[rating=2]Starring: Hideaki Ito, Yumiko Shaku, Shirô Sano, Yoichi Numata, Kyusaku Shimada, Yoko Maki
Director(s): Shinsuke Sato
Writer(s): Kei Kunii, Shinsuke Sato
Princess Blade, released in 2001, is a Japanese swordplay film set in a futuristic world with some wonderful imagery and an interesting concept, but lacks the cohesion necessary to make it a great film. It establishes a world and time of its own, set in an undesignated, almost post-apocalyptic world with a feudal system like that of ancient Japan. Within this setting, Princess Blade sets off in several different plot directions but lacks the details and interactions that would make the film feel more whole and complete.
Princess Blade follows Yuki, played by Yumiko Shaku, the last of the official Takemikazuchi bloodline. She discovers that her mother was killed because she planned to leave the Takemikazuchi House, a band of assassins that Yuki will inherit on her twentieth birthday. The man who killed her is Byakurai (Kyusaku Shimada), who now serves as the House’s leader. After her mother’s former servant, Kuka (Yoichi Numata), tells Yuki of her mother’s demise, she confronts Byakurai. She is then chased into the woods where she happens upon Takashi (Hideaki Ito), a soldier in a band of rebels.
There is a lot of meat here with plenty of great story concepts. Unfortunatley not all of them quite flush out due to a lack of development. After spending some time with Takashi, Yuki eventually makes her decision to confront the Takemikazuchi House in a final, climactic and exciting fight, but nothing seems to be resolved beyond this. Several story fragments are presented but never seem to go anywhere, such as how the world has come to this almost post-apocalyptic state or exactly what the rebels are fighting against. The direction of the stories and drive of the characters is almost solely presented in several monologues throughout the movie and show little or no actual character development. There are a few very good interactions between Yuki and Takashi, but they seem to be cut short or hurried along in the form of a montage or monologue by the need to move on to the next fight scene.
The acting is generally good with the exception of a couple stiff fight scenes. The action is very stylistic and thrilling, and the visuals of the movie depict a very nice conflict between earthy browns and dark industrial grays. The general concept of the film and the execution on the part of the director, Shinsuke Sato, create a great structure for a film that generally seems to be lacking any solid character development. Princess Blade is a film that promises a lot, depicts more, but leaves you wondering why everything happened in the first place.
The DVD version that I am reviewing had no supplemental material about the movie, but I have since seen that a Special Edition has come out with a second disc which would seem to carry a lot material. However, even though the film has some great aspects, it lacks the ingredients that give me the compulsion to investigate the Special Edition’s extras.
Run Time: 1 hr., 32 mins.