I love Japanese yokai movies like The Great Yokai War and Kitaro, so I was looking forward to "Kibakichi" (Japanese title "Kibakichi: Bakko-yokaiden"). I didn’t have any high expectations judging from the box cover, but I figured it would be worth a watch.
I was wrong. This is just a terrible film. Cheap production values. Bad story. Wooden acting. Silly costumes and props. Very little here to recommend it, unless you want to watch it as a joke.
Director Haraguchi Tomoo had a good concept with "Kibakichi." This was supposed to be the style of the old Spaghetti Westerns adapted for a samurai flick. The concept has worked before, and both Westerns and chanbara have freely borrowed from each other. The idea was to have the shogun’s men be the invading industrialists (railroad barons) encroaching on the land of a poor settlement of yokai (Native Americans). The shogun’s men promise the yokai a beautiful land of their own, if they will just help in clearing undesirables and criminals from the area. Into this mix comes a half-breed drifter, Kibakichi, who is a deadly warrior whose allegiances are unclear. Will he side with the humans or with the yokai?
Sounds great, right? And it really should have worked. Maybe in the hands of a more competent crew it would have. But the choices Haraguchi makes are just too silly. The shogun’s men all wear long, Matrix-style black leather coats for some reason, and carry bizarre semi-steam punk Gatling-pistols that don’t actually rotate when they fire. The yokai "tribe" look equally bad in their faux-Native American make-up. And as for Kibakichi , well this is the stupidest hero I have ever seen. When the eventual battle breaks out, he waits until AFTER everyone is dead (except for the pretty girl of course!) to transform into his powerful werewolf form and take on the Matrix-dudes. A little too late there, Kibakichi. Maybe you should have joined in the fight earlier rather that standing around making angsty faces.
Are there any good points? Well, I am a big fan of the yokai called kappa, and there are some cool kappa costumes here. Unfortunately, they seem to have spent the entire budget making them, and they don’t get much use in the film. All the other yokai are just regular people, with maybe a single weird feature or two. Lame. The blood and violence is pretty fun, with the old-fashioned "hose up the arm" ensuring an absolute gusher of blood for every arm chopped off.
This DVD comes with a bonus feature of the director and two lead actors giving a chat during the premier of "Kibakichi." After watching the movie, it is funny to see them talk so seriously about what they had just made. Did they really think they made a fine film? Obviously they did well enough to merit a sequel, Kibakichi 2. But I think I will give that one a miss.
About Kibakichi (2004)
Starring: Keiichiro Sakagi, Kentarô Shimizu, Miki Tanaka, Yukiharu Yamaguchi, Ryûji Harada, Satoko Yamamura, Nozomi Andô, Hideki Ôsako, Tatsuo Higashida, Masara Ibu, Masatô Ibu, Miyu Inaba, Tamami Kaneko, Koichi Kira, Chikara Motoyama, Mubu Nakayama, Kazuki Nishida, Hitoshi Nonomura
Director: Tomo'o Haraguchi