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Recently in samurai / ninja Category

Bounty Hunter Vixens: Treasure of Lust
[Jorou Insatsu Rashin Kenbu]
aka Ninja Vixens 7

Genre: Sexy Ninjas versus Formidable Villain

review in one breath

Femme Fatale Rio takes on her biggest bounty yet when she attempts to bring the infamous Rage and his Haze Gang to justice. Alongside her Sexy Sensei Lotus and her goofy sidekick, they unknowingly infiltrate and take long hot baths in the enemies lair. Will Rio and her compradres realize their predicament before they are ambushed? Tune in boys and girls!



Ninja Vixens: Devilish Angels
[Kunoichi Nimpoden: Tenshi to Akuma]
aka Ninja Vixens 3

Genre: Sexy Ninja fights Boobs and Beasts for JUSTICE!

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After defecting from her clan of ninja assassins, curvaceous Anju now wanders the back roads killing bad guys as a rogue bounty hunter. But hot on her (hot) tail is Orchid, her buxom rival and former fellow assassin, with the intent of making Anju pay for her insubordination. To survive and avenge her past, Anju will need every trick and wile hidden up her cleavage!



Bounty Hunter Vixens: Carnal Enchantment
[Jorou: Ensatsu Rataiken]
aka Ninja Vixens 8

Genre: Ninja bOObies and Magical Swords!

review in one breath

After young little Iris watches a seductive buxom witch steal her beloved father's head (!), she picks up his kick-ass demon-killer sword and never looks back. Now, many years later, she is a BOUNTY HUNTER VIXEN, hell-bent on getting the bad guys (and gals). But when she again crosses paths with the shapely, head-pilfering sorceress and her horny zombie horde, it seems she may have finally met her match.... Until, that is, she befriends a hunky Shinto priest and his nubile sister. This is the EIGHTH in the Ninja Vixen series and proves yet once again that plot and quality are irrelevant as long as nekkid bOObies are involved.



Zatoichi - The Blind Swordsman

Genre: Samurai par Excellence

review in one breath

"Even those who are not blind fail to see many things."

I assume we all know and love the Zatoichi character starring in a huge number of samurai films ranging from Zatoichi 1 (1962) to Zatoichi 26 (1989) (!). Fortunately, director Kitano Takeshi (aka Beat Takeshi) didn't title his rendition "Zatoichi 27", but instead brings a rather fresh, contemporary approach to this otherwise classic character.



Chushingura Gaiden: Yotsuya Kaidan
[Crest of Betrayal]

Genre: Historical Supernatural Samurai [Tokugawa/Edo Era: 1603-1867 AD]

review in one breath

Directed and written by Fukasaku Kinji, Chushingura Gaiden: Yotsuya Kaidan presents a classic tale combining two very well known Japanese traditions. The Chushingura Gaiden is an actual historical episode, better known in the West as the story of the 47 Ronin, and constitutes one of Japan's most beloved samurai stories. It involves an extensive plot of revenge enacted by 47 samurai whose leader was ordered to commit seppuku after attempting to kill an oppressive rival. (A "ronin" is a leaderless samurai.)



Twilight Samurai
[Tasogare Seibei]

Genre: Historical Samurai Drama

review in one breath

Japanese actor Sanada Hiroyuki is becoming widely recognized as Japan's most prominent contemporary action hero. Though given a moderately visible role as Uijo in the lamentably caucasian-centric Last Samurai (2003) (he's the angry samurai who gives Tom Cruise a well-deserved thrashing), Sanada has appeared in numerous leading roles throughout a great number of popular Japanese films. Readers of my reviews will be most familiar with his role as Ryuichi in Ringu (and thereby also Rasen and Ringu 2).



Red Shadow
[Akakage]

Genre: Ninja Drama (Comedic)

review in one breath

Here is a light-hearted ninja adventure filled with techno music, strobe lights and acrobatics. The title Akakage refers to the name of the lead character who, along with his childhood companions Aokage and Asuka, fight myriad evil forces threatening Japan. Our dynamic ninja trio consists of two often goofy guys and one always sexy gal. The name Akakage means Red Shadow and Aokage means "Blue Shadow". Asuka, the name of the ninjess means, well, nothing. From a very early age, all three have been strictly trained in the Kage (Shadow) School of Ninja-ry under the auspices of the Master Ninja Shirokage ("White Shadow"). Now as young adults, both their friendship and skills are strong but (both) will soon be tested.



