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: Judge (1991)

JUDGE_1Judge [闇の司法官ジャッジ Yami no Shihosha Judge] (1991)
AKA Magistrate of Darkness: Judge

Starring Kaneto Shiozawa, Keiko Yamamoto, Miki Ito, Shinya Ohtaki, Tomomichi Nishimura, Daisuke Gouri

Directed by Hiroshi Negishi


Often it’s nice to go into a film with no idea what you’re about to watch, and Judge was one of those films that surprised me precisely because I didn’t know what it was. It gave me a sense of mystery and curiosity that would have been shattered if I’d heard about it before. In that sense, I suppose this review is going to ruin things for you, as you might enjoy this film best with as little knowledge as I had. But before you decide to read no further, you should know that the film is only average, and perhaps not worth such lofty concerns. It has its moments of fun, but there’s nothing that makes this some kind of must-see experience. Now on to the explaining.

It starts off with a business man in a swampy jungle, running away from a much more appropriately attired guy with a sniper rifle. This opening is where my expectations were thrown for a loop. It looked like I was diving into one of those films about some rich guy wanting to hunt the ultimate prey. So when it introduces us to the bumbling Ohma, I was expecting him to get dragged into a jungle for sport, only to prove that under his fumbling exterior were stores of unexpected resourcefulness. Obviously, this didn’t quite happen.

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Stephen reviews: Tekkonkinkreet (2006)

tekkonkinkreet_1Tekkonkinkreet [鉄コン筋クリート] (2006)

Starring Kazunari Ninomiya, Yu Aoi, Yusuke Iseya, Kankuro Kudo, Min Tanaka, Rokuro Naya, Tomomichi Nishimura, Mugihito, Masahiro Motoki

Directed by Michael Arias & Hiroaki Ando


There’s so much going on in this film that I scarcely know where to start. I guess I can start with the director. Michael Arias is obviously not Japanese, and his most notable credits are for producing The Animatrix, and helping design the Back to the Future ride at Universal Studios. As you might expect from having such a seemingly out-of-place director, Tekkonkinkreet is odd. It’s difficult to even classify. At times it feels like an over-the-top action film. At times like a drama. And it always feels like a mindfuck.

Its style is very floaty, and it haphazardly ignores the laws of physics. Half the time the characters are leaping up or down buildings, often nearly flying. The character designs are kooky and not at all what you would expect of an anime. They look flat-out insane. Their contrast with the background art furthers the confusion. The characters are simple and cartoonish, while the backgrounds are detailed, vivid, and absolutely gorgeous. In retrospect, it should have been no surprise to find out that Studio Ghibli had a hand in the background design.

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Stephen reviews: Patlabor 2: The Movie (1993)

DUU2tPatlabor 2: The Movie [機動警察パトレイバー2 Kidō Keisatsu Patlabor 2 The Movie] (1993)
AKA Mobile Police Patlabor 2: The Movie

Starring Ryunosuke Ohbayashi, Yoshiko Sakakibara, Daisuke Gouri, Issei Futamata, Jinpachi Nezu, Michihiro Ikemizu, Miina Tominaga, Tomomichi Nishimura

Directed by Mamoru Oshii


This film feels very similar in a lot of ways to the first Patlabor, and to Oshii’s other films as well. A lot of my feelings are the same as I had for the first film. But Patlabor 2 falls short of the first one. It’s a little drier and less ahead of its time, which made me less interested in it.

Its primary flaw is the same as the first film, and something that plagues a lot of the Mamoru Oshii films I have seen. It’s just too slow-moving, and its methodical pacing left me zoning out. I handled the first film well enough because its plot was more intriguing with its focus on computer technology well beyond what I had expected from the time period. Here, however, it just didn’t have a premise that made me sit up and pay attention, and it was a bit predictable as well.

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