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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Kage No Gundan 2: Episode 2



Directed by Ikuo Sekimoto

Mysterious occurrences in Edo's seedier quarters result in a number of prostitutes being murdered by an unknown assailant. When one of the streetwalkers turns out to be a stray member of the Iga clan, the Shadow Warriors become involved. Even more intriguing is the revelation that the Koga are somehow linked with the deaths. When a well known Shogunate doctor, Miyake Bakushu, delivers the incorrect diagnosis for a murdered prostitute, the Shadow Warriors investigate.

The first victim shown, Omochi, was an Iga herself; forced into prostitution to survive after O'oka and the Koga nearly wiped them out. Apparently, Omochi and Tsuruzo were childhood friends and he eventually fell in love with her. Because of this connection, Gennai is able to discover that the woman died from strangulation and not from an abortion as reported by the esteemed doctor Bakushu. When finding the killer proves futile for Tsuruzo and Uta, Iga member Otoki disguises herself as a prostitute to lure out the murderer. She is captured by the madman now revealed to be Bakushu who strangled the streetwalkers and drained them of their blood.

It is in this episode that the origin of Ieshige's malady is revealed and how he came to be in his child-like condition. Bakushu mixed the blood of the women with opium to create a powerful and deadly prescription that was given to Ieshige in a secret plot on behalf of Bakushu and some of his own accomplices. O'oka is not pleased that one of his loyalists would have his own designs for ruler of the country and he makes sure that those involved don't go unpunished. Before serious harm comes to Otoki, the Shadow Warriors appear and kill Bakushu and his men as well as engage the Koga who were there for the same purpose.

There is also a late entry plot point when the evil doctor's mother attempts to free Otoki and tells the story of her two sons and why her son, the doctor, hates streetwalkers. The only problem with this is that the viewer never learns who the second son is. There was no reason for there to be mention of two sons if only one is shown throughout the episode.

There is a nicely atmospheric horror element permeating this show. The villains lair is adorned with numerous skulls and skeletons and creepy henchmen. Even Shinpachi gets in on the act with his use of the Iga Skull Transformation wherein he blurs the villains sense of perception enabling him to slay the scoundrels.

While the other Igas fight with the Shi'ina, a group belonging to the Koga clan (as well as being sworn enemies of the Iga), Shinpachi has a brief skirmish with their leader, Misato (Etsuko Shihomi) before the Shadow Warriors make their escape. The fight during the finale is nothing to get excited over as it's fairly brief especially with the lack of a strong main villain. However, mixing ninja action with some mystical and horror elements isn't a bad combination by any means.

The ending scenes feature the fate of Bakushu's female accomplice and an hilarious scene with Orin as she joins Shinpachi and the others in some Badger soup. She eats a piece of meat only to learn too late she has just devoured the Badgers "treasure"!

Director Sekimoto fashions a sleazy piece of jidai geki escapism. The plot is fairly thin and horror laced backed by a prominent display of naked female flesh that takes your mind away from the foolishness of it all. Not a perfect second episode by any means but a fun and interesting one that will no doubt please fans of exploitation programmers and horror enthusiasts with a taste for martial mayhem.

Continued in Episode Three: THE HUMAN SACRIFICE!!!

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