Chanbara Beauty
(Onechanbara) (2008)
Directed by Yohei Fukuda

Artistic Value: * * ½
Entertainment Value: * * * ½

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Some time after the majority of the world's population has been transformed into murderous zombis as a result of a plague that was created by the evil Dr. Sugita (Taro Suwa), a young swordswoman, Aya (Eri Otoguro), is making her way to that man's laboratory in the company of the overweight Katsuji (Tomohiro Waki) and, later, another skilled fighter, Reiko (Manami Hashimoto). Each of these individuals is on a personal quest. Aya wants to get revenge on her sister, Saki (Chise Nakamura), who is now serving Dr. Sugita and who murdered her father; Katsuji is tormented with guilt about how his sister was transformed into a zombi, and Reiko wants revenge for her daughter, who was also made into a zombi.

Yohei Fukuda's Chanbara Beauty is goofy, often poorly made, and generally entertaining. It is not a good film, but it is fun to watch.


The story the director tells is pretty minimal and usually serves only to propel the heroine into one fight sequence after another. That said, Fukuda has included a few melodramatic scenes, such as those in which Katsuji meets his now zombified sister and Reiko tries to save the life of a young girl by preventing her from becoming a zombi, so that she can avoid killing this person as she had previously been forced to kill her own daughter when she was so transformed. These incidents are always handled in the most awkward way and can be, at once, embarrassing and funny. Fortunately, they are relatively few and do little more than provide minor stumbling blocks on the movie's gory, silly trajectory.

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In fact, there are a great many fun elements in Chanbara Beauty. For one thing, the protagonist is a pleasure simply to look at. Ms Otoguro is a very attractive young woman and she spends the whole of the movie wearing a red bikini (with a fur lined top), a feather boa, and a cowboy hat. I will certainly not claim that she is a great actress, but she hardly needs to be here. Her adventures are nearly all battles with hordes of shambling, or impossibly acrobatic, reanimated corpses. Though the fight scenes in which she takes on these creatures using nothing but a katana are, by no means, the best choreographed I have seen (actually, they can be clumsily done), they are still enjoyable. The woman leaps about, races like a character from a children's cartoon, hops upon her foes' shoulders, cuts down dozens of them with a single motion of her blade, and even, from time to time, uses some magical power or another, such as spewing out a wall of flame that kills a whole roomful of opponents.


Though Chanbara Beauty is hardly a good movie (in fact, it is pretty trashy), it is enjoyable trash.

Review by Keith Allen

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