A transcendentally weird sex comedy that hits the ground running, Zero Man zeroes in on its protagonist, goofball Sakuragi (Chihiro Itakura), who emerges from the blur of a power nap of an undetermined duration in an unknown location. Without a clue as to who he is, what he’s doing there in full police uniform, and what he’s up to in life in general, he finds himself inexplicably endowed with quite possibly the wackiest superpower ever: he has the bizarre ability, whenever he gets erect, to see numbers on the foreheads of everyone around him, including his own, which registers a rather dismal zero. This soon raises three crucial questions: who on earth is he? What should he do with this power that requires crotch friction to actually function? And what should he make of said numbers?
Sakuragi soon figures out the identity bit: he is indeed an ordinary, low-level beat cop. He also comes up with a prosaic but practical hypothesis that explains the meaning of the numbers, one that happens to match his own minor obsession with matters of the flesh, or more accurately, with matters that involve the shoving of his right hand down his pants. After thinking it over, the sex-hungry cop comes to the conclusion that the figures he sees when sexually aroused must refer to the number of sexual partners that each person has had. That would explain the zero that appears on his forehead whenever he looks at his reflection in a mirror, since he’s a virgin. Setting his sights on a young woman with 0.5 proudly adorning her charming brow, he surmises that he might have a (sexual) future with this Half Virgin who regularly stops by his koban (police box). Then again, maybe he’s getting all this completely mixed up. Sakuragi’s onanism-filled/fuelled quest has just begun!
While Zero Man might not add luster to the epistemological conundrum that is world cinema, as Chris MaGee of Shinsedai puts it, it’s still “a hilarious, naughty and surreal comedy from the man who penned the script for two of Japan’s biggest cult hits: Takashi Miike’s Ichi the Killer and Gozu.”