Eko Eko Azarak II: Birth Of The Wizard (Japan 1996)

Rating: ****
Director: Shimako Sato
Cast: Kimika Yoshino, Chieko Shiratori

Wow, this film really ambushed me. This is the prequel to "Eko Eko Azarak: Wizard Of Darkness" (1995) and perfectly captures the look and feel of shojo manga (girls comics). As such, the pacing is slow and thoughtful, giving plenty of time to reflect upon the sad and lonely lives of Japanese teenage girls, and to sympathize with the heartaches of adolescence. The tragically beautiful Kimika Yoshino plays a melancholy high school student named Kuroi Misa (reminiscent of Saki from "Sukeban Deka" (1987) ) who has a secret stalker/guardian of sorts named Saiga (very much like Kyle Reese in "The Terminator" (1984) ). Trouble starts when the cursed tomb of a witch named Kirie is uncovered at an archeological site. Kirie soon resurrects and takes over various host bodies in an attempt to get at Misa, whose latent spiritual enery can make her invincible. Saiga knows some magic and repeatedly saves Misa from the nasty demon, despite her continued frenzied efforts to get away from him (and inevitably into more trouble). While they're on the run, Misa slowly starts to trust Saiga and innocently falls in love with him. He teaches her some magic, and her incredible spiritual powers awaken just in time to waste Kirie in a spectacular barrage of digital special effects. A great looking film with superb effects, very pretty girls, and some shockingly over-the-top bloodshed. Kimika Yoshino does an excellent job of capturing the pains of adolescence as well as the sheer terror of being a young girl taken hostage and on the run. The action scenes are sparse, but well executed. See a subtitled version if possible - it makes the film much more enjoyable.