Azumi and Azumi 2 are based on a series of particularly graphic comics books set at the beginning of the feudal wars in Japan – a tempestuous time when no one had any control over of the country and the future seemed as bleak as the hard times of the past. What does this mean for the casual viewer? Lots and lots of ninjas.
A former army general rounds up and trains a group of children to be master assassins. As the kids grow, their expertise surpasses that of any regular warrior. Once their training is complete they finally learn the truth about their mission. Then they realize that war is a complex and ethically ambiguous endeavor.
Azumi, who is the female lead and the heroine of the story, is very conflicted about her actions, whereas some of her teammates approach the conflict with cold, mechanical efficiency. As the mission continues, more and more of the Azumi’s friends are killed off, leading up to the final battle.
The first movie flows into the second without missing a step. It would seem that they made the movies simultaneously. But, I should warn you that they weren’t actually shot by the same director. Azumi was directed by Ryuhei Kitamura and Azumi 2 by Shusuke Kaneko. Once the second film pulls away from the end of the first, this becomes rather apparent because Kaneko does not have the same level of artistry or expertise with creating the shots or maintaining the action.
Both movies star Aya Ueto, a well known Japanese idol, meaning she acts, sings, and is very cute. This was not a very complicated part to play but she did it as well as anyone could have expected with material from a martial arts movie. The other actors can’t stretch their acting skills because their characters are one-dimensional. There are some notable cameos in these two films. In the first, video game designer Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear Solid series) appears as a wild, staff-wielding ninja. In the second, Chiaki Kuriyama (Gogo from the Kill Bill series) appears as a temperamental traveling performer.
Azumi was a fun-filled ninja movie with plenty of action and enough backstory to make the viewer care about the characters. Though there are flaws, the production values of the special effects was pretty low, the acting was suspect, and there wasn’t enough plot development, the film was interesting and enjoyable to watch.
Azumi 2: Death or Love, on the other hand, was brutally difficult to watch because the director tried to insert new information into the previous movie. In the first film, Azumi buries her fallen comrades, only to have them escape graves and again walk the earth during the second film. Since the separation of the films is non-existent, it cheapens watching the first movie because none of the details remain.Powered by Sidelines