To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Iké Boys is a teen superhero fantasy film directed by Eric McEver (Paleonaut), in his feature-length directorial debut, from a screenplay written by McEver and Jeff Hammer (Live or Die in La Honda). Featuring Quinn Lord, Ronak Gandhi, Christina Higa, Saylor Bell, Agneeta Thacker, Sanjana Rajagopalan, Billy Zane, Yumiko Shaku, and Ben Browder. The story follows best friends Shawn Gunderson and Vikram ‘Vik’ Kapoor as they develop superpowers after watching a Black-Market anime film with Vik’s Japanese exchange student Miki.
On December 22, 1969, in Tokyo, Japan, eccentric director Daisuke Ogata (Ryô Iwamatsu) is pitching a movie to some producers in a board room. When they don’t get it, Ogata calls them imbeciles and tells them it’s not a movie but a prophecy. If people don’t see it the world will be destroyed. They tell him his film is too different from his previous work and the title Rainbow Guy is dumb. He states the title is actually Go! Great Decisive Battle at the End of the Century with Rainbows and proceeds to make them leave the room.
In 1972, Go! Great Decisive Battle at the End of the Century with Rainbows opens in theaters and bombs. The failure bankrupts the studio and Ogata goes into exile. The original print is placed in a storage facility that is later set ablaze by a group of people in white hoods with torches. The print of Go! Great Decisive Battle at the End of the Century with Rainbows, however, is saved by a worker and over the years it is copied and sold on the Black Market going from VHS to eventually DVD before a copy is purchased by Shawn Gunderson in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The DVD arrives at Shawn’s door on December 22, 1999, exactly 30 years after the movie was pitched by Ogata.
As a kid in the ’90s, I grew up watching shows like Power Rangers, Masked Rider, and VR Troopers. These American programs were made using footage from the Japanese Super Sentai series. They became very popular and as I grew older my interest in them blossomed into a love of Japanese culture. I began to watch anime and read manga and made many friends in the process. However, it was always something I felt uncomfortable about the older I got. I’m a pretty big dude and I was on the football team and some of my teammates thought cartoons were just for kids. I also thought it was something I would grow out of, but to this day I still watch anime, read manga, and occasionally watch an episode of Power Rangers – mainly to see what the current suits and Megazords look like.
This is probably why I connected so much with Iké Boys. Shawn (Quinn Lord) and Vik (Ronak Gandhi)are similar to me and my friends in high school. I remember spending countless hours watching subbed and dubbed anime on the internet. Finding obscure shows nobody else knew about. Not wanting to tell girls I liked that I’m a big fan of Toonami for fear they would turn me down. Also, I would always think about what I would do if I gained superpowers. Usually, I saw myself becoming a villain because the dark side always had cooler abilities.
This movie is chock full of comical gags and surprises. First off Billy Zane is in this! He portrays Shawn’s karate sensei Newt Grafstrom. When you first see it seems as if he’ll only be in one scene but he plays a pivotal role later in the story. Miki’s (Christina Higa) stay with Vik and his family is a hilarious mix-up as she was hoping to stay with a Native American family yet she ends up with an Indian Family instead. Shawn and Vik are enamored with Miki and Bethany (Saylor Bell) both of which are Asian girls. Vik getting upset with Shawn because Go! Great Decisive Battle at the End of the Century with Rainbows isn’t dubbed.
Eric McEver does a great job at working around his minimal budget. Some of the visual effects aren’t great but it’s okay. The mech and kaiju designs work as throwbacks to Super Sentai and old Toho Godzilla films. McEver and Jeff Hammer even work the budget issues into the dialogue with Shawn mentioning Go! Great Decisive Battle at the End of the Century with Rainbows had to be made as an anime because Ogata couldn’t get the budget for live-action. Same in this film. McEver and Hammer also craft a decent script where most of what is said matters to the story. There is foreshadowing with Shawn and Vik discussing which abilities are better between a mech and a kaiju. The white hooded group appears in the opening credits. There are also refernces to popular ’90s anime Gundam Wing and Dragonball Z.
There are a few things in the story that never get an explanation that if done would’ve helped the story feel more complete. Things like how Daisuke Ogata learned about the prophecy and made a magic movie. How nobody received the special powers previously as someone had to have seen the movie to know how bad it was. How Miki is allowed to stay with a foreign exchange family while the adults are away in India. That’s just outright dangerous and would only happen in a movie. There’s also the aftermath of the final battle. Not to spoil exactly what happens, but people do die. Specifically, one person who I’m sure has family that will be looking for them.
Iké Boys is a delightful throwback to the popular Japanese Super Sentai series of the ’90s. What it lacks in great visual effects it makes up for in a well-focused story and a likable young cast. I give Iké Boys a Decent 7.5/10. The film sets itself up for a sequel and I’d be interested in seeing how this story can continue. Hopefully with a slightly bigger budget.