Kunoichi: Lady Ninjas

Kunoichi: Lady Ninjas

Director: Hitoshi Ozawa
Year: 1998
Production Company: Daiei
Running Time: 107 minutes

Perhaps if I borrowed Stephen Hawkins’s brain and had it transplanted in my cranium, I could have made better sense of this film. But that’s only perhaps. This frantic film moves so fast and explains so little that you soon give up on worrying about a meaningful plot and just enjoy it for its high gravity slapdash action, fantasy elements, nudity, campy imagery and of course female ninjas. Is anything in the world much more satisfying than female ninjas? Especially ones that have powers like the “Nipple Shock Wave” and the spread legged “Echo Power”. These are the kind of super powers I like to see my super heroes have. Apparently, this is part of a seven film straight to video movie series about female ninjas called “Kunoichi Ninpocho” that is based on a number of books. There doesn’t seem to be any characters that cross these films and from what I can gather they are all often dead by the end – so much for happy ninja endings. This one takes place fairly late in the series – so possibly but by no means definitely - if the earlier films had been seen this would have been easier to follow. But in truth it’s not worth worrying about – either you enjoy nonsensical fast moving action movies like this where you turn your brain down real low or you don’t – I generally do.

A very high overview of the story goes something like this. There is a High Lord named Akinari who reports in to the Shogun during the era of the Tokugawa government (1603 – 1868). He has become so corrupt and licentious that he has had to surround himself with deadly bodyguards who also act as pimps to bring him a constant turnover of young female flesh to play with. His bodyguards referred to as the 7 Spears all have various powers as well but wouldn’t likely be invited to a posh society party or get their own calendar as their looks could use a dramatic makeover – bring in those guys from “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” to see what they can do. One of them can even pull out his eyeballs and roll them like dice on the ground whereupon they turn into demons. They attack a convent and kill most of the inhabitants until only seven young women remain alive. At this point Princess Sen appears on a hovering pillow and persuades the men to leave with her reverberating voice.
She takes these women under her wing and it turns out they are all Hori Women with great ninja potential – they just have to “awaken your powers” and she invites a samurai to show them the way. This is no ordinary samurai though – it is the legendary Jubei Yagyu, the son of a famous sword maker and once a sword instructor at the residence of the Shogun. Jubei was actually a real person back in the 1600’s and has been the subject of a few films as well as anime, manga and video games. You can read more about him here. Their mission is to kill the 7 Spears and the Lord – it won’t be easy.
In a number of ensuing action scenes the 7 Spears are pared down one at a time by the female ninjas but not without fatalities on their own side (at which point a pearl drops out of their body and if you collect enough of them you get a free trip to Disney Land). The leader of the Hori Women is Ochie played by action star Yuko Moriyama (Zeiram) who looks quite lovely and very serious, but doesn’t get to do as much action as I would have liked. Much of the action resides with Jubei and that may not be surprising since he is played by the director Hitoshi Ozawa, but since this is a female ninja film one might expect them to be more central to the action. They get their share but it wasn’t enough for a lame fan boy like me. The female ninjas all have powers within, but it is difficult to activate them and often only duress, danger and even death can bring them to the surface – or the nipples or the crotch. The killings are quite bloody and in true pulp samurai fashion there are geysers that fill the sky.  Sex can also bring out the ninja powers and in one scene Jubei and one of the ninjas are held captive in a deep pit surrounded by rotting corpses when the ninja insists that Jubei deflower her to bring out her power and he does so even with people shooting arrows at them from above – a true samurai!

My rating for this: 6.5

Kunoichi: Deadly Mirage

Director: Yutaka Akiyama
Year: 1997
Production Company: Daiei
Running Time: 72 minutes

It seems that “Kunoichi: Lady Ninjas” was the seventh in the series while this one comes in as the sixth. That’s important to know because if this one is representative of what came before in the earlier films, you may want to save your hard earned money. “Kunoichi: Lady Ninja” was a major step up from this with a much larger budget, better special effects and higher profile actors. The only thing that “Deadly Mirage” really has going for it is that it is mercifully short at 72 minutes and yet still manages to drag itself painfully to the finish line. There is nothing good to say about this other than perhaps a helping of female nudity for those who see that as a plus – the actors look to have just gotten out of high school where they failed theater class, the choreography is woefully slow and laughable, the female ninjas aren’t even all that hot as female ninjas are suppose to be and the story makes as much sense as George Bush during his extemporaneous remarks.

In the 1600’s during the rule of the Tokugawa, unrest has fallen on Japan and rumors of a coup are in the air. The Shogun has formed the Shinsengumi in Kyoto to restore order in the Imperial city. They are a motley crew of ronin and are given great leeway in bringing order and establishing authority as they see fit. They have been the subject of many films (a recent one being “When The Sword is Drawn”) and television – sometimes being portrayed as heroes, sometimes as villains - more can be read about them here. A new Shogun comes to power and he sends a secret letter (well, not all that secret as everyone but the milkman seems to know about it) to the Shinsengumi with mysterious instructions. The enemies of the Shogun want to know what those instructions are and so order the six female ninjas of the Hiryu clan to steal the letter. After sneaking in, the women discover the letter is no longer there and they have to fight their way out but one of them is captured, tortured and raped by the Shinsegumi.
This mildly promising beginning goes quickly off track though as it turns out that a member of the Shinsegumi deserted with his lover and stole the letter as leverage. Both the ninjas and the Shinsengumi are hot on his heals, but it’s the Shinsengumi who catch up with him first and cut his head off (so much for leverage) – leading to a truly awful scene of his lover having a lengthy conversation with his head. It only gets worse – a monk tries to bring him back to life – though with only a head I would think getting around would be a problem, but perhaps the lover only wants a head that would simply listen to her complaints about life – “take out the garbage, can’t you? Oh, that’s right – you only have your head. Excuses, excuses” but instead the monk had apparently not brought his “Bringing Back the Dead for Dummies” book with him because he lets an evil spirit through the portals and it begins causing havoc with the ninjas and the Shinsegumi – it sort of looks like something that was left over from an early Hong Kong hopping vampire movie. All of this time mind you I was checking to see how much longer I had to suffer through this and was just wishing I could jump into the future when it would be over. It is just plain awful.

My rating for this film: 3.5