With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Thursday, July 26, 2012

ACF 1570: KUNOICHI - DVD review

Written and directed by Seiji Chiba
Starring Rina Takeda
Japan, 2011, 65 minutes

For many years the Iga and Koga ninjas have been deadly rivals. Certain Iga warriors have traditionally kidnapped Koga kunoichi (female ninjas), brought them back to the Iga village and made them sex slaves. Two Igas, Shimotsuki and Hyotsu, are leading the latest four captives when a male Koga enables them to escape. His motives are unclear at first, perhaps not as pure as they might appear. Among the escapees is Kisaragi (real life karate black belt Rina Takeda, of High Kick Girl!, Karate Girl, and most recently Dead Sushi). She is not only beautiful, but also a formidable ninja warrior. Freed from her rope bonds, she embarks on a mission to protect the other three kunoichi and lay some whoop-ass on their captors and any other deserving souls.

Among director Chiba's previous works is Alien vs. Ninja (2010), which was a co-presentation of the New York Asian Film Festival and Japan Cuts that year. In Kunoichi, Rina Takeda makes her first period film and and fights with swords for the first time, though her phenomenal kicks are also in ample evidence. Mention must also be made of the fine contributions of action director Kensuke Sonomura; a lengthy fight scene between Kisaragi and Shimotsuki is really top-drawer.

Kunoichi came out on DVD earlier this week from Sentai Filmworks that was distributed by Section23 Films. In addition to the movie, their are several extras. The Making of The Kunoichi provides interesting insight into what goes on in the making of a film, especially what life is like for the actors on set. The Kunoichi Stage Greeting features Chiba, Takeda, and Mitsuki Koga, who plays Shimotsuki, addressing a late night crowd at one of the early screenings of the film in the Shibuya section of Tokyo.

The Action of the Kunoichi provides extensive coverage of both rehearsals and for-real shooting of many of the action sequences. The Outtakes extra is different from what I am used to seeing. Here we're shown several scenes as several takes are filmed. Rather than being bored, I found that just enough was being shown so that I could appreciate what the film-making process if so often like for the cast. The final extra consists of a number of Japanese trailers for the film.

The storyline is a bit on the thin side, and there are some overlong shots of the kunoichi and their pursuers running through the woods. Still, I pretty much enjoyed the film, largely because of Ms. Takeda's presence and skills. There's no doubt that she's the main draw here. And there also is that outstanding action sequence I referred to above.

ACF Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars for the film (flawed, but fairly good overall); 3.5 out of 4 for the extras (superior offerings).

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