Riffing off of the legendary story of the blind samurai, ICHI portrays a female (Haruka Ayase) in the title role as the ronin warrior wandering from village to village in search of her former master. Along the way, she encounters bumbling bodyguard Banki (Shido Nakamura, voice of Death Note‘s Ryuuk), who takes credit for taking out a gang of men slain by the blind female samurai. But when Banki takes a job protecting a wealthy family from a rival gang, it may just lead the wandering girl to the man she has been searching for.
I think that ICHI is facing an identity crisis as to what type of film its supposed to be and just who FUNimation thinks it is going to appeal to.
But whatever it is trying to be, it really does not do it well.
First off, this film looks gorgeous. The Japanese scenery will fill your TV with lushes green visuals that are really breathtaking. The director uses the setting to his advantage with camera angles that puts just as much emphasis on the background as it does on the actors. I imagine that this would look even better on the Blu-ray release.
But beyond the pretty visuals, there is really nothing much else for this crappy Japanese film.
Given the type of marketing FUNimation has been putting into this film for the past few months, and the Palme d’Or-looking “Film Festival Awards” listed on the cover, you would think that maybe there is some kind of “art house” quality to ICHI. But if you look closely at those logos on the cover, you’d see that it didn’t actually win any awards at these festivals, it was just simply screened there.
There is a reason why it is not winning any awards. ICHI is the exact same cheesy-ass, boring, recycled samurai story you have seen a thousand times before. Betrayal, gangs, honor, revenge, sacrifice, and death scenes that take forever… there is nothing new or impressive about this film.
Even though the setting is of feudal-era Japan, the tone and dialogue is completely modern, simple, and stupid. Ayase does not put any effort into portraying feelings or emotion into her character beyond her blank “I am blind” stare. Nakamura, however, plays too much of a clown to be a leading man by any stretch of the imagination. This is daytime soap opera quality acting at best.
But what is worst is that all the good things you would expect from a samurai film – all the violence and ass-kicking swordplay – is also missing from this film. The movie’s slow pacing leads to very few action sequences, and what little fights that do occur mostly happen off screen. There are maybe three or four shots of the awesome samurai violence through out this entire film, and most of them take place during the film’s “climatic” battle at the end. Other than that, there is barely any swordplay in a film where everyone is carrying around swords.
* * * * *
The Good: Great scenery and great cinematography.
The Bad: Cheesy story, slow pacing with little action, and bad acting.
Final Verdict: No matter how “art house” the packaging looks like, ICHI is b-rate samurai garbage without any of the good stuff. I really could not figure out who this film would appeal to. Skip it!
Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment.