Review Date: 8/8/10
Directors: Mamoru Oshii, Kenta Fukasaku, Tsujimoto Takanori, Tahara Minoru
Cast: Miki Mizuno
Another omnibus film from Mamoru Oshii, featuring four short stories that focus on samurai swordplay. There is some fun and outrageous stuff on display, but the pacing is sluggish and Kenta Fukasaku's "Kodomo Zamurai" drags the entire collection down.
The film opens with a bang in "Kiriko," as Miki Mizuno takes out a dozen or so masked bad guys in search of her kidnapped sister. The villain gets away, but Miki swears vengeance at any cost. While the action scenes are exciting and energetic, they suffer from bad lighting and sloppy camera work. Their impact is also impaired by the film being overly contemplative and sagging in the middle.
Next up is "Kodomo Zamurai," which is a classic samurai tale of bushido played out by elementary school kids. It's filmed in black and white without any audio, and is presented as a silent film with narration provided by a lone woman. Everything about the presentation intends to evoke turn of the century film nostalgia, and while the film is very well made, it's also completely uninteresting. The film revels in its own cleverness and ultimately becomes a victim of its own self importance. Yes, it's art, but it's also boring as hell. The story could have been told in ten minutes, but it drags on for nearly forty.
The third chapter is the delightfully wacky "Zan-Gun," which looks and feels more like Kenta Fukasaku's work than "Kodomo Zamurai" does. Did they screw up the credits somehow? The story concerns a pair of evil blades that possess their users, but the twist is that they transform into guns, which creates a fascinating aesthetic. Watching someone cock their sword and have it eject shells is wonderfully bizarre, and something that only the Japanese could pull off with dead-pan seriousness. The combat scenes are very inventive and fun to watch.
Wrapping the entire thing up is Mamoru Oshii's lyrical "Assault Girl 2," featuring a biblical sword fight between Michael and Lucifer (both played by hot chicks). The fact that it has no dialog serves it well, but Oshii takes way too long to set the stage, and half of the film simply focuses on sheep, flowers, and frogs. He also employs a disastrous digital rain effect, which almost completely kills the mood he was trying to set up. It simply does not work, and it doesn't even look interesting. What makes rain so interesting is that IT'S WET, and if you apply a rain effect on top of a dry setting, it just looks stupid. "Hey look, it's raining, but everything is completely dry." What's the point in that? Anyway, it's an interesting piece but not overly memorable.