Title: Samurai Princess
Genre: Action, Horror
Starring: Aino Kishi, Dai Mizuno, Asuka Katoaka
Director: Kengo Kaji
Following on from ‘Tokyo Gore Police,’ the director this time around the man responsible for the story in TGP, and with the same man on board for the visual effects, I was hoping for more of the same style of action; another dark showcase of visual effects with perhaps the thin thread of plot tying it all together, but sadly that isn’t what I found. Now don’t get me wrong, much of the influences the two of them had are still there, but this time the imagery takes a step back in place of a greater focus on the plot, which is more incoherent than ever.
It is the idea of ‘Mecha’ that takes precedence this time (over the ‘engineers’ in TGP); robotic creations made from the flesh of the freshly killed, and with multiple interweaving characters given a brief emotional base; the samurai princess herself a mecha comprised of 11 souls (transferred into a single body by a Buddhist nun), revived by a man who make mecha in his spare time “for fun,” she awakens desperate to seeking vengeance on those who massacred them. Joined by a man who also wishes vengeance to be wreaked, they begin their hunt. Hunted themselves by ‘mecha hunters’ (a sort of police), torn between them and their other prey: two ‘body artists.’ And by ‘body artists,’ I mean they create their art through the use of dead bodies.
In fact, the two lovers who sadistically create their art (though we sadly get to see very little of it) were easily the greatest performance present; manically howling with laughter at the suffering of others, a twisted grin as they fondle their fleshy weapon preparing to strike their victims; whilst given only a minor role with simplistic desires, they play that with such an energy that it almost becomes hard not to root for the bad guy. With such a focus devoted to the complex story – which actually does make an odd sense – you would hope for something better than what was delivered upon, instead doing little more than detracting from violence. Hell, at one point they even tried to tie in a brief love scene, coming out of the blue, and adding nothing to the plot (I really mean nothing; the lead isn’t that attractive, particularly with all the make up stitch-work, and 5 minutes of almost seeing something isn’t exactly a good thing).
Feeling very much more ‘Action’ than ‘Horror’ this time around, whilst the mechanical direction taken is less interesting than the engineers, my concern is not even the quality of the proceedings, but rather the long absence of it during many scenes. When it does finally emerge, it takes things too far, playing more than just the ‘excessive yet fun’ role, intentionally trying to be amusing and falling flat; the choice of using an electric guitar, badly playing some sort of rock whilst unplugged and yet miraculously powerful enough to kill someone, exemplifying the lengths they go to try and find obscure humour to replace the lack of a coherent story. And even then, when the excessive gore really does take hold, it comes off all too cartoon-like, with a greater reliance on CGI, and an altogether brighter coloured background making this all too readily apparent.
This isn’t necessarily a bad film; the creations are still novel and inventive, if not up there with ‘TGP’ and ‘Pans Labyrinth,’ and the plot makes enough sense to follow with ease. The main issue comes from the fact that with such a short run time, and relatively complex plot, too much time is devoted in making sure it explains whats going on; it spends so long trying to find a way to integrate all the character ideas buzzing around the directors head that by the time he finally does, he’s left without much time to do anything with them. This is another classic case of trying to do so much that he fails to accomplish what should have been the focus all along.