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DVD Review

DVD cover

Kamui: The Lone Ninja


Starring: Ken’ichi Matsuyama, Koyuki, Koichi Sato, Ekin Cheng, Yuta Kanai and Suzuka Ohgo
Manga Entertainment
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 15
Available 09 August 2010

When Kamui turns his back on his ninja brotherhood his master informs him that the only way that anyone leaves is via death. Undaunted Kamui leaves regardless, but his master's prophetic words seem to follow in his wake, Kamui’s skills keep him alive but those he meets seem to meet only death...

Kamui: The Lone Ninja (2009 - 1 hr, 55 min, 06 sec) is a martial arts film written by Kankurô Kudô, from a Sampei Shirato manga. The film was directed by Yoichi Sai.

The film is based in seventeenth century Japan and through the rural landscape our hero Kamui (Ken'ichi Matsuyama) tries to find some piece of mind away from the ninja way of life. If anyone has seen David Lynch’s Dune you may feel like you’re having a similar experience - fine if you've read the original material, a bit confusing for the rest of us. Admittedly, shoe horning a manga series into a film was likely to lose some of the plot, but the one we have on offer has little internal logic.

Having left his band of brothers Kamui accidentally becomes involved in the theft of a horse leg, unfortunately the horse was still attached to it, Kamui gets into the thief’s boat only to discover that he is a pretty decent fisherman who uses the hoof to make fish flies. To make things much better he discovers that the fisherman’s wife is another ninja hiding out and that they have a very attractive daughter. It’s at this point of the film that the rest of the cast might as well have donned red shirts as you know their days are numbered.

As well as Matsuyama, the film also features Koyuki, Koichi Sato, Ekin Cheng, Yuna Kanai and Suzuka Ohgo.

Sai does what he can with the material and the film is a nice blend of CGI and live action, some of the fight scenes are interesting, but there is only so far that you can go with wire work. Kamui is a film at the cutting edge of this; however its innate limitations mean that it would seem that wire work has few places left to go. Although some of the CGI works well other elements, like some of the shots of the boat on the sea looks more like a game cut scene and not a particularly good one.

The film is a pretty good recreation of the manga and herein lies its biggest fault, each shot is well constructed, some are even beautiful to look at, but you get the feeling that all this action is taking place in a decidedly two dimensional world. Likewise a lot of the characters have very little development, and so come across as flat as the scenery. That said the shark killing pirates are pretty good, if only because the concept is completely insane.

The DVD does have a few extras, which kicks off with the press conference (15 min, 25 sec) to launch the movie, it’s the usual ‘it’s great’ ‘were great’ ‘ it’s all great’ type of stuff. The cast talk a little about making the film, but none of it is particularly deep or meaningful. Next up is a bit from the premier screening (14 min) and what do you know everything is still great. Next up is some footage from the special event at Roppongi (12 min, 43 sec), this time it’s a public event with a bit of Q&A. The last two extras are Cini Festa Shinjuku Red Carpet (5 min, 59 sec) and the cast get to walk up a red carpet in front of their adoring fans and the cast and crew greetings (8 min, 15 sec) from the same screening. The disc wraps up with some trailers.

The film is presented with options for either a 2.0 or 5.1 Japanese audio tracks with English subtitles.

For fans of the comic this is pretty much a must have item, for a general audience its still an enjoyable film, even though the script feels bitty and some of the special effect are a little less than special.


Charles Packer

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