Iké Boys review: A mighty morphin’ homage to ‘90s TV’s Japanese imports

A clip from Iké Boys, now playing at Fantastic Fest 2021.

Iké Boys, the debut feature from writer/director Eric McEver enjoying a world premiere at Fantastic Fest this week, will feel like a secret handshake to certain people who grew up in the late 1980s or the 1990s. In a prestreaming era when Saturday morning cartoons and after-school kids’ programming still meant reliable ratings, a wave of pop culture born in Japan was brought over to the US in the hope of finding a new audience. Many, many of these things became timeless hits for a generation: Power Rangers, Dragon Ball Z, Pokémon, Cowboy Bebop, Sailor Moon, yet another Ultraman syndication, etc.

Depending on where you grew up, getting really into any of that may have meant getting really left out of some social circles. The need to fit in at all costs, even if it means abandoning what you love or what makes you unique, is strong during childhood. But filmmaker McEver has a clear, feel-good message with Iké Boys: Be you. After all, humanity may someday need someone with a very special set of skills to save us—and those skills may involve an encyclopedic knowledge of Japanese kaiju stories.

They listen to the Flaming Lips, too

If anyone knows about hard-to-find cult anime films worth seeking out, it’s Shawn (Quinn Lord), a mild-mannered high schooler in late ’90s Oklahoma. He and his pal Vik (Ronak Gandhi) have grown up as outcasts amidst their Zack Morris-lookin’ schoolmates while consuming a steady stream of kaiju and mecha fiction. So when Shawn finally acquires a copy of once-believed-lost 1960s title Go! Great Decisive Battle at the End of the Century with Rainbows, they are watching it immediately no matter what.

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