“Weapons of mass seduction.”
This has more than slight echoes of the Female Ninjas, Magic Chronicles series, sharing the feudal setting, along with similar… unconventional attack forms by the protagonists. That’s unsurprising, since both are apparently based on Ninja Tsukikagesho, by Yamada Futaro. And, just to confuse matters further, the IMDb states that part 6 of FMMC shares the title here. Whether this might be the IMDb getting confused, I can’t say. I wouldn’t blame them if so, because the entire plot here is more muddled than enlightening. It takes place in the 1730’s, when Shogun Yoshimune and his deputy, Muneharu, were struggling for control. As a way of fomenting dissent by embarrassing him, Muneharu drags out the Shogun’s former concubines; to stop this, Yoshimune sends a group of his top female ninjas, under Tsurugi (Abe), to kill the women before Munharu’s men can get to them, triggering a ninja war. Complicating matters, turns out one of the concubines may have had a bastard son by Yoshimune, and whoever gets proof of that lineage will really hold the whip hand.
However, the script gets bogged down in murky shenanigans, with poor differentiation between too similar characters – not helped by people pretending to be other people on more than one occasion. It might sound bad to say this, but when it seems 90% the men have the same hairstyle, and 90% of the women have the same hairstyle… Well, I could have done with a scorecard, shall we say. Instead, save perhaps for Tsurugi, who does get painted with a bit more depth, the only way you can tell them apart is by the special magical attacks, the names of which are conveniently yelled out as part of their execution, and which are certainly the most memorable aspect of the film. This starts with – and I wrote these down to be sure I got them right – the “Ninja Snake Penetrator,” then proceeds through “Ninja Milk of Death,” “Icicle Sword” and the “Echo-blade Weasel Attack,” before climaxing [and I use the word advisedly] with the “Memento of the Full-bloom Lotus” – not quite as innocent as it sounds. However, the action sequences are generally forgettable, even including the flurry of second-tier digital effects unleashed as a result of the special attacks.
The plot certainly has its share of twists and turns, but I can’t say I was enthralled by many of them, and the end result just doesn’t gel into anything more than very sporadically interesting. Just as with FNMC, fifteen years earlier, this proves that you need more than marginally inventive magic to make for an entertaining movie. Maybe it helps to have read the source novel, but I can’t say there’s enough here to make me put in any effort to that end.
Dir: Kôsuke Hishinuma
Star: Mari Abe, Shô Nishino, Yuri Morishita, Rika Miyama