Thursday, March 13, 2014


MIRAI NINJA (1988) (UR) Dir. Keita Amemiya
72 mins.

Mirai Ninja is a live action scifi/fantasy, sort-of in the style of The Guyver. Therefore expect guys in rubber costumes. Though I normally associate rubber suits with schlock like the Power Rangers, here it's actually pulled off rather well; I am especially impressed with the fight choreography, considering the giant, bulky costumes and headpieces the actors are wearing.
The film's aesthetic is a nice mix of medieval Japan and futurist technology. Samurais carry both katana and phaser rifles, and wear little readers on the side of their heads that read their ki levels, a la Dragonball Z. ...And there are crazy mechanized vehicles. There are flying houses, tank houses, giant pagoda railguns, and AT-AT Walkers made out of little wooden shacks.
Take that, Lucas!
The story follows the attempts of the Suwabeh Clan in defeating the Dark Overlord's army of mechanical ninjas. Now, stay with me. The Dark Overlord (who resembles Zordon) lives in the Fortress of Darkness (of course) and aims to be reborn with help of his priest Raimei (your Palpatine for the evening, and exposition dumptruck). Raimei channels the Overlord's commands to the mechanical ninja forces and their general Shoki. Whew. Now, the mechanical ninjas are seriously fucking up the Suwabeh Clan, they force their Princess Saki into hiding and just bitchslap the Suwabeh army of cyber-samurai in a battle closely resembling the Battle of Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back.
Shiranui's design is inspired by Robocop and the Predator,
 yet he oddly resembles Ryu Hayabusa from the Ninja Gaiden series.
During this mass crush of the Suwabeh, a warrior named Hiu-Kaku goes missing and is presumed dead. Surprise! Raimei nabs him and with cybernetics and magic turns him into Robo....errr Shiranui, the Mirai Ninja. Shiranui rebels against Raimei and delights in slaughtering mechanical ninjas like the sale ends tomorrow. When Princess Saki is eventually (and obviously) kidnapped, the Suwabeh hire a ronin named Akagi to rescue her. Akagi selects five of the Suwabeh warriors with the strongest ki, and together they sneak into the Fortress of Darkness. There they must team up with the Mirai Ninja in order to survive the multiple waves of attack by Shoki and his minions, save Princess Saki, and stop the Dark Overlord before the solar eclipse releases him in this world... got all that?
The noble Shoki.
This film was released by the game company Namco, who released an arcade game based on the film, as well. Which is appropriate, because this movie feels like a video game. Its kinetic pacing, bright colors, beautiful matted establishing shots, hilarious greenscreens, and Batman-esque dutch angles all capture this quality quite accurately. The movie is a cheesefest for sure, but it takes itself seriously. The designs are awesome and the effects are inventive, even if they are imperfect or dated. The acting is what is to be expected, but props to the actor playing Akagi, he does his best to channel Toshiro Mifune, and it makes him stand out amongst the cast. The score is cheap 80's synth that sounds like one half The Legend of Zelda and one half Peter Jackson's Braindead. Oh, and it clearly lifts The Terminator theme as well.
Raimei doing his best Lo Pan impersonation.
Obviously this movie quotes heavily from the Star Wars franchise (and thus, The Hidden Fortress), but also Predator, Aliens, Ghostbusters, Big Trouble in Little China, and Robocop, just to name a few. I'm hesitant to call it a disasterpiece, as I genuinely enjoyed the film, but it comes close. It's absurdist, but it knows it. Does that make it art? Either way, it's very entertaining and at 72 minutes, it doesn't outstay its welcome.
If you've ever wondered where the hell shit like RoboGeisha comes from, here is a clue. 6/10 

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