Well, this time out, it’s some light entertainment for your Favorite Catgirl, the recent Japanese Fantasy film “Chanbara Beauty” aka “OneChanbara”… with so much crazy Japanese Cowgirl Zombie fighting weirdness to spawn both a video game and a movie. It’s taken some time to crawl up to the top of my DVD pile, but finally, it’s time has come…..
Our synopsis for it reads: “A mysterious scientist, Dr. Sugita, has invented a new medicine which can wake dead people up. The streets are filled with zombies. A beautiful girl, Aya, with a samurai sword who is seeking revenge for the murder of her father, keeps fighting with the zombies day and night. One day, she meets a girl called Reiko. From Reiko, she learns that her half-sister Saki is under the evil Sugita’s control…
Up-and-coming actress Otoguro Eri (from the American “Shutter” remake as well as “Shaolin Girl”) stars as the feisty heroine Aya, slashing her way through the movie in the character’s signature costume – cowboy hat, boots, long scarf, and naturally……a Bikini! To survive, she has to battle the quickly multiplying army of zombies that was raised from the dead by the evil scientist Dr Sugita. Aya is joined in her fight by lone biker chick Reiko (Hashimoto Manami) whose beloved daughter was killed by the living dead and who now lives only to seek revenge, and together they fight the undead army and battle Aya’s half-sister Saki (Nakamura Chise from “Swing Girls”) who suddenly shows up in a schoolgirl uniform with a saber of her own having joined the evil doctor in his twisted schemes.”
OMG!!! So… let’s get this straight now… it’s got Zombies… and a tough, tattooed, bikini clad Japanese cowgirl with a sword (… and you all know how much this lil’ Catgirl loves to play “dress-up”!!) so you gotta see how Neko’s already on board for this one, but it it actually going to be any good? I mean, the whole “inspired by the hit video game” thingee usually tells me a movie is destined to be fairly “crap-tastic”. (Or would that be “crap-tabulous”? Hehehehe!!) I guess I’m just gonna have to wade in and find out!! Why don’t you “Read On” and join me? (C’mon…. ya know ya wanna!!)
Originally titled “Onechanbara” in Japan (pronounced “o-nay-chan-bara” and translating to mean “sister swordplay”) this one got retitled for it’s HK release as “Chanbara Beauty”. This is the version Neko managed to snag… mostly to get those ever so important English subtitles you hear me rant about constantly…..
It starts out in the future…. the near future… No,no, no….. not the sterile urban tech driven future we saw in “Chrysalis”…. you know.. that OTHER near future with the desolate wastelands and the mutants.. er, ah… I mean Zombies… wandering around making life a hell on earth. Luckily for us, the best way to fight such a menace is to have Japanese bikini girls armed with samurai swords and biker babes with sawed off shotguns take them on in apocalyptic combat….. all we need is some rock and roll and we should be off to pop culture movie heaven…. right?
Well, Yohei Fukuda has certainly tried to take that idea and run with it, but I’m afraid it doesn’t quite reach to the level of goofy fun of other Japanese genre efforts like, say “The Machine Girl” or “Tokyo Gore Police” or the excellent “Azumi”. It’s campy…. and I can see where the idea of making it’s combat very much like the video game seemed a good idea…. (especially given that the actresses here really can’t actually fight convincingly…) but this lil’ Catgirl has to say it just plain didn’t work.
Mind you… Eri Otoguro certainly looks the part… and she’s a dead ringer for the video game character, managing to be very convincing with every pose and steely glance…. just don’t expect her to look dangerous once the swords start swinging. I think though, that the thing that bugged this lil’ Catgirl the most was Reiko’s sawed off shotgun….. that seemed to be blessed with infinite ammunition!!! Not once do I remember seeing her take her 2 shot weapon and ever reload the darn thing….. Instead, she can just blast away with shot after shot killing as many Zombies as she wants. Grrrrr!!! I soooo wanted to scream every time it happened. It’s very “Video Game”, I suppose…. but I like to see my action heroes do the whole blast em’ and then reload with some cool moves thing, maybe smacking a Zombie here or there with the empty gun.
There are a couple of subplots thrown in to pad this one out…. one involving Aya’s original partner and his kidnapped sister, one with two lovers who get tragically killed almost as soon as they get introduced…. (It’s supposed to reinforce the bleak feeling of hopelessness I suppose, but just comes off as unnecessary), and one involving an orphaned girl… adopted by Reiko as surrogate daughter, but who ultimately goes Zombie and has to be destroyed (Included to remind us it’s a bleak hopeless future… in case we still hadn’t figured it out yet?).. Sigh…. Just get on with some Zombie killing already.
They finally do. It’s this last part of the film where we actually get some fun. Aya’s animé inspired battle with her evil little sister Saki is probably the best sequence in the film. Swords glow and crackle with power… girls with blades fly around and slash at each other with “Dragonball Z” style killer moves. This battle actually works for the most part… and it’s a shame that not much else does.
It’s not that the movie is too unrealistic or outlandish…. heck, “Hard Revenge Milly” has a simpler plot, hardly any characterization, and a smaller budget. Why did it work for me, where this one fails? The fault lies, I think, in the inability of the actresses to convince me they were the dangerous fighters that the story demanded they be.
So… unfortunately Neko has to give “Chanbara Beauty” only 2 “Meows” out of 5. I mean it tried like heck to do the job…. but ultimately it failed me. (And, remember, this lil’ girl actually likes crappy Zombie slaying movies!!) I can only recommend this one to those of you rabid fans of Zombie cinema who have to see absolutely every Zombie movie ever made or any of you out there who like to watch scantily clad Japanese girls play around with swords. Oh well…. better luck next time…. At least it gave me some really good costuming ideas for Halloween this year… (Your Favorite Catgirl Princess would just look sooo darn cute in a cowboy hat and bikini!!!)
Naturally…. there a Trailer for this one, and Neko would never leave you hanging without posting it here for you to view!!