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Original Title:
Kibakichi: Bakko-yokaiden

Japan 2004

Fantasy, Action, Horror

Tomoo Haraguchi

Ryuuji Harada
Nozomi Ando
Miki Tanaka
Tatsuo Higashida
Masara Ibu
Masato Ibu

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Story: In ancient Japan there is the legend that once humans and Yokai (Monster) were living in the same world and avoided any clashes. However, someday humans didn't fear Yokai anymore and started to hunt them. The Yokai had no other choice but to flee and disguise themselves as humans so that they could live among them.
This story revolves around Yokai Kibakichi (Ryuuji Harada), who wanders the country as a lonely wolf until one day he arrives in a village which is almost completely inhabited by Yokai. In a gambling house that is owned by Onizo, he finds shelter. Onizo is helping the humans by making a deal with them to help them bring down the reigning ruler. In return the Yokai will get a place where they can live in peace. Yet, it turns out as it was to be expected - humans don't plan to keep their word and the end of Onizo and his Yokai village seems to be settled. But humans didn't reckon that there is someone like Kibakichi going against them...

Review: "Kibakichi" is a mixture of a samurai-movie, a ghost-/monsterstory and a spaghetti western. Unfortunately, it doesn't work out the way it was supposed to. The idea of a lonely wolf (and here this is meant literally!) is quite nice, but not anything new at all. Nonetheless, in its own way Kibakichi can in fact prove to be an interesting character and his somewhat wild appearance prepares the audience for the moment when at the end he actually mutates into a wolf. Most of the characters, especially some of the side characters, are well drawn, yet can't make up for the sluggish pacing of the movie.

"Kibakichi" is definitely a B-Movie and it shows. Some of the costumes are really not that bad, yet most of them just look cheap. The Yokai costumes look like being recycled from works of the 80s and even though they sometimes can remind us of some Ray Harryhausen works, they provide more of an old Godzilla movie flair. The rest of the special effects also has to get a "cheap" tag. Because even if one tried to retouch the worst by using lots of fast cuts and smoke, most scenes just look ridiculous. This wouldn't have been fatal if the film would have tried to take advantage of this fact by implementing a certain amount of humour or irony, like it has been successfully done in a lot of other Asian movies. Sadly, "Kibakichi" tries too hard to remain serious, which leads to unintended humorous scenes...

Nevertheless, the director manages in a few shots to capture some nice, almost epic scenes. Moreover, some of the fight scenes are choreographed quite well, and there is also enough blood and cut limbs to please those who are in need of seeing something like that. However, the film might be brutal at some points, yet it is in a typical B-movie way, which means that it is almost funny at times.
Surprisingly, the soundtrack which accompanies the movie every now and then in certain key scenes is really good and adds more to the atmosphere, especially in the emotional scenes.

The story of the film is not worthy mentioning, yet on the other hand it also isn't that bad. Unfortunately, the subtle demand to be more tolerant feels a bit out of place sometimes. Especially the emotional scenes which deal with this subject are repeated over and over again so that the film gets some unnecessary lengths. The efforts of the actors are solid and as already said some of the side characters will even manage to get to your heart.
Nonetheless, "Kibakichi" is pulled down because of some needless lengths, sometimes really boring scenes and in the end you are just waiting for the final inevitable showdown to take place. And yes, the final battle is done quite well, even though you might have to smile again, when Kibakichi turns into a wolf and fights a cyclop-yokai.

Either you accept "Kibakichi" as what it is and take it not that serious, which will result in a few entertaining minutes for you, or you will feel a bit alienated throughout the movie, resulting in sitting on the couch and making fun of the costumes...

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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