Worst Shinsengumi Film
Kunoichi Deadly Mirage: The Worst Shinsengumi Film Ever Made
Review by Chuck Harris
Ninja, Monsters and Slime!!!!
Year made 1997. Directed by Yutaka Akiyama. At the last anime con I attended, I stumbled across a movie called Kunoichi: Deadly Mirage that mentioned the Shinsengumi. I immediately purchased the movie, and later found that it was not in the list at SHQ (or in IMDB, for that matter). After watching it, I think I know why, but I will offer this review to save anyone else who might come across it. I will try to avoid revealing any spoilers (not that there is much to reveal in the first place).
The blurb from the back cover is more plot than you get in the movie itself: “During the Edo period of Japan, out of fear of losing authority, the Tokugawa shogunate hires the Shinsengumi to bring down the Imperial Court. However, the Satsuma clan finds out about the Tokugawa’s scheme and sends the last five Kunoichi (female ninjas) of Hiryu Ninja Clan to spy on the Shinsengumi. Meanwhile, an evil skeletal demon is brought to life to murder the Kunoichi ninjas and destroy the world.”
The most important thing to this audience, I’m sure, is the Shinsengumi content; I’ll cover that first, as it won’t take long. The only recognizable members are Hijikata and Okita. Hijikata was played by Hiroyuki Watanabe, who went with the tried-and-true heartless killer approach to the character. He actually was on the movie poster and DVD cover (because he actually has a career; he was in Ringu and a variety of rubber-suit monster movies), but he gets about two minutes of screen time. Okita was played by the standard young, cute, heart-throb type, and manged to be even more wishy-washy than the Peacemaker Okita; obviously he was still haunted by the death of Yamanami, which he talks about over and over and over. Every other member of the Shinsengumi shown is a generic extra, all of whom are dumb, poor swordsmen, and fated to die violently.
The overall feel of the movie is amateurish; it looks like a class project from a film school. The fight choreographer obviously quit after the first fight scene (which wasn’t _horribly_ bad), because the combat gets progressively worse as the movie runs. I think the director raided a kendo school for Shinsengumi extras, as most the extras seem to know at least which end of the sword to hold. The ninja and Okita, on the other hand, look like they studied swordsmanship for about five minutes before shooting started; my four-year-old niece can use a sword more effectively and more convincingly than these people. By the end of the movie, the fight scenes were almost painful to watch.
The special effects are perfect for anyone who has ever watched Dr. Who and said “Those effects just look a little too convincing to me.” They were poorly done on some PC graphics package (maybe the Paint program that comes with Windows?); the edges of the overlays were poorly trimmed, the CG effects didn’t mesh at all with the live film, etc. Granted, this movie was made in 1997, but this was bad by 1980′s BBC standards. The “skeletal demon” and his zombie sidekicks looked weak, fought poorly, and barely moved.
The writing probably took at least a half hour; there were plenty of plot holes you could pilot the SDF-1 through. The ninja’s dialog seemed to consist entirely of “You go on ahead, I’ll hold them here as long as I can” and determined-looking nods, while Okita whined his way through all of his scenes.
The costumes are the only decent thing about the movie. The Shinsengumi have their light blue jackets, the ninja are dressed 1980′s style (full black costumes (though the leader has a red vest), instead of the more modern fishnet and miniskirt style, ala Ninja Scroll). The sets look convincingly Tokugawa-era.
There is a little gratuitous nudity (top only) and sexual content that goes well beyond (PG-13) so please keep the kids away atleast for one scene.
Overall, I have to say it’s probably not the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but none that are worse come immediately to mind. I don’t even think it’s worth renting; the only reason I’m keeping my copy is that it is perfect fodder for a Mystery Science Theater make-over.
additional commentary by secretarytocapt3
The dvd makes a great coaster! Totally waterproof and protects tables!