Home Media & Entertainment Top Knot Detective: This Is Spinal Tap Meets Samurai Drama [Review]

Top Knot Detective: This Is Spinal Tap Meets Samurai Drama [Review]

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A totally spoiler free review of the “documentary” Top Knot Detective (2017).

A little over a year ago I was roaming the internet and stumbled across a bizarre cigarette commercial featuring a samurai comically beating the snot out of a boy for smoking (see video below). Perplexed and very much intrigued I began to look into the origin of this video and quickly discovered that what I had just watched was actually a scene from an independently produced mockumentary called Top Knot Detective. I recently got the opportunity to watch this crazy film in its entirety and I’m happy to say that it did not disappoint.

The Review

Created by the Australian filmmaking duo of Dominic Pearce and Aaron McCann, Top Knot Detective primarily follows the rise and fall of Takashi Takamoto (Toshi Okazaki), a fictional singer-turned-actor/director/writer whose unquenchable thirst for fame and adulation led him to some of the highest highs and lowest lows one can reach in show business. Picked by the (fictional) zaibatsu-like Japanese multinational corporation Sutaffu to head their foray into the television industry, Takamoto embraced the opportunity and became the man behind what ended up being his claim to fame: a short-lived but incredibly successful early ’90s samurai TV show which in Japan was called Rōnin Suiri Tantei (Deductive Reasoning Masterless Samurai) but in Australia came to be known as Top Knot Detective.

Dominic Pearce (left) and Aaron McCann (right), the duo behind Top Knot Detective

On its surface, Rōnin Suiri Tantei is a tale about an Edo-era police officer named Sheimasu Tantei (Detective Sheimasu) who is on a quest to clear his name after being framed for the murder of his master. The show very quickly takes a turn for the bizarre, though. Each episode Sheimasu Tantei, who is played by Takamoto of course, would find himself in increasingly ridiculous situations. Any given week you might see Sheimasu Tantei battling robot ninjas, taking on a penis monster, teaming up with a time traveling baseball playing Power Ranger, or just enjoying some good old go go dancing. Add to all this some horrible acting, giant plot holes, and a whole lot of cheesy over-the-top violence, and what you’re left with is a beautifully bizarre train wreck of a show that people in both Japan and Australia just couldn’t get enough of.

Ninjas are no match for Sheimasu Tantei

Unfortunately, the massive success of the show brought with it a sea of problems. Off set, Takamoto was spending all his time and money womanizing, gambling, and partying. On set Takamoto was a sleep deprived mess butting heads with his fellow cast members and corporate execs. Despite Sutaffu’s best efforts to protect Takamoto, eventually it all came crumbling down. Rōnin Suiri Tantei was canceled, Takamoto disappeared, and a tragedy of Shakespearian proportions would transpire.

Kurosaki Itto (Masa Yamaguchi), Sheimasu Tantei’s sworn enemy

Although Top Knot Detective delivers in terms of laughs, it is by no means just a silly comedy. The magic of this movie lies in the way the filmmakers skillfully weave back and forth between the craziness of Sheimasu Tantei’s adventures and the seriousness of the story being told via testimonials, voiceovers, and old television appearances. These carefully thought out transitions not only serve to ground the movie, they also connect these two seemingly disparate parts thematically in a way that you may not fully realize until the credits begin to roll and you think back to a few ridiculous but very key scenes.

To delve much deeper into the plot of Top Knot Detective, is to do the movie a disservice. One of the joys of this film is watching the journey the characters go on. This is particularly true for Takamoto and his co-star/foil Haruto Koike, who is masterfully portrayed by Masa Yamaguchi. While these two individuals seem like polar opposites at first, by the end of the film you’re left with the distinct impression that they may not be so different after all.

The Verdict

In short, Top Knot Detective is well-made, hilarious, thought provoking, and thoroughly enjoyable. It’s a must see, regardless of whether you’re a fan of old Japanese TV shows or knowledgeable about the Japanese entertainment industry. If you happen to fall into either of those categories, though, you’ll definitely appreciate the little details Pearce and McCann put into the movie. Like Neko Tōku, a Japanese talk show where guests get to play with cute kittens while engaging in discussions. I swear, that thing seems exactly like the kind of show a desperate Japanese TV producer would come up with.

Where To Watch Top Knot Detective

Unfortunately, as of April, 2018, the Top Knot Detective team is still trying to secure a digital release for the film in the U.S. So if you want to see the film, right now your best bet is to follow Top Knot Detective on social medua (Twitter: @TKDetective, Facebook: @TopKnotDetective). There you’ll find news on special screenings and the movie’s upcoming digital release. So go do that. Now!

Images: All images courtesy of Top Knot Detective

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