Reborn from Hell 2: Jubei's Revenge
[Makai Tensho: mado-hen]

Genre: Quasi-historical Supernatural Samurai [Tokugawa/Edo Era: 1603-1867 AD]

review in one breath

"Can Jubei rescue the Princess Ohiro and stop the Demon Warriors in time to save the ENTIRE WORLD???!!"

Alright! Our one-eyed hunk of samurai, Jubei Yagyu, is back to kick some demon derri�re, and this time he means business! By the end of the prequel Reborn from Hell: Samurai Armageddon we had no doubt that Jubei rocked! By the end of this movie, we will be utterly awash in Jubei manhood and the shameful puniness of our own pectorals!



Reborn from Hell: Samurai Armageddon
[Makai tensho: The Armageddon]

Genre: Quasi-historical Supernatural Samurai [Tokugawa/Edo Era: 1603-1867 AD]

review in one breath

Here is a bizarre tale that mixes apocalypticism, classic goth horror, one-eyed samurais, and nekked virgins!



Rashomon

Genre: Frankenstein

review in one breath

"The demons living here have fled in the fear of the ferocity of man."

his movie was one of Akira Kurosawa's first to gain widespread recognition and as is characteristic with many of his films, contains an unusual theme which is later mimiced by myriad others. The movie is based on the novel "Yabu no naka (In a Grove)" by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, and presents a tale wherein truth appears to be merely in the eye of the beholder.



Owl's Castle
[Fukurou no Shiro]

Genre: Quasi-Historical Ninja Tale (Momoyama/Sengoku Era 1568-1615)

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When a highly-trained ninja is called upon to avenge the ruthless massacre of his family and clan, his mission will take him into the heart of the nation's most formidable castle in a bid to assassinate Japan's top military figure, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. This epic history-based and action-packed film will satisfy anyone with an interest in the history, politics and scenery of 16th century Japan.



Makai Tensho
[Samurai Resurrection / Reborn From Hell]

Genre: Quasi-historical Supernatural Samurai [Tokugawa/Edo Era: 1603-1867 AD]

review in one breath

Makai Tensho, Makai Tensho, Makai Tensho (Makai Tensho).

Only a mere five movies share this same title, attesting to the fact that this is a very popular traditional tale. Each retelling is undoubtedly different in both seriousness and content. The story itself does not seem to be fixed and can take on several forms, as long as most of the main characters are present. (For a very over-the-top rendition of this tale, be sure to check out the (hilarious) two-part Reborn From Hell: Samurai Armageddon .)



Gojoe: Spirit War Chronicle
[Gojoe reisen-ki]

Genre: Quasi-historical Samurai par Excellence

review in one breath

I was trying to think of a comparable Western genre to that of Gojoe and realized that there really isn't one. On the one hand, Japanese samurai movies are alot like our "cowboy" films (and there has been alot of historical dependence of Western films on Japanese films in this regard). But there are very few (if any) good or convincing cowboy movies involving the ghostly or demonic. There are, however, many good examples of Japanese samurai movies involving the supernatural. Recent films like this would include Onmyoji and Red Shadow, and more historical examples include the classics Throne of Blood, Ugetsu Monogatari, and OniBaba.

Gojoe is an excellent example of this intertwining of historical piece, samurai action, and ghost story. It is not over-the-top and humorous like Red Shadow, and it is much more serious and realistic than Onmyoji. Unlike these two, the swordsmanship displayed in Gojoe is formidable, fearsome, and yes, exhilarating to watch.



Azumi

Genre: Samurai Ninja Action

review in one breath

With the exception of Messenger (2003), I've had the pleasure of viewing (and reviewing) all of the films currently directed by Kitamura Ryuhei. And without exception, I've enjoyed every one of them. Kitamura's earliest films, entitled Down to Hell and Heat After Dark were both completed and released in the same year (1996) but demonstrate wildly different styles and story genres. Down to Hell was a stylistically experimental and visually gritty zombie movie with an underdog who was suddenly bestowed with super abilities with which to enact revenge, while Heat After Dark was a straight-up yakuza action film which was superbly orchestrated and cinematically polished.



Ashura [The Eyes of Ashura Castle]

Ashura Jo no Hitomi

Genre: Edo-Era Supernatural Sword-Flailing

review in one breath

The sudden rise in demonic activity can only mean one thing: the emergence of Ashura, Queen of the Underworld under whose reign the terrors of Hell will dominate the world of mortals. Although an elite squadron of priest-like warriors have been prepared in anticipation of the Ashura prophecies, their formidable skills prove no match for the demonic hordes once Ashura's rebirth begins. But also buried deep within the prophecy is the possibility that Ashura may perchance be overpowered by a mortal man, thereby saving the world as we know it.




