Really and truly. Oneechanbara was a budget PS2 game in D3 Publisher's Simple line (full disclosure: I have not played Oneechanbara) whose selling point was the character you see to the left of you chopping up zombies. It obviously sold big numbers despite being not really that great, and grew into a small franchise for developer Tamsoft (of bygone Toshinden fame). Perhaps the culmination of all this Oneechanbara love is this live-action film, which I caught the premiere of last night at the New York Asian Film Festival. Oneechanbara-- again, the tale of a hot bikini girl in a cowboy hat and a feather boa dismembering the living dead-- is certainly ridiculous enough to translate to some fantastic trash cinema. Indeed, Oneechanbara might have been better off as a movie in the first place. Still, I'm wary of Japanese action films in general (Kitamura aside: I love that guy), so I came in with low expectations. This movie still managed to disappoint me.
Anyway, at some near-future point, the D3 Corporation--I and some other guy chuckled-- has flooded the world with zombies and obviously, this chick kills them all. Accompanied by a comic-relief fat guy, Aloof Girl (our heroine Aya) and Nice Girl (her shotgun-wielding biker friend Reiko) set out to kill Dr. Wily and his henchschoolgirl, Aya's sister Saki. And they're all really weepy about it.
The biggest problem with this movie is that it decides to involve itself deeply with the characters' emotional trauma as a result of the zombie outbreak. Much of the movie is spent either drawn-out explanations of people's tragic pasts or people crying about said tragic pasts (protip: they've all had to kill a zombified family member). This concept does not exactly lend itself to high drama. Neither do these actors. Neither does the direction, which outright bludgeons the viewer with forced, mawkish "cry here" scenes. The audience was absolutely rolling from laughter during these bits, but I've seen The Room, so I can't say I was moved. I was just thinking "these people could be fighting zombies, right now".
And then there's the business of fighting zombies! Aya often fights in the dark, and this means that a lot of the fights-- indeed, the entire first twenty minutes of the film-- are shot in "can't see shit" vision. You can't really see Aya (absolutely criminal, as ogling the girls is one of the film's few sources of genuine entertainment), you can't see what's in front of her, you can't see what she's doing: a lot of the swordplay is fudged by just putting cheap videogame slash effects over the screen. For Oneechanbara, the movie is surprisingly light on the gore, and many of Aya's cuts are clean zombie-fall-down affairs. The action only really validates the movie at the very end, with a good-times zombie massacre that finally fulfilled the simple expectations I had for it. If you see this on video, do yourself a favor and skip to the shot where they're outside what I call "Dr. Wily's castle". You'll see it.
So basically, Oneechanbara: THE MOVIE gets zombie violence wrong, it gets tits and ass wrong (for Christ's sake why is she wearing a coat all the time), it gets drama wrong, and at the end they rip off Fist of the North Star. Why, guys? This could have been so good! I actually found myself repeatedly wishing that I was watching the live-action Cutie Honey movie. I would, however, like to extend thanks to NYAFF and Kirin for the free-beer afterparty, where I got my ticket's worth by filling myself up to the brim with sweet, sweet Kirin Ichiban. Hey Kirin, if you guys ever want to, say, sponsor showings of Machine Robo at my house with crates of your lovely nectar.... well, I'm just saying that's on the table. We could do that.
I also saw The Bodyguard, of course, and it was fantastic. A real post on that one is forthcoming. Meanwhile, tomorrow I'll be at a showing of Retro Game Master, the localization of Game Center CX, and the live-action remake of Osamu Tezuka's Dororo. Tomorrow night is another videogame adaptation, Takashi Miike's take on Sega's Ryu ga Gotoku (Yakuza). I'll be catching other movies as the fest continues, but that's about all for my weekend.