Onechanbara: Zombie Bikini Squad (2008)

DVD Cover (Tokyo Shock)
Genres / Traits: Action, Horror, Martial Arts, Zombie Film, Post Apocalyptic, Video Games
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Y˘hei Fukuda Y˘hei Fukuda
Eri Otoguro Eri Otoguro
Tomohiro Waki Tomohiro Waki
Tar˘ Suwa Tar˘ Suwa
Manami Hashimoto Manami Hashimoto
Chise Nakamura Chise Nakamura
Movie Connections:
> Onechanbara: Zombie Bikini Squad (2008)
> Chanbara Beauty: The Movie - Vortex (2009)

4.7 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Chad
Added: February 11, 2009
The OneChanbara series of games is fairly popular over in Japan, and even though I have yet to play any of them, they look like the kind of games that you really can't go wrong with if the content appeals to you. It seems as though the games were developed by lovers of b-movies who sat around and tried to combine all of their favorite elements from those schlocky movies into one game that would simply overflow with awesome. I can almost hear them as they designed the game: "We need ass-kicking women, bikinis, zombies, Street Fighter 2, Dragon Ball Z, motorcycles, ninjas, katanas, shotguns, Matrix effects, and a zombified Go-Go." With that said, I find it to be rather ironic that a game which was inspired by b-movies would go on to spawn a b-movie release of its own, and even though I can't call it a masterpiece, I can say that it's damned enjoyable if you read that little checklist and thought that it sounded like a fun combination.

The storyline takes place in the near future, where one Dr. Sugita (Taro Suwa) has created a serum that will turn humans into zombies. True to the zombie mythos, these created zombies can spread the infection to their victims through bites and scratches, and being zombies and all, they have a habit of attacking anyone with a pulse. Needless to say, Japan has become overrun with the walking dead. This leads us to Aya (Eri Otoguro), a cowgirl in a bikini who is a master swordswoman and who also wants to get revenge on Dr. Sugita for corrupting her younger sister Saki (Chise Nakamura). It seems as though the good doctor somehow convinced Saki to kill her and Aya's father before helping him with his experiments, so I should think that it goes without saying that there's some serious sibling rivalry here.

Aiding Aya in her quest is Reiko (Manami Hashimoto), a biker babe wielding an unlimited-ammo shotgun who also has her reasons for wanting revenge on Sugita, and tagging along for the ride is the pudgy Katsuji (Tomohiro Waki), a fellow whose sister was killed by the zombies... and you guessed it, he too wants revenge. Throw in a few useless yet fun subplots to pad out the time, and we have ourselves a movie.

As I mentioned, you'll probably enjoy this flick as much as I did if you read through that checklist and thought that it sounded like a winning combination. Even though the storyline is thin as can be and padded out to reach feature length, I can't say that I walked away from this one disappointed. Eye-candy, humorous moments, zombies, and great fight sequences don't produce award-winners, but they do give you a nice action / horror hybrid that won't cause you to reach for the remote at any time during the ninety minutes that it runs for.

Yes, it's true that the storyline is very thin. We're given the general plot (there's a zombie epidemic and these three people all want revenge as a direct result), and that's the extent of the main plot for the entire running time. However, there are also a number of subplots thrown in to keep things interesting. For example, the group decides to lay down and call it a night in a deserted warehouse, where they then encounter two other survivors. Zombies attack soon afterward, the two survivors are killed, and a long battle between the ass-kicking ladies and the living dead ensues. It has no relevance to the overall storyline, but it does serve to both pad the film out and give us a great fight sequence. There's a number of scenes like this and a good deal of irrelevant supporting characters, and while almost all of them do nothing to further the plot, they're definitely fun to watch.

With a synopsis like this, you're probably expecting an exploitation-fest, right? Well, that's not really what you're going to get. Save for two very brief glimpses of one of those minor character's boobies, there is no nudity to be found. Even though there is plenty of scantily-clad women, massive amounts of cleavage, and yes, quite a few butt-cheeks, this is not one of those softcore flicks that Japan is notorious for putting out: this is a film that, for better or for worse, relies on the action to succeed.

On the other side of the coin, the gore is done almost exclusively with CGI. Now, I normally would gripe to no end about this, but the way that it's done here was surprisingly nice. The filmmakers didn't try to make the special effects look natural, but instead, they made the gore and the splatter look like the type of thing you'd see after decapitating or disemboweling a zombie in a video game - not quite cartoonish, but far from realistic. Some of you will hate this style of doing things, but given the fact that the film is based on a video game and after seeing how well this idea translated to film, I can't say that it bugged me at all.

Overall, I thought that it was a great and highly entertaining film, but I'll readily admit that it's one of those guilty pleasure releases. It won't win any awards and it won't top any year-end lists, but this is definitely one of those flicks that you can pop in and have a blast with... and sometimes, that's all you really need for a good night in front of the tube. 8/10.
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