Sword of Doom
[Dai-bosatsu toge]

Genre: Evil Mind, Evil Sword Samurai Tale
Director: Okamoto Kihachi (1966)

review in one breath

The principles of samurai bushido are in sharp focus here, demonstrating the zen-like connection between the swordsman's mind and his use of the blade. Sword of Doom examines an unruly samurai with ruthless sword skills whose ego and moral deficiencies lead him down a path of ultimate destruction. This is truly a classic samurai film in that it is wholly about the bushido mentality and how one's moral character and discipline ultimately decide one's fate.



Incident at Blood Pass [Machibuse]

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Genre: Yojimbo Samurai Tale
Director: Inagaki Hiroshi (1970)

review in one breath

A rogue ronin samurai is hired by a mysterious man to travel to a snowy mountain pass and wait for further instructions. Along the way he rescues an abused maiden who asks to accompany him until he reaches his destination. Once there, the samurai encounters a hodge-podge of seemingly innocuous local characters who unbeknownst to him are plotting a major ambush of an official caravan soon to pass their way. This is the last of Toshiro Mifune's "Yojimbo" films.




Samurai Chicks [Dokuritsu shojo gurentai]

Genre: Politically-minded Ninja-ettes
Director: Mari Asato (2007)

review in one breath

Deep within the basement of Tokyo's Orion Dance Academy is a politically subversive training ground where aspiring young starlettes are transformed into assassins and spies. Highly skilled in toe-tapping terrorist techniques and sophisticated disguises (such as a large Pink Bunny suit!), our team of four babettes must fight the diabolical security forces of Japan to free their Mother Land, Okinawa. Will they succeed? Will they survive? Will they be able to finally perfect that cool but tricky dance move before their oppressors come crashing down upon them???


NIN x NIN : Ninja Hattori-Kun - The Movie [Ninja Star]

Genre: Comedic Contemporary Ninja Tale

review in one breath

This light-hearted and comedic story places Ninja Hattori-kun in a final "training mission" smack in the middle of contemporary Tokyo. A well-established and beloved character in children's books and anime, the adventures of pure-hearted Hattori will appeal to younger audiences and those interested in a good-natured and frequently funny humanitarian tale which packs a whole lot of ninja action and antics.



The Hidden Blade
[Kakushi-ken: oni no tsume]

Genre: Existential Samurai Drama

review in one breath

Faced with declining social status in a quickly changing world, the samurai Katagiri gradually realizes that his personal purpose and meaning are slipping away. Although he tries to create for himself a situation of happiness, social expectations regarding the samurai class force him to abandon even that. Then, when Katagiri's contemplations are at their deepest, his superiors call on him to assassinate a political rebel, his closest friend.



Kunoichi: Lady Ninja [Kunoichi ninpocho Yagyu gaiden]

Genre: Mythical Schlock Ninja-ette Adventure [Late Edo/Tokugawa Era]

review in one breath

Though the last 7 daughters of the Hori clan have hidden as nuns in a convent, the Evil Lord of Aizu soon comes knocking. When they discover that their father has been captured and killed by the Evil Lord, they swear amongst themselves to avenge their father's death by unleashing the hidden Ninja Magic within themselves. Under the tutelage of master samurai Yagyu Jubei, the 7 soon find themselves nipple-deep in disaster.




Kunoichi: Deadly Mirage [Genma Sappocho: Shensengumi Hishou]

Genre: Buxom Ninja-ette Monster Showdown
Director: Akiyama Yutaka (1997)

review in one breath

When the Shinsen Clan learns of a plot to overthrow the Tokugawa government, they send out their five remaining ninjas, all women of the Shiryu bloodline. While battling numerous adversaries to intercept a secret letter outlining the details of the planned subversion, a bizarre evil is unleashed by a well-meaning monk attempting to resurrect a dead soldier. What ensues is a whole lotta naked writhing and a battle of semi-epic proportions with zombies intent on taking over the world or something.



Samurai Banners
[Furin kazan]

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Genre: HUGE (!!!) Ashikaga/Sengoku Era Samurai Epic

review in one breath

This enormous historical epic directed by Inagaki Hiroshi and starring Mifune Toshiro explores the land-hungry expansion of Takeda Shingen of Kai province and his ultimate battle with Uesugi Kenshin of Echigo. Set during the transition between the Ashikaga and Sengoku Eras, this is an action-packed, panoramic tale of strategy, battle and allegiance.



The Princess Blade
[Shura Yuki Hime]

Genre: Weepy Ninja Apocalyptic

review in one breath

In the distant future, the final princess of a clan of assassins discovers the identity of her mother's killer and must decide whether to seek revenge or pursue a life of peace and love. This is a contemporary remake of the early 1970s Japanese manga Shura Yuki Hime.



Azumi 2 [Azumi 2: Love or Death]

Genre: Samurai Ninja Action

review in one breath

Azumi and Nagara, the last remaining assassins of Gessai's trained group, attempt to complete their mission against all odds. When old rebel alliances join with formidable ninja warriors, the demise of our noble-willed assassins seems assured. Unless...



The Shogun's Samurai : Yagyu Clan Conspiracy
[Yagy� Ichizoku no Inb�]

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Genre: Quasi-historical Samurai Action/Thriller [Early Tokugawa Era]

review in one breath

This intriguing history-based fiction explores the rivalry between the two sons of Tokugawa Hidetada over the succession to the Shogunate following the sudden death of their father. Following the rules of aristocratic propriety, the brothers must resort to strategically undermining one another rather than open warfare. And here the loyalty of the Yagyu family of swordmasters proves critical, eventually tipping the balance of the outcome.



Legend of the Eight Samurai
[Satomi Hakkenden]

?????

Genre: Melodramatic and Colorful Retelling of the Hakkenden

review in one breath

Eight karmically bound warriors find themselves at the forefront of a battle with demonic strongholds over the future of Japan. This is director Fukasaku Kinji's cinematic adaptation of the Hakkenden, Japan's oldest and longest literary epic.



Shinobi: Heart Under Blade
[Shinobi]

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Genre: War and Love Ninja-style

review in one breath

This well-rendered tale covers the last days of the centuries old feud between Japan's two most formidable ninja clans, the Koga and the Iga. After bringing peace to a unified Japan, Tokugawa Ieyasu deems both clans of warrior ninjas a threat to his hard won stability, and commands that they face each other in a battle to the death. Trained since childhood as assassins, most gladly dash into battle and thus toward mutual annihilation. Only a secret relationship between the two clans' leaders provides any hope for their villages' survival.



Goyokin [Goyoukin]

???

Genre: Classic Samurai Revenge Tale

review in one breath

Years after being forced to participate in a bloody massacre of innocent townspeople, Wakizaka Magobei returns to the scene of the crime after hearing that the regional ruler intends to once again commit the same atrocity. Goyokin is a well-drawn and engaging traditional samurai tale starring the top talent of the era. This is definitely one to see.



Legend of the Devil
[Shuranosuke zanma-ken: Y�ma densetsu]

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Genre: Low Budget Devil-Lacking Samurai Adventure

review in one breath

The brooding pretty-boy samurai Sasaki Shuranosuke finds himself embroiled in a complicated plot involving vanquished ninja clans, hidden treasure, and the mysterious power of a pair of ancient swords. And behind it all are some seemingly indestructible master minds poised to defeat him in order to bring about a diabolical revolution. Sometimes schlock, sometimes poseur, this remains a good rainy-day samurai flick if you need one.



Ronin Gai
[Samurai/Ronin Street]

Genre: Rough and Tumble Samurai Tale

Setting: Late Edo/Tokugawa Era

review in one breath

Ronin Gai is an entertaining classic samurai tale pitting an odd assortment of unemployed samurai (ronin) against a formidable troop of Tokugawan samurai terrorizing the men and women of their small rural village. Filled to the brim with unkempt and morally questionable characters a new twist is added to this tale of honor from unlikely sources, where the underdogs here would in most other films constitute mere scoundrels.



Aragami
[The Raging God of Battle]

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Genre: Supernatural Samurai Action

review in one breath

Aragami was released in Japan as the second half of a cinematic "double feature" entitled Duel (2003). The first feature is entitled 2LDK, directed by Tsutsumi Yukihiko. The (well-known) story goes that Tsutsumi and Kitamura made a wager as to who could develop the more exciting "duel" film given the following criteria: (a) the film must only involve a duel (to the death) between two individuals, (b) the film set must be limited to a single location, and (c) the film must be shot within seven days.



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