Stephen reviews: Birth (1984)

birth_1Birth [バース] (1984)
AKA World of the Talisman; Planet Busters

Starring Miina Tominaga, Kazuki Yao, Ichirō Nagai, Kaneto Shiozawa, Keiko Toda, Noriko Tsukase, Fuyumi Shiraishi

Directed by Shinya Sadamitsu


Sometimes I wonder why I dig through the bottom of the anime barrel, dredging up forgotten pieces of garbage that maybe should have stayed forgotten. But then I stumble upon one of those hidden gems that I never would have seen otherwise. Birth is one of those films that despite its low production quality is just so damn entertaining that all of its flaws are moot. Its rambunctious humor and action-driven narrative kept me in a perpetual state of giddy excitement.

There’s really not much of a plot here. It’s more of a string of intertwined chase scenes without much purpose aside from having a thrilling chase scene full of random sci-fi gadgets and vehicles. It starts with a small alien blob being chased by a slightly more anatomically defined alien critter, then moves on to a spaceship chasing a flying, glowing sword across the solar system, then shows off a cute blonde girl on a hover bike (which was clearly designed for maximum sexy posing and butt shots) getting chased by an asshole biker gang intercut with a guy on foot getting chased by a big robot with swords and guns. This is pretty much the first half-hour of the film, and there hasn’t been any kind of story going on other than “Run for your freaking life!”

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Stephen reviews: Wrath of the Ninja: The Yotoden Movie (1989)

wrathoftheninja_1Wrath of the Ninja: The Yotoden Movie [戦国奇譚妖刀伝 Sengoku Kidan Yōtōden] (1989)
AKA Legend of the Enchanted Swords; Yotoden: Chronicle of the Warlord Period; Wrath of the Ninja – The Yotoden Chronicles; Blade of the Ninja

Starring Keiko Toda, Kazuhiko Inoue, Takeshi Watabe, Tomomichi Nishimura, Masami Kikuchi, Kazuki Yao, Kaneto Shiozawa, Norio Wakamoto, Reizo Nomoto, Shōzō Iizuka, Ritsuo Sawa, Eken Mine

Directed by Osamu Yamasaki


Ninja action is awesome, right? Especially when there are lots of demons and illusions, and martial arts showdowns scattered around, right? The more the better, right? Well, sadly that’s not the case for Wrath of the Ninja which proves that you can indeed have too much ninja action in a movie, as hard as that is to believe. I think (hope) that this is the result of compressing down the longer original story into oblivion. The film version of Wrath of the Ninja is a compilation of the series, and it’s got all the usual problems of such a film cranked up to eleven.

The plot, what’s left of it anyway, revolves around three ninjas from different clans who each own a special weapon with a legend attached to it. They’re up against the commonly used historical figure of Oda Nobunaga, who was also the villain of Black Lion as well as other anime. Here, as is common in stories set in feudal Japan, Nobunaga is a demon bent on conquering the world. I think. I’m actually not sure what he’s after. The story doesn’t have enough time to bother with something as trivial as the objectives of the main villain. But whatever he’s trying to do, it involves the massacre of the protagonists’ hometowns, which obviously unites them in an unstoppable ninja team-up out for revenge.

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Stephen reviews: The Humanoid (1986)

thehumanoid_1The Humanoid [ザ・ヒューマノイド 哀の惑星レザリア] (1986)
AKA MetalliaThe Humanoid: Rezaria, Planet of Sorrow

Starring Kazuki Yao, Kyohko Sakakibara, Yumiko Shibata, Kiyoshi Kobayashi, Hidemasa Shibata, Kazuyoshi Sogabe, Hikari Akiyama, Eiji Maruyama

Directed by Shin-Ichi Makaki


I hope you’re in the mood for contemplating the philosophical meaning of coffee, because there sure is a lot of it in The Humanoid. In fact, there’s probably more discussion about coffee than there is about the humanoid itself. The opening line is a statement that coffee is the only thing worth living for. It’s the kind of thing you would expect an alcoholic to say about his liquor of choice. And the movie ends with another fumbling attempt to convey the meaning of life through coffee metaphors. It may not work as a literary device, but it does make an effective metaphor for the plot, which is just as fumbling, incoherent, and meaningless.

The Humanoid is supposedly about a robotic femme fatale with a sleek, sexy chrome body. It’s actually not. While there are several action scenes, there’s only one towards the end where the humanoid, Antoinette, actually starts kicking ass. It’s pretty short and unimpressive. And it’s really hard to pull off the sexy femme fatale thing while wearing a loose-fitting jumpsuit that looks more like a prison uniform. Beyond that, Antoinette is a glorified maid, so rather than thinking, “Yes! Time for some action!” when she started tearing through military hardware like tin foil, it only made me wonder just why the hell the maid robot was so badass.

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Stephen reviews: Battle Royal High School (1987)

BRHSBattle Royal High School [真魔神伝 – バトルロイヤルハイスクール Shinmajinden Batoru Royaru Haisukûru] (1987)

Starring Kazuki Yao, Kazuhiko Inoue, Hideyuki Tanaka, Chieko Honda, Mari Yokoo, Sakiko Tamagawa

Directed by Ichiro Itano


Despite the similar title and high school setting, this is not to be confused with Battle Royale. They are two very different stories. Battle Royal High School starts off like a martial arts film, with a protagonist that beats the crap out of a karate class and aspires to conquer every dojo in the country. But it quickly transitions to a demonic invasion and accelerates into the realm of pure absurdity.

The plot is tricky to pin down. It’s convoluted and low on explanation, but I’ll try to sum it up. Ryoudo, martial arts champion of his school, gets possessed by a demon trapped on Earth. After that, a demon hunter tries to kill him. Then add in the sudden arrival — from space, I guess — of a space-time continuum inspector who’s searching for the source of a “hyper-psycho-kinetic-wave.” He’s also tricked out with an awesome suit of robot armor. Obviously. And apparently fairies are trying to take over the world by mutating people into hideous monsters. Somehow all of that gets twisted into a plot that actually makes a good deal of sense in the end, as long as you don’t question it.

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Stephen reviews: A Wind Named Amnesia (1990)

A Wind Named Amnesia [風の名はアムネジア Kaze no Na wa Amunejia] (1990)

Starring Kazuki Yao, Keiko Toda, Masaharu Satou, Kappei Yamaguchi, Daisuke Gori, Yuko Mita, Noriko Hidaka, Osamu Saka

Directed by Kazuo Yamazaki


Today I’m reviewing the only remaining Hideyuki Kikuchi novel adaptation, at least that I am aware of. Like Darkside Blues, it is not a horror film. And also like Darkside Blues, it is quite a bit more bland than the other adaptations of his works. I can’t claim Kikuchi as a better horror writer than a sci-fi writer since I haven’t read the novels, but his horror stories have definitely gotten the better film versions.

A Wind Named Amnesia has a more philosophical nature than Darkside. Not that Darkside didn’t have philosophical themes; it’s just that it mostly ignored them. Amnesia, though, aims straight for its principle themes, and as such is a more coherent work. While this does makes it a better film, the moments of fun action are weaker, which cranks the boredom factor up a bit, too. So which film you would prefer will probably have a lot to do with what you are hoping for.

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