Wednesday, June 1, 2011

WTF Japan?!?: Reborn from Hell- Samurai Armageddon

The attack of Japanese fan-fiction!  If there's one story that has been done a million times, it's this one!  'Makai Tensho' is a 1967 novel that is essentially fan-fiction...just with Japanese history.  The plot is simple- a dead wizard comes back and resurrects a bunch of dead samurai.  His plan- to create an Armageddon.  Actually, it doesn't sound that simple, does it?  Regardless of that, the story has been adapted into film about six times now!  It all begin in 1981 and has continued through 2003, with more coming on the way I'm sure.  It even made it into the plot of Ninja Resurrection, an anime series that was only partially-completed and released as a mess of a film itself!  This is the 1996 version, which is the most pulp-like and gory, so let's cover that.  Plus, it has hilariously-over-the-top narration.  Thanks, American DVD release!  If you want to see a one-eyed samurai kick lots of ass, check out...
An evil wizard named Shosetsu Yui is back from the dead.  He's pissed about the Japanese government killing him, so he's going to end the world.  Yeah, that's a logical conclusion to reach.  To that end, he begins to resurrect some ancient samurai warriors and other famous people.  He tempts them all with what they wanted in life, but could never get.  For example, one of them is a female royal figure who feared growing old and gray, so she sold her soul to be immortal and ageless.  They kind of cheat a bit, as one of the guys is actually alive when they recruit him.  They kill him and then recruit him...which hardly seems fair.  During all of this, our hero- Jubei- doesn't seem to be aware of all that much.  He even has time to hang out with his dad, who seems to hold a grudge against him for no good reason.
Finally, our hero figures out that there is some crazy shit going on.  He gets involved in a romantic sub-plot another woman, but that's pretty forgettable.  What you need to know is this- Jubei fights ninjas!  He fights a ton of them, in fact, leading to the film's first real use of some real gore.  The blood spray is strong and random here, folks!  Now set on his path, Jubei faces off with a number of the turned warriors.  The first real one is the lecherous monk who was converted after his murder.  He goes down, but only after getting his limbs cut off Black Knight-style.  That's a bit silly, right?  One of them goes down pretty quick, but does manage to give a nice little monologue as a disembodied head.  That's real talent!
Aside from the numerous little character moments and sub-plots, this movie is really about one thing.  That thing is Jubei vs. Musashi Miyamoto!  Yes, you can say the name in either direction, so save me any comments about it.  On one hand, you have a famous samurai who may or may not have done much.  On the other hand, you have...well, either of them, really.  This is a battle for the ages and it takes place on the greatest stage of them all- a beach.  The two men fight...and it's over in about three minutes.  Yeah, this movie is great for build-up, but not so much for execution.  Speaking of which, the movie ends with many threads left open and the wizard's threat that the Armageddon will a few years.  The End...for now.
It's the end of the world as we know it!  The plot of this movie is good, but kind of wonky.  It mixes real people- like Musashi- with fantasy- wizards and demons- and fantasized characters- Jubei.  No offense to the real Jubei, but there is no evidence of you do most of this and/or ever even having an eye patch!  The whole film is just a set-up to the second film really.  There are good moments here, but it feels like it's just dragging its feet for a lot of it.  I did like the movie and I would easily recommend it to people looking for a very different kind of bloody, samurai epic.  However, it is an incomplete story and I wish that they could have made the movie feel more whole.  Another Japanese film- Death Note- actually gave you a good ending, if it didn't actually resolve the plot.  It felt conclusive enough for someone who would never go and watch the second one.  This film- not so much.  Then again, there is a 2-Movie DVD available out there that solves this problem...
Next up, the final part of the two-part film is here.  Will the world end or will Jubei continue to kill everyone in 30 seconds?  Stay tuned...

No comments:

Post a Comment