OneChanbara (2008), pronounced “oh-nee-chahn-bah-rah”, is a Japanese zombie film written and directed by Yohei Fukuda, based on the video game developed by Tamsoft for D3 Publisher in 2006. The film was released on DVD in the U.S. in 2009 as OneChanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad. The straight-to-DVD sequel called OneChanbara 2: Vortex, directed by Tsuyoshi Shoji, was released in 2009. The first film features a bikini-clad zombie slayer, and is undeniably entertaining; while the second film features a bikini-clad zombie slayer.
“Chanbara” is a term that refers to a genre of Japanese samurai cinema in which swordplay action is emphasized. It is a sub-genre of “jidaigeki” which is samurai period drama. “Onechanbara”, in Japanese characters, is “お姉チャンバラ” and it translates as “sister sword fight”.
In OneChanbara, the world, in 20xx, is a wasteland that has been devastated by a zombie outbreak. Aya (Eri Otoguro) is a skilled swordswoman of the Imichi clan. She watched her sister Saki (Chise Nakamura) kill their father and lives to avenge his death. Saki is also a skilled swordswoman who has aligned herself with Sugita (Taro Suwa), the deranged scientist responsible for the zombie outbreak. She finds living humans for his experiments for which he also needs pure Imichi blood. Saki, jealous of Aya‘s skill, killed their father at Sugita‘s urging, to become stronger. Aya, by the way, wears a red bikini with a cowboy hat and boots, and a feathered boa; while Saki wears a schoolgirl uniform. Why? Well, if you have to ask, then, this movie isn’t really for you, now is it?
While wandering the wasteland, killing zombies, and searching for her sister Saki, Aya and her chubby sidekick Katsuji (Tomohiro Waki), whose little sister was taken by Saki, encounter Reiko (Manami Hashimoto), whose daughter was killed by Sugita. Reiko is skilled with a sawed-off shotgun. She knows where to find Sugita and, thus, Saki; and, together, they set off for revenge. Reiko, by the way, wears a black leather biker outfit that exposes her ample [for a Japanese girl] cleavage.
OneChanbara is, surprisingly, very entertaining which is due in part to the cute heroine and her sexy outfit, but, mostly, to the stylish action sequences that are choreographed by the film’s action director, Go Ohara, who has directed a few of his own pretty cool films, like 2008’s Geisha Assassin (aka Geisha vs Ninjas) and 2010’s Psycho Gothic Lolita (aka Gothic & Lolita Psycho).
The extended opening sequence is pretty damn awesome, and hooked me instantly with its over-the-top, yet well executed, action. A dive-bar survivor outpost is besieged by zombies, but, Aya shows up and begins to dispatch the horde with her mad swordplay skills. Soon, Reiko crashes through the doors on a motorcycle, and begins blasting away with John Woo panache and an endless supply of bullets. Later, in an abandoned warehouse, Katsuji faces off against his dead sister who is, basically, Gogo Yubari as a zombie, complete with school uniform and a spiked metal ball on a chain; while, Aya faces off against Saki for the first time. Then, the next big sequence takes place at Sugita‘s lair, as Aya takes on dozens of zombies in a large atrium, while Katsuji goes after Sugita. Soon, Reiko arrives to help Aya, but, the zombies keep coming. They overwhelm Reiko, but Aya‘s fury feuls her blade with magic powers, and, she prevails. However, Reiko, mortally wounded, is forced to put her own gun against her head. The final showdown, between Aya and Saki, takes place in a field, and, both become magically powered. Aya glows red, while Saki glows blue, in a fiery sibling rivalry. Aya wins, killing Saki, and, she continues on, with Katsuji, to kill more zombies.
Watch the trailer here:
In OneChanbara 2: Vortex, the world, in 20xx, is still overrun by zombies. Aya (Yu Tejima) still wears a bikini, and Saki (Akari Ozawa), who has miraculously survived being killed by Aya, still wears a school uniform; but, this time, the sisters of the Imichi clan are working together, without Katsuji, killing zombies. They meet a woman in a white dress who calls herself Misery (Kaoru Yuki). But, Misery is actually evil Himiko, who is looking for Rei (Chika Arakawa), a pure blood Imichi child, to restore her youth and take over the world. But, Himiko convinces Saki that Rei‘s blood can bring back her dead parents, and she aligns herself with Himiko. Meanwhile, Rei is cared for by Reiko (Rika Kawamura), who has miraculously survived a self-inflicted shotgun blast to the head. Saki takes Rei, and escapes with Himiko, while Aya and Reiko‘s friend Ryo (Yohei Hoshina) go after them to save Rei and mankind.
OneChanbara 2: Vortex isn’t as outright enjoyable as OneChanbara. The plot is convoluted, and, the action isn’t as stylish, although the extended opening sequence, like in the first film, is exciting and well-done. The girls are sexy, of course, but, sometimes, it’s just not enough, even for my low standards.
Watch the trailer here: