The film is based on the manga that became a popular PS2 game in Japan. Directed by Youhei Fukuda, the film "OneChanbara the movie" (aka. Chanbara Beauty, Hong Kong title) features three of Japan's top pin-up girls in very significant roles. Eri Otoguro is a scantily-clad woman in a cowboy outfit and a bikini while Chise Nakamura is in a sexy schoolgirl uniform; both sexy women wields katana swords--joined by Minami Hashimoto who plays a biker chick clad in hot leather with a sawed-off shotgun. Do I have your attention yet?
In a post apocalyptic future, the D3 corporation had performed devilish experiments to raise the dead. These undead creatures started preying on living humans and the humanity is on the brink of extinction. Aya, (upcoming sex siren Eri Otoguro, U.S. remake "Shutter) is the heiress of the ancient Imichi clan of assassins. Aya cuts her way through zombies created by mad scientist Sugita, on the path to vengeance in search of her sister Saki (Chise Nakamura, Cursed Songs 2) to avenge the death of their father at the hands of her own sister. Joined by longtime companion, Katsuji and a leather-clad, shotgun-toting woman named Reiko (Minami Hashimoto), Aya is determined to come to a resolution on the conflict between her and her sister Saki. Aya is an amazing swordswoman, Saki is her equal with a Katana sword --what would be the outcome?
The film isn't to be taken seriously at first glance. I haven't read the Japanese comic nor have I finished the game; but it is so obvious that this film has been inspired by a comic and the effects are very reminiscent of the video game. The Swordplay is a blend of "Dynasty Warriors", the effects can be compared to "Fist of the NorthStar" and even "DragonBall Z". When Aya unleashes her "inner" power or mystical "Chi", her surroundings are set to explode--dirt is being spewed forth and rocks are flying. The flashes and light trails emulates the sword strokes, limbs and blood hit the camera view and extreme close-ups are used to express pain. The fight choreography by Go Ohara is quite good and hard-hitting--and contain a very good amount of Blood, while GORE is omnipresent in the zombie feasting buffet. I rather like the birds eye view of Aya‘s encounter with a zombie army and the final encounter between Aya and Saki is very exciting and fun to see. The fights are the film's main draw aside from the sexy female trio. Anime-inspired fighting poses is the trio's forte and boy, do these women look good when they wield a sword.
"OneChanbara's" plot is very simple and is quite similar to other Japanese films of this type. I do commend director Fukuda's decision not to dawdle too much on Eri Otoguro, Chise Nakamura and Minami Hashimoto's "star appeal" and charisma. The film's screenplay does have a lot of emotion. The past is told in the form of flashbacks and there is a lot of emotion to be had. The loss of a loved one due to them becoming the "undead" has a lot of emotional potential and the director does manage to flesh them out. Killing a loved one is quite difficult--especially when one is guilty for their current situation.
The zombies in the film aren't your usual "shambling" undead. They are fast-moving and some of them have been enhanced to perform martial arts and to wield a weapon. There is a zombie who looks like a "Go-go Yubari" reject and one who looks like he is a "Jin Kazama" reject from "Tekken 4" video game. These change of mood doesn't hurt the film but rather shows its roots from the pages of manga. The zombie make up EFX is very similar to other Japanese movies in this genre and their faces have that pale-gray hue. The main villain himself is a cardboard anime villain. Dr. Sugita is the head of a corporation intent on playing "God". The sibling rivalry between Saki and Aya is decently developed and builds up its climactic climax. Reiko is a little underdeveloped and Katsuji seems like a minor plot device to lighten the mood somewhat.
The film is a little "campy" at times, but it doesn't lose its forward momentum. The film is very simple and the plot has been built around the encounter with zombies and the action sequences. There is some sex and nudity to be had--but I was disappointed that Eri, Chise and Minami kep their clothes on. The film is very action-packed and fast-paced. Despite its weaknesses in storyline the film is never boring and does provide the expected entertainment from a manga-inspired movie. Make sure you remember the source material when you are watching this film--Youhei Fukuda is no Ryuhei Kitamura but he does manage to put together a film that does justice to its roots.
Still, a katana-wielding woman in red bikini with a cowboy hat, scarf and leather boots proves very sexy. Eri Otoguro is the right woman for the job; joined by Minami Hashimoto and Chise Nakamura--these three Japanese women can make any man's blood boil with excitement.
"OneChanbara" (aka. Chanbara Beauty) may not be a film for everyone but it sure is fun to watch!
Recommended! To fans of the game and to fans of Japanese cinema [3 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
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