What makes something funny is often dependent upon the culture that originates the humor. Obviously, word play is difficult to translate successfully, while funny business rooted in one society may seem weird and incomprehensible to another. But there are some comedy tropes that are universal. Slapstick and humor that grows out of the human condition seem to face no translation boundaries, which could explain the international success and continued endurance of silent comedians like Chaplin or Lloyd.
While it probably helps to be conversant in the tropes of Japanese daikaiju (giant monster) films, there is enough pathos and humanity in Big Man Japan for those who aren’t fans of Godzilla and his friends to be able to relate to.
When we meet Masaru Daisatou (Hitoshi Matsumoto, who also directed and co-wrote the film) at the opening of the film, he is sitting on the subway, talking to an unseen interviewer. He is explaining why he carries a collapsible umbrella with him, even on sunny days. “I like that they get big only when you need them to,” he explains. He has a similar rational about one of his favorite meals, dehydrated seaweed. Documentary style, we follow Masaru back to his home, where a sign hands outside stating “Department of Monster Prevention.” We slowly learn that Masaru is actually Big Man Japan, a hero who grows to giant size to fight invading monsters.