and camera angles.
  • BFG: The cannon that's used to defeat Zeiram's supposedly final form.
  • Bifauxnen: Kei in the animation.
  • Bounty Hunter: Iria and Bob. An actual advertisement for their bounty-hunting business is seen in the first two minutes of the movie, along with a message from Bob accepting the bounty on Zeiram and warning other hunters off.
  • Brain Uploading: How Bob got to be a computer in the first place, according to The Animation.
  • Briefcase Full of Money: Tedan Tippedai attempts to bribe Iria with one to keep silent about what happened on the Karma, namely that they had attempted to use it to smuggle an illegal alien bioweapon that broke out and slaughtered half the crew. While there's a good chance that Iria would have rejected it anyway thanks to what Zeiram did to Bob and Gen, it would have had a better chance of working if they tried bribing her before they had attempted to gain her silence through attempted assassination.
  • Collapsing Lair: Both movies have the Pocket Dimension that most of the movie takes place in break down, forcing those still inside to have to find an exit before it collapses and kills them all.
  • Continuity Snarl: In the movie, Iria doesn't know much about Zeiram. However, in the prequel OVAs, she fought with it multiple times after it killed her brother.
  • Cool Mask: The small white face on Zeiram's hat first appears to be this. This turns out to be not only a part of its body, but seems to be its true form, with everything below simply being an appendage.
  • Cyborg: Zeiram or rather, its first form, which allows it to store additional weapons inside its body.
  • Deadly Force Field: Iria uses one to cut Zeiram in half in the anime. The top half keeps fighting.
  • Dem Bones: Zeiram is reduced to a skeleton during the climax of the first film. This doesn't even begin to slow it down.
  • Enemy Summoner: Zeiram; also crosses over with Mook Maker when it spawns a whole army of biological weirdos in the animation.
    • One of the funniest moments in the movie is when Zeiram summons an enemy... who ends up just being a puddle with a head and half of a torso. Zeiram grunts at it while pointing forwards, and the two argue in an alien language, presumably about how the puddle literally can't do what Zeiram is telling it to, then Zeiram facepalms and stomps on it.
  • Fanservice: The anime shows Iria taking two Showers of Angst over the space of six episodes.
  • For Science!: The OVA includes a plot about a corporation attempting to capture Zeiram for "study", for vague Just Think of the Potential! reasons.
  • From a Single Cell: After being ripped apart during the climactic showdown of the second film, Zeiram is caught in a collapsing Pocket Dimension and only a tiny fragment of it is beamed out as data. This data immediately begins to reconstruct its body, heedless of the computer controlling the transporter, suggesting that Zeiram can reconstitute itself from pure energy if need be.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: In the anime, Kei rigs together several helpful tools from spare parts.
  • Healing Factor: Zeiram... kinda; it starts as a Hollywood Cyborg, then turns into the cyborg head and a skeleton, then turns into a flying hat, then turns into a writhing mass of mismatched body parts. It technically can heal, but it changes form every time.
  • Hero Killer: In Iria: Zeiram The Animation, Zeiram kills Iria's brother Gren.
  • Human Aliens: Iria and those of her species look and act human enough, interesting foodstuffs aside.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Zeiram is a mass of biomechanical Body Horror whose living and mechanical components are almost impossible to distinguish from one another, mashed and tangled together into a humanoid silhouette. What we first think is a simple hat turns out to be its brain and central consciousness, with the rest of the mass being little more than a disposable appendage. Curiously, its true face is still almost entirely humanoid, save for its diminutive size and unhinging jaws. Even within the context of the series, no one seems to be entirely sure what Zeiram even is beyond an incredibly dangerous life form.
  • Ignored Expert: Dr. Touka, the leading (read: sole surviving) expert on Zeiram biology, whose explanations on why the authority's plans to stop Zeiram are stopgap measures at best are generally disregarded.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Fujikuro from The Animation. He postures as The Rival to Gren, Bob, and Iria, but when the chips are down he's willing to cooperate in order to stop Zeiram. He also prevents Kei from going alone to certain death against Zeiram.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Fujikuro from the second film — an unpredictable Dirty Coward with a tendency to fits of vicious laughter, who repeatedly double-crosses and backstabs the other characters to get his hands on the MacGuffin they're all chasing.
