If you’re a fan of zombie movies, you’ll love these top picks from Japan. Japanese zombie movies aren’t always like your average zombie movie.
In them, you’ll find great storylines but with the bonus of comedy – not something that’s always present in zombie movies from other countries.
Let’s have a look at five of the best Japanese zombie movies that you should definitely watch.
1. Battle Girl: Living Dead in Tokyo Bay
Long-titled it may be, but Battle Girl: Living Dead in Tokyo Bay keeps up the pace.
The budget for this movie was low, but it’s been put together well considering it was a 90s movie!
Let’s take a look at some of its stats:
- Japanese Title: Tokyo Crisis Wars
- Release Date: 1991
- Director: Kazuo Komizu
- Starring: Cutei Suzuki
- Running Time: 1h13m
- IMDb Rating: 4.6/10
A meteor lands in Tokyo Bay and the whole region is covered by a noxious cloud of “cosmo-amphetamine.”
When the people in the area die, this alien chemical takes over, bringing them back to life as the undead, feasting on those who are still alive.
The Colonel in charge of the rescue mission, Colonel Kirihara, sends his daughter (Suzuki) to assess the area that’s been hit by the cloud.
Keiko learns that Captain Fujioka (one of her father’s lieutenants) is infecting survivors of the disaster with cosmo-amphetamine in the hope of creating a zombie army to experiment on.
Keiko finds herself amongst a gang of “Battle Kids” resulting in a somewhat predictable but nevertheless exciting battle between Keiko and the scientist soldier. She’s a one-woman army, saving her homeland from the undead, ghoulish gangs.
2. One Cut of the Dead
Humor and gore mixed with satire, what’s not to love?
This movie isn’t going to make you wet yourself in fear (at least, probably not!), but it may make you laugh enough that a quick trip to the bathroom is in order.
Stephen King tweeted how much he loved it – so that should be enough of a recommendation for you! It’s also won lots of awards.
Made with a budget of just ¥3 million ($22,400), it made history at the box office by making a killing (forgive the pun!) of a thousand times that much in return.
- Japanese Title: Don’t Stop the Camera!
- Release Date: 2017
- Director: Shin’ichirō Ueda
- Starring: Takayuki Hamatsu, Yuzuki Akiyama
- Running Time: 1h37m
- IMDb Rating: 7.6/10
A group of actors and filmmakers set out to shoot a zombie movie in one single take. To try and ensure their movie’s success, the director attempts to bring in real, live (or is that ‘dead’?) zombies.
He organises for a blood pentagram to be painted, activating the zombies from the abandoned water plant’s dark past.
One of the cameramen turns into a zombie, biting the assistant director. An actress and make-up artist manage to lock them out of the plant with the director insisting they continue recording and use the real zombies.
He grabs the zombified sound engineer from outside and shoves him at the others. One of them decapitates him, spraying themselves in zombie blood in the process.
The plot twists and turns with more infections, more gore, and more humor. The camera keeps on rolling – “don’t stop the camera!” We won’t spoil the ending – but you’re in for a treat!
Originally intended to be a sequel to Down to Hell, Versus ended up being an independent movie.
Its director says he was inspired by John Carpenter, Sam Raimi and George Miller’s movies.
With samurai fighting, zombie gore, martial arts, gunplay and comedy, the combination of different elements makes it a great zombie movie to watch!
- Release Date: 2000
- Director: Ryuhei Kitamura
- Starring: Tak Sakaguchi, Hideo Sakaki, Chieko Misaka, Kenji Matsuda
- Running Time: 2 hours
- IMDb Rating: 6.3/10
- Japanese Title: Vāsasu
Set in the “Forest of Resurrection,” a mob of gangsters and an escaped convict fight against the zombies. In the forest is a portal to the other side – the 444th portal to be precise.
These 666 portals are concealed from humans, but someone knows they’re there and they decide to find and open them to obtain power and darkness to use for themselves.
The dead are resurrected, and the portal is going to open. But what will happen when it does? We’ll let you find out for yourselves!
4. Wild Zero
With a ‘wild’ (i.e., completely silly) storyline, this zombie movie isn’t exactly going to have you hiding behind a cushion on your sofa.
The situations are comical and absurd, with a good mix of gore thrown in!
- Release Date: 1999
- Director: Tetsuro Takeuchi
- Starring: Masashi Endō and Guitar Wolf (starring as themselves).
- Running Time: 1h38m
- IMDb Rating: 6.4/10
Featuring Guitar Wolf, a Japanese power trio of a vocalist, bassist and guitarist, the film starts after a meteorite lands and they perform a concert.
After the show, the group confront the Captain, their manager. With guns out, the Captain proclaims that rock music is no more. Shots are fired.
The plot continues with Ace, a punk rock enthusiast who’s made himself a blood brother with Guitar Wolf, finding a vehicle where zombies are devouring the occupants. Ace flees to rescue a love interest Tobio, who confesses she actually has a penis.
He then runs away from her and blows his rescue whistle Guitar Wolf gave him. They rush to his aid, alien spacecraft fly around, and the Captain shows up and shoots beams from his eyes until he’s killed by a rocket launcher.
We won’t spoil the ending, but involves Ace declaring “love has no borders, nationalities, or genders.” Ahhh!
5. I Am a Hero
The fifth Japanese zombie movie that you just must see is I am a Hero.
- Japanese Title: Ai Amu A Hīrō
- Release Date: 2016
- Director: Shinsuke Sato
- Starring: Yô Ôizumi, Kasumi Arimura, Masami Nagasawa
- Running Time: 2 hours
- IMDb Rating: 6.8/10
Hideo returns home from work late one evening and witnesses are car accident when a car ploughs into a pedestrian killing him instantly.
However, far from what you’d expect, the victim gets up and walks away, broken neck and all. Hideo wonders if he is hallucinating but then other weird stuff happens too.
Once someone’s infected with ‘zombie’ (nicknamed ZQN), they turn into sleepwalkers with rippled veins, puffy faces and odd eyes. Their teeth may well crumble right out of their mouths.
Seemingly demon-possessed, they are wild, but some do keep certain aspects of their personality. One can even fly. It’s thoroughly entertaining!
Hideo is armed with his trusty shotgun and runs, encountering strangers and zombies as he goes. They reach the top of Mount Fuji where only three of them remain. Hopefully, they’ll be saved!
Final Thoughts on Five Japanese Zombie Movies
Gore, blood, zombies and laughter – a perfect tetralogy of things encompassed in the very best of must-see Japanese films.
If you thought it was only South Korea that nailed this movie genre, you’d be highly mistaken. From the 90s to the present, these five Japanese zombie movies will have you (blood) thirsty for more!