Shiromajo Gakuen: Owari To Hajimari (Japan 2015)

Rating: *
Alternate Title: Innocent Lilies: The End And The Beginning
Review Date: 12/13/15
Director: Koichi Sakamoto
Cast: Moga Mogami, Nina Endo, Arisa Komiya

A disappointing sequel to Koichi Sakamoto's schoolgirl fantasy adventure, "Shiromajo Gakuen" (2013). This time around, Moga (Moga Mogami) enrolls in a "black witch school" to save a friend who has been kidnapped by a trio of evil ladies. She disguises herself with a black wig and an eye patch, which looks rather fetching and much better than her standard blonde pixie haircut. The plot is a bit of a muddled mess, but somehow the bad guys manage to resurrect all of the girls that died in the first film, and defeating them causes Moga to transform into an evil version of herself. Some pretty boy comes along and puts Moga under a spell in order to marry her, but the spirits of Moga's friends show up to save the day. The bad guys are pummeled into oblivion and the spirits dissipate back into thin air, while Moga somehow turns into the tree of life and becomes the guardian spirit of the Earth. Or something. It's hard to figure out without any subtitles, but I'm sure it's something overly convoluted because the majority of the film revolves around long-winded monologues.

The production values for this film are even worse than the original, and while the annoying light leak effect is toned down a bit, the constant focus racking is extremely irritating. The lighting is terrible and the shaky handheld camera work is infuriating. There's exceedingly little action, and the small handful of fights are edited so poorly that you can't see what's going on. This is very frustrating, since Mogami is a good action actress and knows how to swing a sword and throw a decent kick. But not in this film. The overuse of poor CGI effects is the last straw and makes the film nearly unwatchable. It's disappointing because there's definitely potential in the material, but the execution is sorely lacking. At least the costumes are cute, and bad girl Nina Endo is adorable. Her bizarre hand puppet makes absolutely no sense, but neither does the rest of the film.