  • Karma Houdini: No mention is made of Tedan Tippedai getting any punishment for their illegal weapons research on Zeiram, or the crimes they commit to try to cover it up (which involve open tank battles in the middle of a city).
  • Kick the Dog: Zeiram not only kills Iria's brother, it is responsible to a large degree for the death of Kei's best friend. Played literally in the second film, where it chows down on a shiba inu that Iria had befriended, and later uses its DNA to spawn a vaguely canine monster to track its prey.
  • Kill the Poor: In the second episode of the anime, the local authorities don't care that Zeiram landed on their planet, because it landed in the slums, where the only people it can kill are those that city hall deems an eyesore and a detriment to their tourist industry. After hearing this, Iria sees nothing morally wrong with tossing Zeiram through city hall while fighting it off, and in fact goes several miles out of her way to do so.
  • Kill Us Both: Anime Zeiram freezes up because the host body it took (i.e., Gren) resists its control.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Iria and Gren called each other siblings despite the implications they are not actually blood related, according to Fujikuro in Episode 5.
  • MegaCorp: Tedan Tippedai is a major company that is influential in Iria's society.
  • Mood Whiplash: The first movie opens up with a black and white sequence featuring Zeiram outright slaughtering an entire squad of armed soldiers with a level of gore one would expect from a 1980s horror film like Predator or The Thing (1982). But while the rest of the (color) film as some intense sequences and gross monster effects, nothing on the level of the opening sequence ever happens again, with some scenes looking like something you might reasonably see in Super Sentai or Kamen Rider.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: Ominous Sutra Chanting, in this case, deployed to emphasize Zeiram's otherworldly nature.
  • One-Winged Angel: Zeiram keeps mutating into new, increasingly grotesque forms every time it recovers from almost being killed.
  • Organic Technology: Zeiram seems to have both the ability to assimilate technology into its being and to synthesize technology from its being. Its primary handheld firearm appears to be made from bone, of all things.
  • Pocket Dimension: Called Zones. Iria and Bob create one in the first film and the Zeiram unit creates one in the second. It mainly serves to provide an explanation for why there are never more than four people running around hunting and/or being hunted by Zeiram despite all the destruction and noise the battle causes — they're the only people inside the Zone — and to provide a source of drama when the protagonists have to find a way out at the end of the film when the Zone starts breaking down.
  • Salaryman: Teppei and Kamiya in the live-action films.
  • Samus Is a Girl: In the anime, Kei.
  • Shower of Angst: Twice in the animation.
  • Signature Headgear: Played with in the first movie and the Animation; what looks like Zeiram's hat is actually part of its body. Played straight in the second movie, where it actually is a hat.
  • Small Girl, Big Gun: Iria has an entire arsenal of big guns, but we don't get to see her use all of them.
  • Street Urchin: Kei and Komimasa come from the slums of Taowajan.
  • Super-Toughness: Zeiram takes a lot of punishment.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Most of the first movie happens because Iria's illicit tap into the Tokyo electrical grid to power her base of operations gets noticed and she is visited by representatives of the local utility company.
  • Those Two Guys: Teppei and Kamiya, who serve as recipients for most of the exposition in the live-action films, and who remain stubbornly mundane even as they step up to full-blown heroism.
  • Used Future: The animation has a nice lived-in feel to it, despite taking a few cues from Crystal Spires and Togas. It's best described as the Tenchi Muyo! equivalent to Star Wars' Outer Rim.
  • Walking Armory: In addition to its Lovecraftian Superpower, Zeiram is armed to the teeth, to the point where it's not clear what is and is not actually part of its body.
  • Weird World, Weird Food: Teppei eats a large white cockroach, squicking Kamiya heavily. It was actually Iria's, as she is shown eating one in the anime.
  • What the Hell Are You?: Kamiya repeats this question to Zeiram multiple times.
    Kamiya: What are you?! I know I keep asking, but...
  • Whip Sword: One of Iria's signature weapons in The Animation.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Kei from the Animation.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: ZËIЯAM

Alternative Title(s): Iria Zeiram The Animation