009-1: The End of the Beginning

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“Spy vs. Spy”

seal009-1Partly to celebrate the 75th birthday of its late creator, Shotaro Ishinomori, the first live-action feature adaptation of his spy series 009-1 was made – it had previously been made into a TV show, during the late sixties, and a 12-episode anime series in 2006. This version was helmed by Sakamoto, best known for his work on the action in Kamen Rider and Power Rangers, but we’ve been a fan since his involvement in 1997’s Drive, with Mark Dacascos, whose fights still hold up very well today. And this is almost as much fun, combining bone-crunching action with more philosophical insights, into what it means to be human.

The heroine is Mylene (Iwasa), an orphan who was recruited by a Japanese spy group, and transformed into a cyborg superagent, equipped with enhanced senses as well as weapons in unusual places. We first see in her action dismantling a black market organ trafficking ring, and her next mission is to rescue Dr. Clyne, a scientist who was her cyber-“mother”. However, when she discovers Chris (Kinomoto), one of the victims she freed from the organ traffickers, in Clyne’s hands, awkward questions begin to be raised. When she goes off book, and is stripped of her 00 status, Mylene finds herself being hunted both by the bad guys, not the least of whom is played by Nagasawa, and her erstwhile agency allies.

While slightly more restrained on the nudity front, this feels like it could be another entry in the Naked series of movies from Hong Kong started by Naked Killer, sharing a similarly heady combination of sex and violence. Only slightly though, most obviously perhaps the sequence near the end where the heroine, wearing what can only be described as a bondage bra, is tied up and licked from toe to head by someone who’s a convincing simulacrum of her mother. Years of therapy beckon for that, me thinks. But if not perhaps fun for all the family, the action is excellent, and there is plenty to go around, with a laudable number of the chief participants on both sides being female: it’s also pretty messy, though the impact is lessened by the obvious use of CGI for much of the blood (albeit, far from all!). Fortunately, that doesn’t extend to the action, which is almost all in camera, with some stunt doubling that is kept nicely plausible.

In the interests of full disclosure, I have not consumed any of the other versions, so I cannot say how this compares to those, or the original manga. What I can say is, on its own terms, this is more than satisfactory, providing a slickly-produced piece of quality entertainment that contains plenty of hard-hitting action. The universe created certainly has room for further exploration, and I’m hoping this is successful enough that we get to see more of it.

Dir: Koichi Sakamoto
Star: Mayuko Iwasa. Minehiro Kinomoto, Nao Nagasawa, Mao Ichimichi

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