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K-20: Legend of the Mask

(K-20: kaijin nijumenso-den)

Canadian Premiere

  • Japan 2009
  • 137 min
  • 35mm
  • Japanese with English subtitles

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“Superhero shenanigans are dished up with style in [this] rollicking adventure yarn” — Russell Edwards, VARIETY

“Loud, bright and pleasurable” — Edmund Lee, TIME OUT HONG KONG


Director: Shimako Sato
Screenplay: Shimako Sato, from Soh Kitamura
Cast: Takeshi Kaneshiro, Takako Matsu, Toru Nakamura, Jun Kunimura, Takeshi Kaga
Producers: Chikahiro Ando, Takaya Kurata, Kazuyoshi Ishida
Distributor: Nippon Television Network


In an imaginary past in which World War II never occurred, it is 1949 and Japan’s aristocracy has turned its back on its miserable underclass—but that doesn’t mean they don’t have to look over their shoulders now and then, for a diabolically mischievous masked marvel is out there in the night. K-20 is undermining their authority with his amazing feats, most recently the theft of the Hashiba Corporation’s amazing new electrical transmission device. Some have their suspicions about Heikichi Endo, a poor yet plucky acrobat and magician, who’s set up to be arrested for the notorious K-20’s activities. Using his circus skills and the technical savvy of his aging buddy Genji, Heikichi escapes and vows to capture the real K-20. Genji’s wizardry and Heikichi’s amazing physical prowess, plus an insightful book on disguises, add up to an effective impostor K-20, one who’ll soon enough collide with the original!

A revisionist spin on a classic pulp-fiction character created by Edogawa Rampo, the celebrated Japanese mystery writer, K-20: LEGEND OF THE MASK is the silver-screen version of Soh Kitamura’s manga KAIJIN NIJUMENSU-DEN, and it’s a magnificent, monumental mix of superhero action, clever comedy, circus spectacle, noir thriller and retro sci-fi fun. The dashing Takeshi Kaneshiro, one of Asian cinema’s hottest stars these days—catch him in THE WARLORDS at Fantasia this year, or in John Woo’s RED CLIFF—takes the lead, but he’s only one of the cards in director Shimako Sato’s magic deck. The great cast includes Takako Matsu (SUITE DREAMS), a laugh as the heiress Yoko Hashiba, the deadpan Jun Kunimura as Genji and even Takeshi Kaga—that’s right, Chairman Kaga from TV’s IRON CHEF—in a bit part! Then there’s the exciting score by Naoki Sato, the breathtaking action—just wait for the parkour-packed finale—and the incredible images (visual effects master Takashi Yamazaki, who recreated the real post-war Tokyo so splendidly for the ALWAYS films, does no less for K-20’s alternative-history version). There’s a good chance that K-20 will spin off into a fun-filled franchise, so step right up for a first crack at this carnival of non-stop thrills!

—Rupert Bottenberg

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