Would you be surprised if I told you that all three of Michael Bay’s transformers movies combine cost well over 5,000,000 dollars?  Well what if I told you that there is a film that completely blows these out of the water, and did so with a budget of only ,000,000 dollars?  My friends, I am here to tell you that such a movie does in fact exist!  The culprit is a Japanese film entitled ‘Karate-Robo Zaborgar’, which just recently had its Austin Premiere here at Fantastic Fest!

Now many of you reading this, save the most extreme fanboys, are probably too young to remember the 1970s tokusatsu series Denjin Zaborger (for which the film gets its material), but after all, it was 40 years ago!  Basically, the story of the film, much like the original series, revolves around a somewhat over-enthused police officer known as Daimon, and his expertly crafted motorcycle, which just so happens to transform into a karate-wielding bad ass robot on command!  Together, these two lifelong companions will do just about anything in the name of justice, and throughout the film, they are forced to do just that.

One of the great things about a festival such as Fantastic Fest, is that audience members like me, are able to be introduced to amazing visual artists that we would otherwise never see, and all in that ever so engrossing way that only a big screen projection can provide.  For me that artist is Director Noboru Iguchi, who helmed not only this film, but another amazing Fantastic Fest selection known as ‘Zombie Ass’

Iguchi’s may not have had the funding for all that polished CG work we see every day here in the States and the UK, but to be honest, he doesn’t need it!  There are loads of intricate robot transformations in this film, and most of them, implemented some pretty low cost stop motion techniques.  Now these effects could have easily come off as cheesier than an Ed Wood film, but instead they turned out to be some of the coolest things I’ve seen on screen in a long time!  When I see Optimus Prime transform in front of my eyes, I know how they did it; with legions of underpaid animators.  However in this case, I’m still trying to figure out the almost limitless bag of tricks that Iguchi pulled out for Zaborgar.

Some people may be put off by this film’s goofy style, but this has never supposed to have been a film that took itself too seriously.  It’s meant as a sort of silly homage to all those karate robot shows that flooded Japanese television in the 70s and 80s, and of course it does just that.  In the film’s 101 minute run time, Iguchi manages to fit in more villains than a 24 hour Power Rangers marathon, and he still leaves the audience thirsty for more and more!  If Hollywood ever decides to get that live action Voltron movie made.. they most certainly should bring in Iguchi for the job!  I would also settle for an Iguchi helmed Power Rangers flick as well!

It’s not just me that thinks this film is one of the best things ever.  In fact, Fantastic Fest judges just recently awarded Mr. Iguchi with Fantastic Features Best Directing Award for his work in this film, and I gotta say it was well deserved.  Iguchi’s better than Bay film has completely changed the way I view film production, and hopefully will serve as a reminder that awesome SFX filled movies can still be produced for under million dollars.

Zaborgar opens in Japan in but a few weeks, but has yet to obtain a wide US or UK release.  If anything though, we can hopefully look forward to seeing Karate-Robo Zaborgar on DVD & Blu-Ray later in 2012.  If you get a chance to see this I strongly urge you to go!  You won’t regret it!

[Rating 5/5]

Check out the film’s awesome Trailer below!

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Ty Cooper lives in Asia and spends most his time drifting through the streets of Taiwan imagining he is Shotaro Kaneda in Akira. Once a year he takes on the unyielding snow storm that is Sundance and attempts to capture a glimpse at what the upcoming year in film has to offer. Ty first started writing for HeyUGuys after SXSW in 2010.