Onechanbara: The Movie 2 - vorteX (Japan 2009)

Rating: *
Review Date: 6/27/10
Cast: Chika Arakawa, Kumi Imura, Rika Kawamura, Hoshina Youhei

A considerably better production than "Onechanbara: The Movie" (2008), but that's not much of a compliment. Having settled their previous blood feud, sisters Aya (Chika Arakawa) and Saki (Kumi Imura) are happily living together and slaying any zombies that get in their way. The zombie apocalypse of twenty years ago has left the world a devastated wasteland, and humanity's time is nearly up. During one of their zombie bashing parties, Aya and Saki meet a girl named Misery (Rika Kawamura?) who is on a mission to retrieve some of Saki's cursed Imichi blood. However, she's really just a pawn of Himiko, the evil mastermind behind humanity's despair. Once again, Aya and Saki have a falling out and go their separate ways. Saki follows Misery in the hopes of resurrecting her parents, while Aya teams up with Reiko (Hoshina Youhei?) and an annoying guy named Ryo. Thankfully he's not nearly as irritating as Aya's previous male sidekick, and he actually ends up serving a purpose. The film naturally builds to a climax featuring Aya, Saki, and Misery swinging their swords around and splashing blood all over the place.

While the film starts out promising and makes several notable references to the video game, it quickly diverges from the game's narrative. The most notable differences are Misery's relationship to Himiko and the fact that Reiko isn't a bad guy yet. It's also important to point out that they actually get the costumes right, which almost NEVER happens in video game adaptations. So, kudos on that. Unfortunately, much like the original film, this one is ruined by an excessive amount of terrible visual effects and the gratuitous use of digital blood. The film's main gimmick is that the screen is constantly getting covered with blood splatters. While this may be a nod to the video game, it's nothing but an annoying and disruptive distraction on film. It gets old after the first couple of shots, which is too bad because they use this effect throughout the entire movie.

Chika Arakawa takes on the role of Aya this time around, but her performance is exceedingly weak. While she has a killer body, energetic breasts, and looks great in a bikini, she's not nearly a good enough actress or fighter to carry the entire film. She's about as cold, stiff, and lifeless as the zombies are, and her action scenes are extremely unconvincing. Her overly shiny lip gloss and perfectly manicured acrylic nails are also a constant visual distraction. Kumi Imura, on the other hand, is superb as Saki, and she actually looks like she can fight. Her action scenes are the best of what the film has to offer. Unfortunately, they all happen in the first half of the film. Rika Kawamura also puts up a good fight, but mostly because she emotes so well. She's also very pretty and commands the viewer's attention. Apart from the horrible visual effects, the production values are decent and the sex and cyborgs from the first film are mercifully absent. Unfortunately, whereas the first film had a fairly satisfying climax, the protracted fight scene at the end of "vorteX" is painfully slow and uninteresting, and I just kept wishing that it would be over. Another missed opportunity for the "Onechanbara" franchise, but at least it's a step in the right direction.