Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Kibakichi: Bakko-yokaiden 2/Werewolf Warrior 2 (2004)

The continuing saga of Kibakichi, the itinerant Yokai werewolf swordsman with matted hair and ragged clothes! The first film of this series is undoubtedly a highpoint of trash cinema, a film so hilariously true to its z-level aesthetic, narrative and cinematic aims that it demands to be liked. Part 2, most likely made in tandem to the film it follows, continues down the same path of enjoyable cinematic ineptitude, but it would seem that the special effects budget was blown on the first film for in comparison to the initial masterpiece of Japanese dilettantism, Kibakichi: Bakko-yokaiden 2 is spectacularly low on cheesy monsters, explosions and spurting blood. Indeed, it is obvious in more than one scene (by the long pauses of the victims and the piddling spray of the blood) that the budget definitely did not allow for retakes when the effects fubbed.
But although director Tomoo Haraguchi wasn’t able to pour blood this time around, he and scriptwriter Baku Kamio were able to pour a lot of inanely misplaced and laughable philosophizing and love interest — and some truly cheap looking arty visuals — into a plot that at best can be described as incomprehensible. Indeed, Kibakichi: Bakko-yokaiden 2
often comes across as if its on-occasion-fast-moving 80-odd minutes were edited down from a year’s worth of weekly hour-long television episodes — but in all truth, understanding the plot is in itself not essential to the enjoyment of this movie. This movie, like the film it follows, is a must for those types of cinophiles that like dead bodies that obviously still breathe, transformations that happen totally off-screen, monster costumes that the Salvation Army wouldn't even bother to try selling at Halloween, fifth-rate special effects, werewolf mating dances and long ineptly filmed samurai fight scenes. (Sounds promising, doesn't it?)
After wandering away at the end of Kibakichi: Bakko-yokaiden 1, Kibakichi (Ryuuji Harada) wanders back in part two and is promptly confronted by samurai-wielding bad guy named Sakuramaru who first decimates a ton of fellow humans (most of whom, as was mentioned before, continue breathing even as they lie dead on the ground) and then gravely injures our unwashed hero. Quickly turning tail, Kibakichi stumbles onwards into a nearby half-disseminated and fear-stricken village where he pauses long enough to save a young blind woman from a wild dog. Blind as she is, she alone can see the goodness in Kibakichi's heart and, despite his reproof and continual demands to left alone, attempts both to befriend him and nurse him to good health. She also fills him in on the crazed swordsman, who can also claim her father as among his numerous victims. (If Part 1 has the thesis that humans are evil, Part 2 briefly posits the suggestion that westerners are worse – before, later in the film, positing that Yokai can be evil dips, too.) Deciding to rid the village of the slash-happy madman, Kibakichi returns for a duel to the end, a duel that is interrupted by the appearance of the razor-edged-boomerang-wielding itinerant Yokai werewoman named Anju (Miki Tanaka) — a character briefly introduced in Part 1 and whose only goal in life is to first kill Kibakichi and then herself. Now outnumbered, Kibakichi retreats and leaves Sakuramaru to fall madly in love with Anju; she in turn lets him follow her around like a lovesick puppy, initially because she doesn't seem to know how to get rid of him and later because she's seemingly gone soft for him. On top of all this, three other nasties with their own indecipherable agenda suddenly appear from nowhere (in truth, only one of the three is truly bad: it is later revealed that the one that looks like an overweight Marlon Brando in bad mime make-up is actually a cheesy-looking and evil Yokai that has the power to control the thoughts and actions of others). Because Bad Fatty wants to kill all humans to make the world a safe place for a new Yokai kingdom that he alone should rule, they logically decide that Kibakichi and Anju must die. Equally logical, to do so they torture and kill the blind girl and make it look as if Sakuramaru did it and then takeover Sakuramaru’s mind to make him kill Kibakichi. All this leads up to a big showdown that is half as bloody and extreme as the big showdown in Part 1 but that is nonetheless equally as silly and enjoyable. Indeed, the final werewolf mating dance is undoubtedly a new highpoint in cinematic history and is a must for any and all fans of bad film.
Although officially a "sequel," Kibakichi: Bakko-yokaiden 2 can stand alone as an independent film in that Part 1 is not necessarily required viewing to understand the events of Part 2. Nonetheless, both films are worth viewing as prime example of sublimely ridiculous cinema. If you like trash, then both Kibakichi: Bakko-yokaiden 1 and Kibakichi: Bakko-yokaiden 2 are worthy DVD fodder; if you have a smidgeon of distaste for that which is surreally lousy, then neither film is an option. Happily enough, Part 2 ends much like Part 1 in that it leaves open a great breadth for a possible Part 3 – were we ever so lucky!

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