He will take down a bad guy with a piece of deadly sushi. He will incapacitate a foe with a hail of sharpened chop sticks. He will fly through the air to drop an enemy. Who is this masked crusader in a kimono? It’s Sgt. Kabukiman, NYPD! It’s Troma’s second most famous hero! I have seen this movie a few times, but when I sat down and watched it for the purpose of reviewing it, I came to a realization that some people might not like this movie for one reason. We have a white man dressed in traditional Japanese regalia with superhero powers. This might put some viewers off right there.
In the story, Detective Harry Griswold is at the theater one night watching a kabuki performance when a gun fight suddenly breaks out. The main actor is gunned down and Harry rushes to his aid. The actor dies, but with his last breath, breathes into Harry and infuses him with the power of the Kabukiman, the origins of which are never fully explained. Upon meeting the dead actor’s daughter, Lotus, Harry is tasked with letting the Kabuki spirit take root within him and grow. She helps him along the way by encouraging Harry at every step, and I mean ‘encouraging’ by beating the ever-loving shit out of Harry and calling it ‘training.’
The movie itself is not that bad. It was made in 1990 when Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz were in Japan and, according to Wikipedia, were approached by two men from Namco Limited (the video game company) who wanted to finance a kabuki-themed superhero film. Not sure where they got the idea for that, but Team Troma ran with it and created their second superhero. As a matter of fact, when it comes to Troma having a booth at a convention, it’s usually Sgt Kabukiman there to greet the fans instead of Toxie. Kabukiman has also appeared in other Troma films that you might have seen, but has not had any of his own sequels yet. However, you can catch his series of videos on Troma’s YouTube channel.
Sgt Kabukiman NYPD was one of Troma’s stronger attempts to go mainstream. There was even going to be a cartoon to go along with Toxic Crusaders. That’s why Sgt Kabukiman has toned down the gore compared to other Troma films, save for once scene where a tiger is supposed to eat a woman. For a two-second shot, that tiger was played by a large stuffed animal. The rest of the time, a real tiger was chewing on a body that no viewer could ever think was real. Other than that scene, the practical effects look as real as they can get them.
The acting in this one was pretty good, although there is one muscle bound villain that does nothing but grimace and whine through his dialogue. The story line is pretty solid with only one or two minor plot holes. There is a cool monkey butler, and one of the most exciting children’s birthday parties I’ve ever seen. The only real criticism I can lay down is that, as I stated above, we have a white guy who basically becomes a Japanese deity. While not the worst thing I’ve ever seen I can understand how some people would be upset by that. The saving grace in this is that when Harry morphs into Kabukiman, he still speaks with Harry’s normal voice. Because if they went the other direction with that detail and had Harry effect a Japanese accent, this movie would probably have never seen the light of day. But I don’t want to put anybody off from viewing Sgt. Kabukiman. It’s a fun, funny superhero cop movie to watch and enjoy. There is nothing really offensive about it, other than what I’ve already mentioned.
Except for the scene with the worms. I really hope those were fake.
This is another movie you can watch on YouTube that I will embed here. There are a lot of movies they have available and so far I haven’t delved much into their lesser known works. I think the next movie I review is going to be one of their more obscure projects.
But until then, look out criminals, it’s Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD…