Kunoichi (Review)


aka Kunoichi Ninja Girl

Directed and written by Seiji Chiba

A woman working the fields and tending to her baby is ganked by a neck rope thrown by an unseen kidnapper. Thus is the world of Kunoichi!

As you probably know by now, TarsTarkas.NET is a fan of martial arts films, particularly female martial artists. And as Rina Takeda is one of the up and coming women taking the films to the new decade, we’ve been following her career closely. From High-Kick Girl! to KG – Karate Girl, Takeda has matured as an actress and martial artist. And Takeda has taken on more and more projects, keeping herself busy. But Kunoichi is a step back in the quality department, and I was disappointed at the final project.

Kunoichi is marketed as a period martial arts piece. We know it won’t be a giant spectacle, and I fully expect a low-budget affair. It’s set in the woods, a familiar place for fans of low budget films, as that way they have an excuse for no extras running around. And permits are easier to get for running around in the middle of nowhere (if they even bothered!) But Kunoichi is surprising in how low budget it looks and feels. It’s a martial arts film with barely any martial arts. That’s not what I signed up for! The only decent fight is around the 40 minute mark, and is over with 10 minutes to go on our hour-long film. Besides a few teases of fighting and some kicking, there is little else, and nothing that is choreographed for more than one move. Disappointing is an understatement.

Stop for me, it’s the CLAW!

Director Seiji Chiba has put out numerous low budget films in recent years. Alien vs Ninja garnered some praise, and probably made funding of Kunoichi easier. But while Alien vs Ninja was a mix of comedy and action, Kunoichi is stoically serious in tone. You don’t get the sense that anyone is having fun here, and that hurts the film as well. I don’t expect Giggles Ninja Girl, but one or two goofy things wouldn’t have hurt.

And once again, we don’t need no stinking subtitles!

Kisaragi (Rina Takeda) – She’s just a Koga clan ninja getting kidnapped and then killing the kidnappers after a while. No hurry.
Shimotsuki (Mitsuki Koga) – The serious Iga clan kidnapper who is good at martial arts and dressing for his gig on The Black Pearl. Mistuki Koga is an accomplished martial artist who has appeared and done stunt work in many films, including Godzilla, Mothra, Mechagodzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.
Hizuki (Masanori Mimoto) – An Iga clan braggart and annoying kidnapper, who gets kicked in the head many many many times until he is dead. DEAD. Spoilers.
A Mysterious Man (Yuichi Sato) – This guy just shows up and frees the women, then starts goofing around and giving women to some Leprosy Guy. He’s like an internet troll in real life. What a jerk! There is frustratingly little about Yuichi Sato the actor online, except he might be part of a boy band called PureBoys. That name sounds too perverted to be used in the States, even though it’s probably the most vanilla thing ever.
Leprosy Guy (Kentaro Shimazu) – This crazy Leprosy Guy just gotta hump! Doesn’t matter who or what. OF course, he turns out to be B-movie mainstay Kentaro Shimazu. Why wouldn’t he be? See him also in Machine Girl, RoboGeisha, and Mutant Girls Squad.

We join four captive women chain-ganged (with rope) through the forest as some Captain Jack Sparrow-dressed slavers lead them on. These two dudes are Shimotsuki and Hizuki. Shimotsuki is the more serious, dangerous slaver, while Hizuki is a bragging loudmouth. They’re both ninjas of the Iga clan who have captured the women of the Koga clan to sell into sex slavery.

One of the captive women is Kisaragi, who doesn’t take Hizuki’s loudmouth lust lying down, and gives him a swift kick. Earning his ire, he comes at her, but she evades his attacks despite being tied up. Shimotsuki stops Hizuki from using his sword, as that would damage the merchandise. It’s clear the women were targeted, as Shimotsuki reads their names off of a list. The other three women are played by relative newcomers Mayu Onomura, Shiho Fujisawa, and Kotono.

Just then, a mysterious guy appears and throws a sword near Kisaragi, who cuts herself and her fellow captive women loose. The ladies scatter like the wind and run, but each non-Kisaragi female encounters one of the three men. Thus, the next 15 minutes or so is spent with the women getting their lives threatened by whatever man they ran into (the mysterious guy upping the ante by having a bandaged leper hanging out with him that he gives the girl to.) This whole section is rather boring, and even knowing Japanese better would probably not make this the slight bit more interesting. Kunoichi was sold as an action movie, so we need action!

Finally, after what seems like an eternity, Kisaragi shows back up to start kicking people in the head. Hizuki gets multiple kicks in the face, each time spitting up liters of blood. Eventually, he’s kicked enough he no longer moves, and the other girl he grabbed can now use his pincher torture device on him.

Kisaragi then goes after Shimotsuki. Their fight is a lot longer and well choreographed (Because Mitsuki Koga is a well-respected martial artist in his own right!) It is a welcome change, and the kind of thing I expected when I watched this film. But this will be pretty much it for the long choreographed fight sequences, so you better enjoy it.

During the battle, we get the big reveal that Kisaragi was baby left behind in beginning of film after her mother is kidnapped! Oh, noes! This fuels her rage of revenge against lady kidnappers!

Mystery guy, however, is collected the saved women and giving them to leprosy guy for his personal hump toys. Because we can’t have a Japanese film without frakked up stuff happening. Kisaragi is unaware of this, and Mystery guy convinces her to give Shimotsuki to leprosy guy as well, who humps away, and Shimotsuki is last seen existing the leprosy cave while walking funny.

There is a big reveal or two or three, but barely any more action, and the final scene is just Kisaragi running full speed through the forest. Because that’s what you do when you’re a female ninja! Or a chick named Lola. But mostly female ninjas!

Well, that was…interesting. Sort of. Not really. More of a waste of time. It would have been better had I just watched the middle scene of Rina fighting Mitsuki Koga on YouTube. Then I could have imagined a better movie for this to be wrapped around. Maybe next time I’ll learn my lesson, but probably not! I promise that at TarsTarkas.NET, we learn nothing!

Rated 3/10 (mama, baby, carved rats!)

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