Genre: Bizarre Underdog Super-Hero Action
review in one breath
1-Ichi is the directorial debut of Tanno Masato and is certain to be a favorite among fans of Miike Takashi with whom he worked as assistant director on Ichi the Killer (Koroshiya Ichi, 2001), Happiness of the Katakuris (Katakuri no Kazoku no Kofuku, 2002), and Gokudo kyofu dai-gekijo Gozu (2003).
In its own right, 1-Ichi is thoroughly entertaining and will more than satisfy those who have come to enjoy Japan's recent indulgence in WAY over-the-top violence committed by WAY colorful characters. 1-Ichi actually serves as a prequel to the now infamous Ichi the Killer, and walks us through "Ichi's" high-school days filled with ridicule from his peers, leading up to the explosive and formidable whirlwind of kicks we know and love as "Ichi the Killer". But this story is self-contained and consistent enough so that even those failing to see Ichi the Killer would not notice this is a prequel to anything.
When we meet "Ichi" for the first time, he is simply Hiroishi (Oomori Nao), an overly-introverted (can I say that?) boy who finds himself socially ostracized by everyone. Even the much younger children in Hiroishi's karate class treat him with absolutely no respect and mock him as if he were a babbling infant. Despite his propensity for staring lustfully into the butcher's showcase or carrying raw, bloodied meat around with him, it is not until Hiroishi is literally pushed to the extreme of torment by a group of high school delinquents that he lets out his first primal scream and then proceeds to leave no survivors. Onizame, another student who we will get to know quite well, happens to pass by as the carnage is in full swing and witnesses Hiroishi don the baseball jersey of the lead oppressor (who no longer has a need for it...) with its large "#1" (Ichi-ban) on the back. Knowledge of Horishi's blind and formidable rage will soon leak out as Onizame begins to refer to him as "Ichi".
But even in describing the story thus far, I have glazed over a remarkable number of excellent brawl scenes between high school students. Some wield bricks, others steel bats, but the most formidable remain Dai-san (TEAH) whose fighting style resembles that of Mike Tyson, and through whose eyes and narration we encounter Hiroishi, and Onizame (Chihara Koji) whose jaw-dropping, back-snapping, socket popping (!!!) Aikido skills will methodically leave every joint in your body flexing the wrong (very, very wrong) way. Not only will these two face off in an amazing series of climatic battles, but then throw the sobbing berserk-oid Ichi into the mix and you've just set up the "perfect storm" for bone-breaking and skull-cracking.
1-Ichi is, of course, most satisfying on the visceral level, but Tanno has done a very good job of developing his characters. Dai-san is more than a simple meat-pulverizer, and is effectively contemplative of his intuitions regarding Hiroishi. Hiroishi's own internal disquietudes are most evident in the abuse he receives from others, but also in his constant recourse to nature and in particular, crows. And Onizame is an amazingly interesting and strangely frightening character who you should not, no never, disrespect.
This was alot of fun in its focused look at the mysterious main character of Miike's Ichi the Killer. Fan's of Miike's work will undoubtedly want to see this. And this will certainly create a new circle of Tanno Masato fans.
|Directorial debut of Tanno Masato whose work I hope to see much more of.||Amazing barrage of fist fights, brawls, EXTREME Aikido, and other methods of physical damage. And then Ichi puts it into autopilot...||Well, I wouldn't call it sex. Let's just say Ichi gets a little "excited" as people are getting pulverized.||Watch beloved, sobbing Ichi dig his first heel kick into someone's brain! Relive your childhood memories of being terrorized by bullies and them grinding them into pulp in a fit of blind rage!|