Original Title: お姉チャンバラ
Genres: Action, Horror
Director: Fukuda Yohei
OneeChanbara is a definite B-movie, so we won’t talk about it as if it were a film with a serious budget, actors, or plot that makes sense. Fans of the game series will know that it’s a work meant to be a guilty pleasure. After all, the lead heroine dons a cowboy hat and bikini.
Ever since the sinister D3 Corporation, named after the original publisher of the game series, has started to resurrect the dead into zombies, the world has been thrown into chaos. The living dead attack the living, giving rise to even more living dead, bringing humanity to the verge of extinction.
Aya (Otoguro Eri), a mysterious katana-wielding girl dressed in a cowboy-inspired bikini, and Katsuji (Waki Tomohiro), her fat, blonde-haired sidekick, wander the land together with a single mission: to annihilate some zombie ass! Along they way, they team up with gunslinger Reiko (Hashimoto Manami), who is as deadly with her infinite ammo as Aya is with her blade.
The three are linked to one man: the overly evil Dr. Sugita (Suwa Taro), whose science experiments are the source behind the zombie outbreak. They seek him out for their personal reasons: Aya because it will bring her closer to finding out the whereabouts of her younger sister Saki (Nakamura Chise), whom she seeks to cut down in vengeance for killing their father; Katsuji because his younger sister was kidnapped by zombies; and Reiko because it was because of the zombie outbreak that her daughter has passed away.
First, let’s talk about the characters, who are a near-picture perfect representation of their video game counterparts. However, their personalities feel a bit different. Aya is cold and very Cloud Strife-ish, as opposed to her cool and charismatic other. Saki is for some reason a major villain in the film, despite being a heroine in the games. Perhaps it is an idea stemming from the sisters’ sibling rivalry clashes in the source material.
Also seeming to be lifted straight from the games is the action choreography. When Aya starts ripping through zombies, it’s the same kind of fun. Her attacks are enhanced by CG, highlighting the slashes of her sword, and even giving her energy waves that enable her to take down multiple zombies at once.
But the over-reliance of CG can dull the scenes it’s meant to enhance. The moment we see blood splatters that resemble CG more than actual blood, one can only help but laugh. We’re taken out of the atmosphere a bit further when we see CG sparks, made from when bullets his their target. But it at least feels as fun as a Kamen Rider production.
What takes the cake in OneeChanbara are the zombies. Purists and die hard fans of zombie flicks will have a field day with how far off from the lore this film takes its them. First off, the film tricks you with the zombies wobbling like they are supposed to, then flips you on your head by having the zombies magically have super control over their muscles and being magically able to perform Kung Fu.
We’re not talking any normal Kung-fu, either; we’re talking full usage of weapons, including a zombie that can use a ball and chain like Gogo in Kill Bill. They even jump higher than normal humans and can perform acrobatics. What’s more is that these “zombies” can plot and strategize, like infiltrating a camp of humans while hiding his face under his hoodie.
They’re smart, agile, can run quickly, but zombie-wobble only when they are standing in place or walking slowly. They can use Kung-fu, munch on anything that’s human, but only eat enough so that the prey can revive as a zombie themselves. And, most importantly, don’t need to be shot in the head in order to be killed once and for all.
Many plot points set up at the beginning were forgotten about early in the story. We are introduced to the big and bad D3 Corporation in the introduction, yet the only corporate villain we meet is one mad scientist named Dr. Sugita. It is unclear what his position in the company is, as we don’t ever meet anyone below or above him.
Saki, the final boss, has a questionable rivalry with her sister Aya. Her alignment with the dark side and the murdering of their father is for the ever-so-used reason of being jealous she wasn’t daddy’s favorite. The film spends no time entertaining us with this backstory, or the relationship between the sisters, until the very end. In result, it leaves us investing little to no involvement into the story, and caring very little about the “rivalry” between the two.
OneeChanbara is as much a horror film as Uwe Boll’s directorial disasters were acceptable video game adaptations, so it’s completely okay to watch it as an action flick. However, the stuttering tempo and inconsistent pacing can make it unsatisfying in that genre. It’s like getting hyper with sugar, and then suddenly crashing after the energy wears off. Combined with the attempt at cramming dramatic story lines between four main characters in 80 minutes, and we have a can of worms that is hard to enjoy. Though. the final few fight scenes were quite cool.
Watch this film…
…if you don’t mind waiting for the scenes in which Otoguro Eri slays zombies in a bikini.