Those who are familiar with “OneChanbara: Zombie Bikini Squad” the popular PS2/Xbox 360 video game in Japan would be familiar with “OneChanbara the movie
” (2008, Hong Kong title: Chanbara Beauty) that starred bikini model Eri Otoguro. Well, this next movie isn’t exactly a sequel but rather another interpretation of the video game. “OneChanbara: Vortex” has the same characters but a very different story from the first film. It now stars top pin-up model sexy Tejima Yuu as Aya, Akari Ozawa as Saki and hottie Rika Kawamura as Reiko. So do I have your attention yet?
In a post apocalyptic future when zombies dominate the Earth, Aya (Tejima Yuu) and Saki (Akari Ozawa) are two young women from the almost extinct Imichi clan. They travel Japan killing as many of the undead as they possibly can but it seems like there is no end in sight for their fight and they seemed destined to fight forever. A woman called Misery (Kumi Imura) enlists their aid to destroy Himiko, the mistress of the undead. The two agrees to aid Misery but instead find themselves in conflict with a group of human survivors being led by Aya’s old friend Reiko (Rika Kawamura) and a young man called Ryo (Youhei Hoshina) who are protecting a child named Kei. Tricked and seduced by Himiko, Saki sides with the zombie queen on the condition that her parents be resurrected. Now, Aya must fight alone and try to save her sister…but what are the secrets of the Imichi bloodline and its relationship to Ryo’s bloodline?
“OneChanbara Vortex” is a low budget affair and is aimed to those used to Japanese filmmaking. The film is obviously a step down from the original movie in terms of screenplay, action, and special effects but the good news is sexy actress Tejima Yuu and Rika Kawamura are every bit as sexy and beautiful as Eri Otoguro and Minami Hashimoto. Too bad the Saki character is portrayed as a kid, so Chise Nakamura do tilt the scales in favor of the original. I’ll get right to the point, you won’t be watching this movie because of the story, action and suspense; you will be watching this to see a bikini-clad hottie cut down some zombies with a samurai sword. Oh, there’s also a hottie in a cleavage-focused leather outfit with a sawed off shotgun and a sword.
The plot has the usual elements of betrayal, redemption and the quest for a more peaceful life. It doesn’t offer anything special in terms of plot, and the characterization does leave a lot to be desired. I did like the development of sibling rivalry that put the sisters Aya and Saki (being younger is easily deceived) at opposing sides although they long for the same thing. I do however, did notice that the execution of certain devices and some elements appear to come from left field as some surprises didn’t have a satisfactory and believable groundwork. The resurrection thing just came out of nowhere, and I was a little disappointed that the Imichi and Ryo’s bloodlines weren’t fully defined by director Tsuyoshi Shoji. We all know that they somehow cancel each other out, but why and how?
The action scenes were as I expected. I wasn’t expecting anything special and I would be happy if it matched the style of the original film. Well, it does but it is also uneven due to its limited budget. Most of the fights are a redundant hack and slash, with the shaky camera work that is mostly kept close to the action to focus on Tejima Yuu’s fantastic attributes. Thankfully the fights did improve as the movie went on; the fights in the last encounter did manage to save the movie. There is a lot of blood (little gore though) that is a blend of CGI blood and red ink. The viewer is shown a lot of cool posturing and attitude as the direction tries to inject a “cool” atmosphere. We see the blood splattered all over the screen. I thought it was somewhat reminiscent to the gimmicks of the video game.
The zombies in the film have their different qualities; some are faster than most but none were using martial arts as with the first movie. The villain Himiko does have side of mystery about her and I did find her interesting. She wasn’t developed that well but I thought she was the best character in the film aside from Aya. I wasn’t really impressed with the performances, as most of the acting did seem a little blah. But let’s be honest, we are not here to see award-winning performances; we are here for the bikini-clad babe holding a samurai sword. Tejima Yuu and Rika Kawamura are just so sexy and so awesomely curvaceous that I would probably watch them in a movie just stand around and do nothing.
“OneChanbara Vortex” is an inferior movie when you compare it to the original, but it does serve up some charm. The first movie had a dose of “camp” factor that made it more appealing, this movie does try to stick to a serious tone while attempting to adapt a darker mood. This film requires the viewer to be in the right mindset; just look at Japanese pin-up models Tejima Yuu and Rika Kawamura, and you know what exactly what you paid to see.
Recommended! To fans of Japanese Cinema and a RENTAL for Everybody else [3- Out of 5 Stars]