Genre: Traditional Schlock-Gore Monster Horror
Version reviewed: Region 1 subtitled DVD
review in one breath
When the formidable samurai Kibakichi makes his way to the desolate mountaintop village of Onizo, the haunting secrets of both Kibakichi and the strange villagers are soon revealed. Will Kibakichi maintain his lone-wolf ways or will he reveal all to help the villagers battle an even greater evil? Thoroughly enmeshed in traditional Japanese notions of obakemono and their relations with humanity, this is a fun and (very) slightly educational movie.
This version of Kibakichi which recently (and suddenly) reached Western shores is apparently the 2003 sequel of an earlier (1997 ?) original of the same title. (The official site for this film clearly identifies it as the "second part" and "second battle".
Update: Please read my review of Kibakichi 2 where I finally sort all this out.
The tale itself is wholly within traditional lore and recalls a gradual separation by force between the world of humans and the world of supernatural beings ("obakemono" or "yokai"). In the Shinto-based mindset of traditional Japanese culture, this separation of worlds is necessarily (and only) geographic wherein the supernatural beings must flee to remote mountainous or heavily forested regions. (This notion is the backbone of Miyazaki classics like Princess Mononoke or Pom Poco
[Brief Digression] As a predominantly animistic worldview, Shinto does not posit a remote "heaven" or "hell" to which the dead are assigned (as if by some divine Moral Judge). Rather, the spirits of the dead remain in the same geographical space/plane as the living. This is why, for example, the most important national holiday in Japan revolves around the O-bon observance, where it is said the (generations and generations of) deceased spirits return to their (real-world) home for a meal of fellowship. In the same manner, the obakemono of old lore remain in this sphere though due to factors explored in this film and elsewhere, must hide from the encroachment of humanity. Unless, that is, a human is walking very late at night in the depths of a mountainous forest...[End of Digression]
Kibakichi is the name of a weather-worn and scowling lone samurai who metes out major butt-kickage to any gap-toothed ruffians foolish enough to mess with him. For some unknown reason (
undoubtedly spelled out in the prequel) he is making a bee-line to a god-forsaken mountain-top village run by the infamous Onizo (PS: "Oni" means "demon"...)
After battling several formidable Kappa, Kibakichi finally makes his way into the village. It appears wholly run-down and abandoned, yet (he finds) is populated with large number of villagers all sharing some quiet secret.
The mainstay of the village is its flourishing yet illegal gambling, which attracts only those souls intent on the largest gains. When Kibakichi is invited to stay and is even given a loan to gamble with, his worldly-wise eyes soon detect the monstrous underbelly of the town.
But Kibakichi is fully familiar with monstrous, as is made clear once he begins to fully flex his Inugami muscles.
I really liked and will recommend Kibakichi on a couple levels.
First and foremost, the monsters here and even the main character, as well as the storyline, are all pulled directly out of traditional Japanese lore. Although there is (of course) no definition or explanation within the film itself (since this was intended for Japanese audiences who would immediately recognizes the correlations) ALL the monsters here derive from the classic collection of folk lore.
[Brief 2nd Digression]My goal is to translate some of this folklore so that more of this makes sense to all of us.[End of Digression]
Second, it is evident that a whole-lotta effort went into making this film. It is certainly not an exemplar of cinematic accomplishment, but neither is it your average b-grade film. Though it starts out a bit slow, you'll soon find yourself quite engaged in a less-than-stellar monster movie which relies upon wholly traditional depictions of ghoulies and the most modern (or cheap) technology to accomplish memorable schlock-gore and pyrotechnic scenes.
I suggest you definitely check this out (for low-grade, j-monster fun). This is now HIGHLY accessible in subtitled format via your local Blockbuster or Netflix venue.
Version reviewed: (Mass produced) Region 1 DVD (has both dubbed and subtitled versions)
|Every monster and plot dynamic derives directly from traditional lore, albeit unexplained to audiences.||The brunt of this film is about the explicit demise of both (morally bad) humans and (morally ambiguous) obakemono. Emphasis on demise.||One man-eating (!) bOObie monster.||This actually presents a plethora of (truly/accurate) traditional Japanese obakemono.|