Sun. Oct 2nd, 2022

The trailer of the documentary, Top Button Detective

AUSTIN, Texas—“Documentary” Top Button Detective ostensibly tells the behind-the-scenes story of a Japanese samurai show that has become an Australian cult classic of the same name. Don’t bother Googling the series though. It does not exist. (As the film’s Fantastic Fest description puts it, this story is “complete and utter nonsense.”)

Sometimes you just need an exaggerated mockumentary about an extremely obscure and nonexistent piece of pop culture to highlight the absurdity of our current entertainment industry. And as funny as Top Button Detective Will be for a certain kind of niche obsessive, the film works as well as flinging one-liners about everything from the endless race to become a content creator to the madness of a traditional TV crossover.

It’s Sutaffu’s world; we just buy it

In the real world, Apple makes computers, but it also held music festivals and now wants original TV content. Facebook started with a website to connect with others, but it tried a phone and now wants original TV content too. Amazon sold books online and now… well, you get the idea. Original creative content with the potential to spawn devoted fan bases (and endless sequels, merchandise, marketing opportunities, etc.) has become the indispensable business activity of today.

In Top Knot Detectives universe, there exists a company called Sutaffu in this orbit. The conglomerate initially gained fame “for making counterfeit branded suits,” but it grew into an international brand, producing and selling everything from CDs to beer and cigarettes. Of course, after years of sustained economic growth, the executives felt it was time to enter the television industry. So to lead the Sutaffu brand in this new venture, the company turned to a familiar face – Takashi Takamoto, a man who found chart success as a Psy-esque musician who wrote Sutaffu jingles.

Luckily for Sutaffu, Takamoto had an idea what he’d been sitting on: Top Button Detective, the story of a samurai rōnin who discovers that his master has been murdered and goes in search of the killer and takes revenge. For just a small sample of what kind of plot awaits, consider the lead character, Surei Tatei. His catchphrase implies that he is “Deductive reasoning!” yells, he can knock people’s heads off and become invisible, and he drops sweet mid-battle one-liners like this one (pronounced after stabbing a villain in the eye):

Rogue: “That was my good eye! Now you will finally see my justice…”

Tatei: “See my fist!”

Without venturing into spoiler territory, the show evolves over time and has its fair share of off-camera drama (“The first time he was arrested, we thought the show was over, but his popularity grew over ever!” says another interviewee from Takamoto). But if you grew up with something like Power Rangers, superhuman samurai Syber squad, or Ultramanpiece by piece, this mockumentary reveals a show that will leave you grinning from ear to ear.

That’s showbiz

Again, the second level meta-comment of Top Button Detective is where this movie really shines. In addition to Sutaffu being the forerunner of today’s ever-expanding companies, Takamoto is doing the same for our current era of showrunner love. He writes, directs, produces and stars in the fictional series – “you can think of him as the Ed Wood of Japanese samurai TV,” says one interviewee. “That’s a compliment.”

As you would expect from other recently high-profile examples of creators as single authors (say Nic Pizzolato on real detective S2, Sam Esmail on Mr Robot S2, etc.), things get a little out of hand creatively. Suddenly being thrown in favor of artistry (“We shot a lot of great scenes, so we have to combine them into one great thing,” Takamoto explains at one point), and Top Button Detective likes to engage in ultra-fan service to save his critical face. At one point, Sutaffu urges Takamoto to make a crossover episode featuring the super-popular Supersentei Timestryker, a series about a Japanese baseball player who had an accident and was then rebuilt to defend the Earth. “That show is for babies, it has no substance,” Takamoto would later say. “If you mess with time, will bad things happen to you? Babies.” The crossover episode clearly turns out to be a ratings bonanza, one of Top Button’s highest-rated efforts in years.

Given Sutaffu’s far-reaching business tentacles, Top Button Detective of course also a pioneer in the field of native content and product placement. Takamoto writes Ronin Surei Tatei to relax after killing a villain by Sutaffu cigarettes or a cold beer. He prepares to stomp on another enemy’s head by pausing to grab and fill his Sutaffu high pumps. “I’ll erase you from history like a bowel movement,” Tatei cries before Sutaffu soft bathroom tissue enters the episode. Such campaigning has long been fodder for people like Austin Powers or Communityand today the evolution of that concept lives on in dedicated web series or branded video.

Top Button Detective even manages to partially sift through the modern fanatical fandom, even if the “show” is set long before the internet could feed it (like the decryption subreddits of Mr Robot or Rick & Morty disciples forcing McDonald’s to apologize). It shines with the fan-service show elements above, and the audience constantly forgives Takamoto’s off-camera sins (“I did everything to become famous,” he says. “To bring joy to people, I did a lot of stupid things in my life. . I regret many of them, but I never killed anyone”).

But throughout the mockumentary, the directors take cameras to various scammers around the world where people queue for days to catch a glimpse of top knot stars. Will they allow for an inevitable remake, spin-off, or maybe even a cinematic version of six seasons and a movie? Who knows, but certainly no one speaks to the essence of Top Button Detective– both the fake TV series and the fake documentary – as well as its fan base.

“Objectively, it’s a terrible show,” concludes a devoted show blogger. “The acting is really crappy, there are a lot of continuity errors – the whole thing makes no sense. that is what’s beautiful about it. If you watch a lot of movies and TV, you’ll get bored, tired, and see the same things over and over. You’re just praying for some kind of madness, a real madness to grab you, wake you up and show you something new – that’s top knot.”

Top Button Detective currently continues to play the film festival scene with upcoming screenings in Ithaca, New York and Vancouver, Canada. Follow the team on social media for the latest screenings; the producers have hinted that distribution news could be coming soon.

List image by Fons PR / Fantastic Fest

By akfire1

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