Melbourne Documentary Film Festival Review: Mad Tiger (USA / Japan, 2015)

Mad Tiger is such a strange and brilliant film it’s hard to know where to begin.

Donning Power Rangers-inspired costumes and describing themselves as a “Japanese Action Comic Punk band”, Peelander-Z are a band you’ve probably never heard but aren’t unlikely to forget once you encounter them. In their own words, their performances are probably about 10% music and 90% stage theater. There are elaborate costumes, ridiculous props and moody singalongs about ninjas. It’s the kind of crazy you really have to see to believe.

What’s more, it’s the kind of wild subject matter that lends itself almost too perfectly to documentary like this. After touching on the band’s origins, fans and appeal, the central concern of Mad Tiger is the rocky friendship between Yellow (Kengo Hioki), ego-driven and determined to keep Peelander-Z going indefinitely, and Red (Kotaro Tsukada), passionate but ready to move on and start something of his own.

Jonathan Yi and Michael Haertlein‘s cinematography and direction here is commendable and energetic enough to match the material. Concert sequences are colorful and chaotic, studio sessions more contained. The film’s eccentric trio brings color into an eerie and grey New York even in the film’s quieter moments.

Everyone involved is fascinating and relatable enough to get you emotionally invested even if Peelander-Z’s own musical stylings aren’t your thing

It’s hard to imagine a film about Peelander-Z better than Mad Tiger. It takes the band on its own terms, with just the right amounts of enthusiasm and curiosity. It captures the drama, the personalities and the colorful chaos of the whole endeavor. Like the band itself, it’s the work of mad genius.


Mad Tiger is screening at this year’s Melbourne Documentary Film Festival. For more information about the festival and screening times, click here.


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