posted in: 1 - Film and TV | 0

If you want some seriously grim and downright harsh oni-masked ninja action, Demon Spies (Oniwaban) is your huckleberry. Based on a manga by Kazuo Koike of Lone Wolf and Cub fame, the film follows five masked ninja trained from childhood under impossibly brutal conditions. Graduation means killing their instructors, and their baptismal mission thrusts them into a no-win situation that decimates the cast. Not the cheeriest of movies, this…

Masks of one type or another are worn by all the ninja throughout. The frightening expressions and messy hair of these things is a great visual.

Koike’s feudal Japan was often a bad place, a worse place to be a ninja, and an especially worse place to be a female ninja. This film takes those conventions to a new extreme, and I’m not sure the result is entertainment in any form. Demon Spies is as gory and action packed as any Lone Wolf film, the costumes are great, and it tries to put some attrative young ninja in a sympathetic light, but man after the ringer they’re put through from scene one, you just want to say ‘enough.’

Kung Fu Cinema did a full review here.

Animeigo’s now out-of-print DVD liner notes can be read online here.

And if you want some insight into the Japanese theater mask thing, there’s a thorough database here and some amazing images here.

Proof that not every original Japanese movie poster is good. While I appreciate Animeigo's use of source material on DVD packaging, the ONIWABAN art pretty much blows. Any of the above screen images would have yielded a more alluring package.

Nice big pub images from SHOGUN ASSASSIN

posted in: 1 - Film and TV | 0

Once again I point thee towards the excellent Wrong Side of the Art, today for nice big scans of the poster and some publicity stills from Shogun Assassin.

Now, a lot of hardcore Kozure Okami fans HATE this 1980 composite of the initial two films of the series, complaining about it’s dubbed script and Moog synth score, but those are two of the very things I LOVE about what was a major building block in my adoration of foreign ninja films and chambara cinema in general.

Remember, this thing actually played in grindhouse theaters and werewolf circuit drive-ins before anyone had VCRs, and once we all had those it was a rental juggernaut. Then we learned there were six original films out there somewhere, and did we want them! By the late 90’s, guys inspired by SA back in the day were now making the corporate decisions to import the originals for DVD. Love it or hate it, no one can deny how significant a SEED movie SA was…

Today, you can own multiple versions of each film in superb quality, and thanks to Dark Horse can read the entire manga run that started it all. Life is good! Now quit being a bunch of Shogun Assassin haters…

Path of the Assassin, we’ll miss you…

posted in: 2 - Books and Manga | 0


Koike and Kojima’s astounding Path of the Assassin has ended with volume 15, released last month from Dark Horse Comics. To say the abrupt ending is unsatisfying would be an understatement, have to wonder if this was cancelled in Japan prematurely back in the day. Doesn’t seem like a deliberate, or strategic, ending from either an editorial or emotional point-of-view.

I’m really going to miss this series, but one advantage to a series of graphic novels with a terminus is people tend to put their used collections up on eBay and Craigslist, so it’s a great opportunity to score it as a complete set if you don’t already own it all.

Adios Hanzo…

Read some nice volume-by-volume reviews here.