Saturday, 3 January 2015

J-Horror January: 1-Ichi (2003)

1-Ichi (2003)
Director: Masato Tanno
Starring: Nao Ômori, Teah, and Chihara Junia
Running Time: 83 min

  I was pretty jazzed to discover that there was a prequel to Takashi Miike's "Ichi the Killer" because that was such an enjoyable over the top film with some of the strangest characters that I've ever seen.  Hopefully, this straight to video prequel will be just as fun and give some good insight into the Ichi character.

  Dai is the school bully and he loves to beat on people. He wants to be the toughest guy in town and during one of these fights, he notices this weird kid smiling and laughing while Dai is beating these kids up.  After the fight, he tries to track down this strange kid and ends up confronting him in a stairwell.  One of Dai's henchmen/lackey/friends starts beating on Shiroishi (Ichi) but Dai knocks out his friend before the beating goes to far.  Dai issues Shiroshi a warning that he doesn't want to see his face again and leaves it at that.
  Later Shiroishi (Ichi) goes to his karate lessons where he gets picked on and disrespected by the children there.  The sensei there tells him that he needs to stand up for himself and that maybe the karate lessons aren't working out because if he can't defend himself against children, then he'll have no luck against people his own age.
  The next day, Shiroishi (Ichi) is going to the video store when he sees two guys harassing some of his female classmates.  These bullies notice that Shiroishi is watching them and then turn their attention to beating him up.  Before they get a chance, Dai steps in and beats up these goons and saves the girls and Shiroishi.  Unfortunately, Dai notices that Shiroishi is still smiling at his fighting style and can't help think that he is being made fun of.  He decides that he must beat Shiroishi up to learn him not to smile & laugh while he's fighting.  Unfortunately the next day at school, Shiroshi is missing and apparently has been kidnapped by the goons who Dai beat up the other day to save the girls.  They have kidnapped Shiroishi to teach him a lesson and Dai must save him.
  At the other school the goons have Shiroishi tied up as a catcher at home plate on the baseball field and the head goon is throwing fast balls at him.  Eventually, this causes Shiroishi to lose it and "off camera" destroys the whole gang, so that when Dai finally arrives to save him, the baseball field is strewn with bloody bodies.  Is Shiroishi really a tougher fighter and the challenge that Dai is looking for to prove that he is the strongest bully of them all or Shiroishi an incredible force that Dai should just be leave alone for his on good?

  This was okay but it didn't really have the punch, absurdity or feeling that the "Ichi the Killer" had.  I know that it's a direct to video release but the story doesn't even seem to focus that much on Ichi and there really isn't that much crazy violence in this either.  The film seems to be focused on Dai and his feelings to become the head bully, which I'm not that interested in.  They don't even mention Jijii, the rape of the girl or even try to tie this film together to the Takashi film, which is really disappointing.
  Also it seems to be a more serious film than Miike's film.  Director Masato Tanno (
Itsuka nami no kanata ni, Rabu retâ: Sôrenk) who was the second assistant director on "Ichi the Killer" turns the quirky, ultraviolent piece and turns it into a drama.  Again, too much Dai questioning himself and main characters just walking around thinking and feeling for no reason.  This isn't Shakespeare people, let's get to the violence.
  Finally the ending of the film comes out of nowhere with another villain, who just shows up as a transfer student.  There is no mention of him in the film in any capacity which leaves you wondering wtf, who is this guy?  If there was some kind of build up to him, or even whispers of this guy being uber tough and that Dai may have to take down would make more sense but he just pops up and is a super human fighter, that only Ichi can stop, maybe.  It seems really tacked on and a last minute battle. 

  However, no matter how tacked on this new villain character is, at least he's doing something finally and the story becomes a bit truer to the Miike film.  This guy is breaking bones on Dai and his crew and just being an all around badass.  It's like Kenny Powers with martial art skills and it's fun to watch.  If only Masato Tanno didn't waste so much time with Ichi being chased at the end and put that time in the end battle, it would have been much better.  It's still good, but it's not great.

  This film has some good moments but it is not what I was expecting at all.  I was hoping for a more introspective look at how Shiroishi became Ichi and how he started working with Jijii, but this film seems to focus it's time on a bully that isn't relevant to the story of Ichi in the long run.  Also, there is a lack of humour and fun in this film until near the end, but by then it's a little late.  However, if you make it to the end, there is finally some interesting fight scenes that don't make up for the other time, but it does make you feel a little better.  If you're looking for a kaleidoscopic whirlwind of violence and fun like the first film, then this isn't it but if you still need to get a Ichi fix after re watching the Miike film, then this may satisfy your urges a bit.


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