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“‘I, too, have an ass-sword.’ That quote about sums this up.”

Having been largely unimpressed by Iguchi’s other work, which seemed to have little to offer except megabytes of digital blood, I likely wouldn’t have watched this except an accident involving beer and my Apple TV remote has stopped me from much of my usual viewing. I could still stream from Netflix, however, though when I saw this was dubbed in English, I almost didn’t bother. But surprisingly, this has easily the best plot of his movies, with a slyly-twisted sense of imagination that’s very effective.

It centres on sisters Yoshie (Kiguchi) and Kikue (Hasebe), the latter a geisha who is cruel and vindictive to her younger sister. They are taken by Hikaru Kageno (Saito), the scion of Kageno Steel, to his castle and inducted as recruits into a geisha army, which he is using to take out opponents to his plans for national domination. Yoshie has an innate skill for assassination, soon surpassing Kikeu, who begs Hikaru to “upgrade” her mechanically, so she can best her sister. Yoshie, to keep up, is similarly enhanced.

The scenario shifts when Yoshie is sent to take out a group of senior citizens and discovers they are the families of other members of the geisha army – far from being willing volunteers, they were abducted and brainwashed by Kageno and his father. After narrowly escaping a suicide mission, Yoshie switches sides and joins the senior citizens, who add further to her artificial armoury. It’s up to her to stop Kageno, before he can drop a massive nuclear weapon into Mount Fuji, completing his plan.

This is certainly out there, but is a good deal lighter in tone than expected, often crossing the border into an outright silliness that is actually endearing. For instance the whose “castle-shaped robot” concept is beautifully ludicrous, not least as the building rampages around, whacking building that then spurt blood, for no readily apparent reason. There’s also shades of 60’s spy thrillers like Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs in the basic concept of the geisha army, though there’s still a certain ass-fetishism which I could have done without – swords and shuriken both come flying out of there.

Complaining that this is, to quote Monty Python, “too silly,” would be missing the point, and the fight sequences are well put-together, not least when involving Kageno’s lead henchwomen, the Tengu Twins. At over 100 minutes, it is likely a little too long and these are less performances, than hangers, on which to place lurid visuals of questionable taste. However, you will want to keep watching, simply to see what the heck Iguchi will come up with next.

Dir: Noboru Iguchi
Star: Aya Kiguchi, Hitomi Hasebe, Takumi Saito, Taro Shigaki

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