Our lead character, succinctly summarised in the title, is a strong-willed squid who works his way to the top of the Japanese wrestling federation, utilising his physical invertebracy to his advantage. Men want to be him, women want to be with him... sort of. But there’s a sad turn to this whimsical story. The squid is actually a man, Kan-ichi, a former wrestler who has turned into the large mollusc as a side effect of a horrific terminal illness. After regaining the respect of Miyako, the woman who thought she’d lost him, he undergoes further adversity in the form of Miyako’s current lover Kôji, a jealous fellow wrestler who had always been in Kan-ichi’s shadow. To add insult to injury, Calamari is challenged to fight a squilla shrimp renowned for his boxing prowess.
There’s no real way of analysing this film without having a surreal sense of humour. Just a few minutes in, it’s already so strange you have no choice but to laugh. The costumes are wonderful, reigniting the laughter whenever the story flags a bit. And though the whole film is played for silliness, director Minoru Kawasaki does have something to say about the politics of the individual. Naturally, this is lost in the bizarre comedy images, such as Calamari’s wonderfully mundane shopping trips, basket in tentacle, or his adrenaline-pumped Rocky montage (can squids lift weights?). It’s a simple story that might not have been released were it not for the kooky protagonist, but nonetheless an enjoyable watch.