Among the series of dramatic, to the point of heartbreak, documentaries I have watched recently, the mockumentary that is “Top Knot Detective” is a breath of fresh air, both for its main theme (a fictional 90’s Japanese TV show Ronin Suiri Tentai (Deductive Reasoning Ronin) and its creator, Takashi Takamoto, and its incredible presentation.
For starters, let me say that Dominic Pearce and Aaron McCann have created a mockumentary so thorough and filled with information, that even knowing the whole concept is fictional, I still have troubled believing it. Starting with the reaction of the Australian audience to the screening of the film, continuing to the events that led to its creation and the company behind it, to the story of deviser, director, writer, producer and protagonist Takashi Takamoto and the interviews with the other protagonists, to “actual” footage from the shootings, and to the fate of all of the above, “Top Knot Detective” has nothing to be jealous of other, “real” documentaries.
Probably the best aspect of the story is the creation of the main character, who is portrayed as a despicable, egomaniac lecher with drugs and drinking problems and connections to the Yakuza, but ingenious creator nevertheless. Toshi Okuzaki does a great job in the role, highlighting all of the above aspects both during the scenes from the series and the live footage. Furthermore, his character is shaped by the interviews of his colleagues; Haruto Koike (majestically portrayed by Masa Yamaguchi), his rival who also was the son of the company that financed the series, Izumi Himura, one of the females that got fed up by Takamoto’s behaviour and left the show, and Mia Matsumoto, who seemed to be the only that ever loved him. Again, it is quite hard to believe that all these characters are non-existent, due to the thoroughness in their depiction, and the quality of their acts.
If the work done on supposed posters, drawings, news feeds, testimonies, TV spots and whatnot, the film also thrives on its presentation, with the combination of Steven Hughes and Dominic Pearce’s editing inducing the film with a lightning-fast pace that does not allow the viewer to take his eyes of screen even for a moment. With the combination of Malcolm Clark and Lance Robinson’s occasionally punk music, the film functions, quite frequently, as an extreme music video (or advertisement one could say) in a style the benefits the aesthetics of the movie to the most. A.J Coultier in the cinematography and Matthew Willemsen in the production design had the epic task of setting a whole no-budget series of the 90’s in Japan that included, apart from the ninjas and the samurais, aliens, monsters and “Power Ranger” (ok Kamen Rider) characters, and accomplished it to perfection, again with the aforementioned, difficult-to-believe results.
“Top Knot Detective”, no matter what else it is, it is definitely a great spectacle, an impressive combination of absurd imagination, hilarious humor and thorough details that all fans of Japanese and cult cinema will definitely cherish. Personally, I would love to see the whole crew actually shooting the series.