JAPAN 2009 Directed by: Tsuyoshi Shoji Written by: Fukushima Yoshiki Editing by: Tsuyoshi Shoji Cast: Chika Arakawa, Kumi Imura, Rika Kawamura, Akari Ozawa, Yu Tejima, Hoshina Youhei
Now it’s not that we ever expected anything inventive from the live movie adaptations of the ONECHANBARA franchise, quite the opposite: if anything, the ONECHANBARA movie had to rock, and it was very disappointing to see the first installment fail so miserably.
ONECHANBARA: THE MOVIE was a timid, half-hearted attempt to bring the essentials of the game, namely blood, guts and heroines in skimpy outfits, to the big screen. It was unfinished business, a rushed, sloppy video-game-goes-J-splatter exercise, and surely one of the most dissatisfying genre movies of that year.
ONECHANBARA: THE MOVIE – VORTEX must therefore be considered one of the few sequels that actually correct most of the mistakes of the original film. That is even more surprising as it is a direct-to-video release. Just about everything turns out to be better though: from production value to the story, the action choreography to the dialogues, ONECHANBARA: THE MOVIE – VORTEX is far more solid, thought-out and homogenous, or simply speaking, it’s outright fun.
Nothing spoils the viewing experience (like was the case with the predecessor), but just don’t expect a new genre milestone: this is still action on a shoestring budget, but they know how to work around it this time. Take the special effects, for instance: hardly any physical “blood” is spilled, most of it is CGI, based on a conceptual post-production approach, but it has impact and gets the job done in high-paced fashion.
The bottom line: if you had to pick one of the ONECHANBARA movies, make sure you avoid the first one and skip straight to ONECHANBARA: THE MOVIE – VORTEX.