Martial Arts
Kunoichi: Lady Ninja
Dir: Hitoshi Ozawa
Star: Yko Moriyama, Hitoshi Ozawa, Ryuushi Mizukami
Cert / Year: - NR / 1998
Format: DVD R1

Based on the novel by Futaro Yamada, Kunoichi: Lady Ninja is a tale of revenge from Feudal Japan. The evil warlord Akinari Katou (Ryuushi Mizukami) rules Aizu prefecture with an iron grip, thanks to his private troops (henchmen) known as the 7 spears feared assassins trained in Ninjitsu and sorcery. They gathered beautiful girls in Aizu for Akinari's personal debaucherous pleasure, but when the 7 spears kill the Hori clan, the 7 surviving daughters of Hori are left in a convent in Edo. The eldest daughter, Oochi (Yko Moriyama) and her sisters swear revenge for the murder of their clan. With the help of legendary sword master Jubei Yagyuu (Hitoshi Ozawa) the girls unlock the power of 'Kunoichi' inside each one of them, before confronting their enemies as Lady Ninja...

This was really a thin excuse to assemble some nice looking ladies under the premise of making a female ninja flick and pit them against some pretty cheesy and over the top bad guys. You can forget about serious fight choreography or challenging visuals accompanying good action direction, because this is too light hearted for that. In places Lady Ninja is reminiscent of Riki Oh, which isn't a terribly good thing but thankfully this isn't quite as silly as that offering, despite featuring copious amounts of bright red spraying / spurting blood and some surreal and obscure action. Plenty of cackling and insane laughter (and that's just the good guys) and a deviant pervert warlord, a virtually disembodied princess / lady of the lake and some clich demons and henchmen.

Initially, it was the fact that this was a tale involving legendary Ninja icon and folklore hero, Jubei which attracted me to this film, then I noticed Yko Moriyama (Zeram) was in it, which peaked my interest further. Jubei's character does have a couple of good action and combat scenes, but is often reduced to manic laughter and leering after some of his female charges. His action is often wire flying and very Manga stylee, which is sure to appeal to fans of Ninja Scroll. Yko Moriyama has little to really do here and no proper fight scenes. She is capable of good action scenes and yet she is sorely underused here, and her combat work is more a case of the occasional wire assisted leap through the air or holding a drawn Wakizashi (short killing sword) up beside her face.... menacingly. She settles, unwisely for posing around in a short 'ninja skirt' for the most part and some clich posturing which is a pity as we would have loved to have seen more of her, especially if she got to do some more involved action scenes. The action is lacking any real weight and the combat scenes frequently appear disjointed and / or badly edited. Perhaps it was budgetary constraints which hampered the direction or just some really poor editing, but either way it makes some of the film rather bewildering.

Some bizarre fight scenes and action choreography and most of it with tongue in cheek it seems. Some preposterous ninja magic abilities including the 'Ninja nipple shock' and surreal fanny magic in a very Kekkou Kamen fashion, not to mention the virginal blood sword, which quite frankly is bound to raise a titter or at least bring a smile to your face. Odd flashes of nudity here and there but nothing sordid or over the top.

Kunoichi: Lady Ninja is a pretty bad movie but overall it is entertaining and enjoyable, admittedly much of the enjoyment is due to it being so silly in places. Some of the hilarity is unintentional but ensures this is a surreal and fun watch. Director and star Hitoshi Ozawa (Dead or Alive) does a reasonable job of directing to a small budget, but I feel that he could have done better directorially, but on the plus side his performance is one of the better ones in the film. Echoes of Monkey are rife and even a 'Monkey' character creeps in to the mix. I have to admit, I am a bit of a sucker for a decent martial arts or ninja movie but this is barely either, making this a rather disappointing film in that respect, but an eclectic beer and pizza movie for a lads night in.... If only to see what surreal ninja magic they come up with next.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Picture 1.85:1 Widescreen Decent transfer but darks are grainy in places
Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 Decent enough but nothing great
Interview with director / star Hitoshi Ozawa
Interview 'Out takes'
Premiere featurette
Verdict Pretty good release with some interesting extras. Nothing brilliant, bit like the film really, but an average presentation.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Logan Back Top Home