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Streaming arts pick: ‘We Are Little Zombies’

Actors Masatoshi Nagase (l), Sena Nakajima (c), and Rinko Kikuchi (r) from the movie "We Are Little Zombies."
Masatoshi Nagase (l), Sena Nakajima (c), and Rinko Kikuchi (r) in “We Are Little Zombies.”
(Hiroaki Takeda © 2020 Oscilloscope Laboratories / The Nikkatsu Corporation)

With the arts moving to online and streaming platforms, here’s a look at a weekly standout:

My pick: “We Are Little Zombies” a film by Makoto Nagahisa that will put you in the Comic-Con spirit.

Why: Here’s the situation: you’re 13 and your parents just died. What do you do? Shut off your feelings and form a band, of course!

OK, so that’s the situation in Nagahisa’s “We Are Little Zombies,” a joyous, color-splashed movie that’s newly available to stream through Digital Gym’s DGC@Home.

Orphans Hikari, Ikuko, Ishi and Takemura first meet when their parents are being cremated. The teens are so traumatized that, like zombies, they can’t cry or feel emotions. They have that same ennui that so many of us are feeling right now.

With bleak futures ahead, they decide to salvage items from their homes — a gaming console, an old electric bass and a charred wok — and form a band. And then that band takes over the world.

Sena Nakajima, Keita Ninomiya, Mondo Okumura and Satoshi Mizuno in Makoto Nagahisa’s "We Are Little Zombies."
Sena Nakajima, Keita Ninomiya, Mondo Okumura and Satoshi Mizuno in Makoto Nagahisa’s “We Are Little Zombies.”
(Hiroaki Takeda © 2020 Oscilloscope Laboratories / The Nikkatsu Corporation)

What makes this movie a standout is that the action unfolds as if you’re in a video game: bright lettering, split-screens, fast action, different levels and even multiple endings. Though it tackles somber themes, it’s surprising and exhilaratingly joyous.

It’s the perfect film to watch as we head into Comic-Con week, not just because of its video game and pop culture influences, but also because director Nagahisa has a distinct style and voice. His background is in advertising, and he also directed quirky music videos.

Though this is Nagahisa’s first feature film, in 2017 he was the first Japanese recipient of Sundance Festival’s Grand Jury Prize for his short film, “And So We Put Goldfish in the Pool.”

Find it: “We Are Little Zombies” is not rated, and is in Japanese with English subtitles. It’s $12 for a three-day rental via digitalgym.org.


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