Archive for July, 2010

Kamui: The Lone Ninja WLTM Hot Girls. Must Like Lurking.

July 20, 2010

Ninjas. It’s not all black pajamas and glamour. Kamui: The Lone Ninja is adapted from the manga by Sanpei Shirato that first ran in Japan from 1964 to 1971. The series was one of the first manga to be translated into English when Dark Horse Comics brought it to Western readers in 1987. Now, two decades later, along comes this live action adaptation. If only the movie had stayed hidden in the shadows.

Kamui: The Lone NinjaKamui is an outcast, for he has broken the vaguely defined Code of the Ninja (always wear black, even when you’re not going to a formal event; don’t betray your clan; never put out on a first date) On the run from his ninja clan, Kamui (Kenichi Matsuyama) befriends a fisherman called Hanbei (Kaoru Kobayashi) who takes the lonely ninja into his home. Welcome! Share my home, soil my towels, lurk in my shadowy corners. Hanbei’s wife Sugaru (Koyuki) is another ex-ninja and fears Kamui has come to assassinate her because she too broke the code (that’s why she had to get married to a guy who smells of haddock). However the fisherman has problems enough of his own as local daimyo Lord Gumbei wants his head after Hanbei killed his horse to make fishing tackle (I wish I was making that part up. Worms must be at a premium in feudal Japan).

Director Yoichi Sai takes some well known and much loved source material, some big names stars – particularly Death Note mainstay Kenichi Matsuyama – and squanders them all with a truly incompetent screenplay. The movie opens and closes with a lot of running around and fighting, but the entire mid-section leaves Kamui with nothing to do besides looking lost and vaguely sulky. Over the course of a two-hour movie, the protagonist is left fundamentally unchanged. Kamui is an observer to the inter-personal conflicts that make up the meandering second act and he hovers on the edge of most scenes as little more than a bystander. Matsuyama struggles to bring any life to the character, but it is hard to blame the actor when the script asks nothing of him.

Kaoru Kobayashi manages to inject some spark into Hanbei, although his constant rasping laughter gets old very

Kamui

This was not the sushi Kamui had actually ordered.

quickly and it is hard to feel too much sympathy for someone who goes around hacking up horses. Suzuka Ohgo brings youthful exuberance to Hanbei’s teenage daughter Sayaka, who develops a classic schoolgirl crush on the pouty ninja but again a perfectly interesting character is tossed away by the inane screenplay.

It all starts to get deeply preposterous when the Watari Shark Hunters show up. They don’t just hunt sharks – they wrestle them for kicks. As Fudo, Captain of the Watari, Hideaki Ito is pure ham, complete with a preposterous wig. His final scene is unintentionally hilarious and brings to mind the duel with the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Fudo’s actions make no sense and he seems to be used as a plot device to set up the final battle that wraps up the movie.

Sanpei Shirato’s manga had a strong element of social critique, attacking the injustices of the feudal system. While Lord Gumbei is shown to be decadent and capricious, he never faces any comeuppance for his cruelty. Perhaps Yoichi Sai hopes to return to the tale with a sequel, but it further weakens the movie to leave Gumbei completely untouched by the events of this story.

Burn Baby Burn, Ninja Inferno

Haven't they suffered enough? For just $2 every month, this family will never have to watch Kamui again.

The special effects look shoddy throughout, particularly the computer generated animals. A scene of Lord Gumbei hunting deer is appalling, it looks like the deer have run onto the screen straight from the original Tomb Raider game from 1996 in glorious 16 bit colour, while the CG sharks are never convincing, a matter not helped by the director repeating the same shot twice in succession during the shark hunt sequence. The ship used by the Watari hunters looks both anachronistic and culturally suspect, resembling a modern whaling ship made entirely out of bamboo. Despite being massive, the ship somehow manages to sneak up on Kamui and Hanbei in another scene that suggests the director was asleep at the wheel.

There is a good deal of wirework and special effects in the fight scenes, which are generally awful. In one early scene Kamiu kicks someone so hard they are bent in half. It’s supposed to look like Kamui can kick harder than a mule with a migraine, but instead it looks goofy – as though his opponent was actually Gumby in disguise. With those sneaky ninja, you can never be too sure. Matsuyama brings a certain frantic desperation to his action scenes, but perhaps he simply wanted to get them over with as quickly as possible. No one could blame him. I watched this so you don’t have to. Don’t thank me. Just send money and beer. Actually, keep your money. Just send beer.