In an attempt to diversify it's portfolio, MTI Studios (Japan) along with it's newly born Saiko Films, threw together an inspired and ambitous little movie called Kibakichi, admittedly to gain some Asian Horror cred and cash in in the current success of the genre. This is the new label's first film. The studio's summary also appears on the Region 1 dvd. What it leaves out is that Kibakachi is standard B-Movie fair. I had higher hopes for it.
The film opens with a deep, ominous voice; "A long time ago humans and monsters called Yokai, and nature lived in harmony without getting in the way of each other. But soon, men began to destroy the Yokai. Some fled to the mountains and some turned themselves into men, women, and the elderly to hide from the human world."
Now, there are obviously clear parallels in Kibakichi's story between world history's conflicting countries or populations within countries in man's quest for advancement or simply the ability to conquer and rule. Whether it's rooted, in the film's case (?), in feudal Japan's emergence into a more technologically advanced world (which I don't know a lot about, regrettably), or the Europeans going to America and taking land from the Indians, or even more contemporary instances, there's definitely a moral backdrop in Kibakichi. But such situations have taken place for thousands and thousands of years and in the end, it's the way the world has worked for just as long. So I tried to set that on the back burner while taking in the spectacle of Kibakichi.
The "spaghetti western" aspect of the movie is evident from the start. Kibakichi is strolling through a dry, grassy plain, while a group of bandits try to get the jump on him for some reason. The camera ping-pongs back and forth between sides and then, as if an homage to Sergio Leone, freezes on the blazing afternoon sun. Needless to say, Kibakichi will continue on his way that day. And similar to Clint Eastwood in his famous trilogy, Kibakichi, with reason, (as we find out later in the movie), will agree to extend his services to help pacify the village's turmoils. But unlike The Man with No Name Trilogy, Eastwood didn't encounter talking frog or turtle monsters on a narrow bridge leading into the tiny town. I'll have to check on that though. Kibakichi takes some sake at a pub and is quickly "recruited" to gamble at the local casino (for lack of a better term) and just like that, the meat of the story kicks into high gear. He sits at a long, low table to wager on a dice game that's based on an "even or odds" outcome. Many other patrons are also gambling , as well as enjoying the company of one of the many giggling geisha girls. It's not long before Kibakichi is raking in the cash and then suddenly pulled away from the table and asked by the village leader Onizo for his help as different factions of the region maneuver for respect and land rights. While other are more interested in recognition and power.
All in all, Kibakichi is a gutty effort from first time director and studio alike. It's well-rounded in it's mix of samurai fighting and monster mashing; along with a decent story. Even with it's flaws and the unexpected appearance of some modern weaponry, fan's of the genre shouldn't be left hanging. There's a little for everyone here. It's not exactly horror, as the studio claims (horror/action/fantasy). But I guess that depends on what you consider to be horror. I'd say it's closer to "slasher" if I were being pressed. And despite the often cheesy dialogue (ex. "Life is like a spot on a dice, we won't know until we shake it.") and freshman effort on the part of the director, which may have been a budget issue, Kibakichi wraps up nicely with some (literally) high flying action and ties up the story nicely as well. I don't think it's necessary to go into specifics here, especially with character names and individual motives because Kibakichi does jump around a bit and a couple very small plot holes left me wondering a little, but didn't distract me from enjoying it, somewhat. Kibakichi, I believe, is a love it or hate it type movie. Personally, I think it had an identity crisis. But I'll begrudgingly recommend it for it's uniqueness.