When I found out there was a werewolf-samurai movie in existence, I got as excited as a grown man can get (which is kinda' sad, but I'm a firm believer in mixing up my cinema, Bergman one night, Jack Starrett the next) . I love werewolves. I love samurai. Blend the two together and you've got a combo as potentially good as chocolate and peanut butter.
Kibakichi was a good little fantasy-action film, the kind of b-flick where the cheap-o rubber monsters were actually a benefit. And, yes, it had plenty of geyser of blood spewing, monster, swordsman, werewolf action.
Kibakichi 2 (2003) begins with a recap of Kibakichi's backstory- he's a yokai (or monster), part man-part wolf, with big Dokken hair, living a solitary existence because his clan was all but wiped out by humans after they staged a war against all the monsters that they had once lived peacefully alongside. Kibakichi has some blame in the matter because he trusted humans, and the only other survivor from his clan, Anju, hunts him, hoping to lop off his head with her big boomerang-blade weapon and get revenge for her people.
This time out, Kibakichi stumbles across a whacked-out swordsman named Sakuramaru, a wanted man who plagues the countryside and readily defeats any of the soldiers that come around to stop him. Sakuramaru is pretty much an animal, ostracized since birth because he was the product of a rape, if he needs food, he attacks a restaurant, and so on, he just lives to fight. Kibakichi is injured while flighting Sakuramaru, and, in the nearby town, only a kind blind girl named Matsu and a monk offer the monsterman refuge and a place to heal.
Anju ends up crossing paths with Sakuramaru, who is smitten by her because she doesn't seem to fear him or fight him like most people do. Kibakichi is tempted to dispose of Sakuramaru in order to replay Matsu for her kindness, meanwhile Sakuramaru is trying to get chummy with Anju. But, before they can fight each other, they must deal with someone else. Unbeknownst to the trio, they are all being watched by a cabal of demons, led by the mysterious, white face painted, deep voiced, robe wearing Mr. Dougan, who intends to use them to do his dirty work and then kill them off.
Well, while one doesn't expect a whole lot of logic or dazzling storytelling with their lupine swordsman fantasy-action films, Kibakichi 2 is really lacking. The biggest sore spot is the villain. First he's named Mr. Dougan, perhaps the lamest name for a villain ever. Second, you just aren't given a clear reason behind his motivation. The sorcerer/demon/dungeon master says he plans to kill all monsters and humans, destroy all humanity. What, one village at a time? He uses bewitched human patsies as his pawns, which seems kind of unnecessary since he can conjure entire armies of monsters. He also has complete disdain for monsters, yet when he shows his ‟true face‟ he's a blue-skinned, funky faced, glowing horned monster-demon dude, complete with skull shoulder pads that would make any 80's metal band grenn with jealousy. Maybe he's some kind of self-loathing monster.
The finale of the film is a total mess. Even at less than an hour and twenty minutes long, they faltered so bad with the ending it made the brief running time seem like a total waste of time. Kibakichi, Sakuramaru , and Anju throw down with Mr. Dougan's horde of monsters. Kibakichi squares off with one demon dude in a ring of fire, but they barely fight. Mr. Dougan, for all his macho posturing and fireball throwing, ends up being defeated via two swipes of a werewolf's claw. That's right, the big villain is taken out with a one-two combo. It then comes time for what the first film and this one were leading to all along, the face-off between Kibakichi and Anju. However, due to a lame directorial choice, they wolf-out and engage in a slow motion off, off, off, off, off ,off-Broadway dance routine. I cannot help but think they ran into problems filming the finale because every fight they set-up seems to fizzle and all they were left with was a bunch of lackey fight choreography to pad out the running time.
The DVD: MTI
Picture: Non-Anamorphic Widescreen. Being a direct-to-video production, I'm not surprised at the lack of an anamorphic image. We'll give them a little leeway in that area. It is a low budget film. Most of the locations are stage settings, old school crude (but kinda' charming), a single tree, some brush, and a sky backdrop. So, the majority of the image limitations stem from actual production, an ill-photographed bit here and there, low contrast and color quality, a handful of scenes swamped in grain.
Sound: Japanese or English language Dolby 2.0 Stereo tracks, with optional English or Spanish subtitles. Again pretty decent tracks considering the low budget of the productions. Typical action fantasy fx, clanging, slashing swords, a werewolf growl or a monsters howl, and, of course, Mr. Dougan's deep, reverb drenched voice. I caught two or three instances of grammatical errors in the subs, like ‟Men are idiot.‟ The English dub was done by actors who seem to be trying terribly hard to feign energy and enthusiasm for the material.
Extras: Trailers.— Making of Kibakichi 2 Featurette (60:17). Nearly as long as the actual film, I almost had more fun watching the featurette than the movie. You see the actors in rehearsal (there was a rehearsal???), getting wardrobe tests, on location, goofing off, giving on set interviews.
Conclusion: Well, maybe one swordsman werewolf rubber monster fighting movie is all the world really needed. Kibakichi 2 is not as much fun or as fluid as the first film. The DVD presentation is a fine enough disc, but I don't see this film getting many replays, so cheeseball fantasy action fans will want to hold off and save it for a rental.