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Kunoichi: Deadly Mirage [Genma Sappocho: Shensengumi Hishou]

Genre: Buxom Ninja-ette Monster Showdown
Director: Akiyama Yutaka (1997)

review in one breath

When the Shinsen Clan learns of a plot to overthrow the Tokugawa government, they send out their five remaining ninjas, all women of the Shiryu bloodline. While battling numerous adversaries to intercept a secret letter outlining the details of the planned subversion, a bizarre evil is unleashed by a well-meaning monk attempting to resurrect a dead soldier. What ensues is a whole lotta naked writhing and a battle of semi-epic proportions with zombies intent on taking over the world or something.


intro

The subtitle Deadly Mirage is apropos here since I can find virtually NO evidence for the existence of this film other than the fact that I hold a DVD in my hand. IMDb seems totally unware of it and no such film exists in JMDb.

The term kunoichi is a generic term for "female ninja". Since this term itself appears nowhere in the film, I thought I better look this up. Wikipedia had a rather fascinating history of the term, offering the possible derivation of the term from the orifice differential bewteen the sexes. (!)

ANYWAY... through sheer and prolonged tenacity I finally got to the bottom of whether or not this film exists. It does.

So what's the real title? Glad you asked.

The actual title is Genma Sappocho: Shensengumi Hishou. (Perhaps for that reason alone adopting a generic single-word title made sense.) "Genma" means "illusory demon" and is apparently the justification for the English subtitle "Deadly Mirage". "Sappocho/sappoucho" seems to be a rather rare term used to imply a "chronicle of (meted out) justice". (The literal translation is something like "notebook of homicide law".) This term appears in certain older samurai films such as the popular Nemuri Kyoshiro 1: Sappocho (1963) where the meaning is similar.

The term "Shinsengumi" refers to the Shinsen Clan, an actual historical entity created during the Tokugawa era by the emperor himself to, in some ways, oversee his protection. A search of JMDb on the name brings back a mere 19 films with titles including it. (Toshiro Mifune stars in a 1969 film by this name.) Many more films narratively revolve around the Shinsen clan such as the more contemporary Gohatto.

The final bit, "Hishou" means "secret letter" and refers to, well, a secret letter.

So heck, lets just screw all that and call this thing "Kunoichi", shall we?

The film is directed by Akiyama Yutaka whose name generally doesn't come up in discussions of memorable directors but who nevertheless can be said to be the father of the cascade of Ju-Lei/JuRei films. (woo hoo!!) Three years following this film he would go on to single-handedly direct Ju-Lei: Shinrei Mystery File, a decision from which I have still not yet fully recovered.

story

The Tokugawa-loyalist Shinsen clan has discovered a plot may be underfoot to overthrow the Shogunate and burn the capitol Kyoto to the ground. They have learned that secret correspondence has been sent to the primary participant and thus the skills of the waning Shinsen's Shiryu ninjas are called into action. This elite team of five bickering, over-emotional and mind-bogglingly irrational female ninjas represents the LAST (thank god) of the Shinryu ninja bloodline.

Along their adventures they encounter many unsheathed swords and male genitalia. (!!) They discover that the secret letter outlining the coup has been transported deep into mountainous regions by a hardened soldier and his supple concubine. By the time they reach the libidinous duo, however, an inexplicably mysterious Shinto priest has gone and done it by summoning major demon-age into the runaway soldier (whose name, btw, is Shinshiro, a name which will become irrevocably embedded in your mind by the sheer number of times his gyrating concubine repeats it in the throes of passion or while simply sitting beside him.)

Okay, so the priest literally screws up the entire cosmic balance of good and evil, just in time for the remaining female Shinryu ninjas to show up:

  • Will they be able to obtain the secret letter from the now devilly turbo-charged Shinshiro (and his still gyrating concubine)?

  • Will they discover how to kill the ghoulish zombie hordes which have no discernible reason for being there?

  • Can they possibly hold out against these evil hordes long enough for another tittie shot?

WHO KNOWS???? (i do)

verdict

Well, ignoring everything I just wrote, this is a passable example of the genre I like to call Buxom Ninja-ette Monster Showdown. As far as I can tell, this is a passable example because I know of no others in this genre, which may be a VERY good and simple reason to check it out.

And "checking it out" is amazingly easy, as this is now released (in the US at least) in mass-produced, subtitled versions available to you via your Blockbuster or Netflix venues. So if we're only talking $4.50 to rent this, hell why not. That's half a decent gin martini at the local hangout here.

HOWEVER: If you're plucking this off the shelf of your local over-priced, know-nothing conglomerate, you'll notice they have this rated as "Youth Restricted". This is due, in addition to considerations possibly involving a nipple quotient, to a relatively prolonged (3 minute?) scene following the capture of the first fallen estrogen-ninja. In classic (and traditional) Japanese S/M parlance, the girl, topless, is hung from ropes and beaten. (you get the picture.)

Although the depiction itself is neither brutal nor shocking (relative to what one sees in many mainstream Western films), this imagery (of men beating bound women with boards) has no place (nor should it) in Western conceptual vocabulary regarding the treatment of females. Japan, on the other hand, has such a vocabulary which dates back centuries. Thus while they are to a degree desensitized to this and view the treatment in a particular historical context (ie, ive personally seen this same scenario depicted using mannequins in Japanese museums), it has catapulted this film (and perhaps rightly so) into "youth restricted" viewing.

In other words, this is rated "youth restricted".

Version reviewed: Region 1 subtitled DVD


Shinshiro! Shinshiro!
OOHH SHINSHIRO!!

You tramp! I thought we all agreed we would wear black!

HISS!

biOtch!

Must KILL bickering women... getting dizzy...

One helluva kickass priest, at your service ma'am. HYYOOOYYAAII!!!

before...

after.

Shinshiro! What a BIG LONG [green tooth] you have! OOhhh! SHINSHIRO!!

cultural interest violence sex strangeness
Historical context of the Tokugawa-inspired Shinsen clan earns merit. No gore, but some explicit brutality against women. One severed head which thereafter can arguably be said to be the film's main character. Boobies to the left of me, boobies to the right... Due to the rather unique genre, this perhaps earns one green point.

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