|The Princess Blade|
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|Japanese Title: Shura Yukihime ("Netherworld Snow Lady")
Director: Shinsuke Sato
Inspired By Comics Created By: Kazuo Koike and Kazuo Kamimura
Original Release Year: 2001
Running Time: 94 minutes
Official Website: http://www.theprincessblade.com
DVD Released By: ADV Films
Video: Widescreen (the box says 4:3, but this is incorrect)
Audio: Japanese 5.1 (the box lists the Japanese as 2.0, but this is incorrect), English 5.1
Extras: The Princess Blade U.S. trailer, ADV previews
Closed Captions: None
UPC #: 702727042829
Catalog #: DPBL/001
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|Reviewed by: Zillamon51|
|The Film: In the not-to-distant future, in an unnamed country cut off from the rest of the world, an oppressive government uses the services of the Takemikazuchi clan to suppress civil unrest. The Takemikazuchi are skilled assassins; highly trained killers-for-hire. The rightful heir to leadership of the clan is Yuki (Yumiko Shaku), the Princess of the title. On the eve of her twentieth birthday, the day she is to ascend to clan leader, an old man approaches her after she’s killed a deserter. His name is Kuka, and he was once a loyal servant of Yuki’s mother, Azora. He informs Yuki of the true circumstances surrounding Azora’s death many years before. Byakurai, the current leader of the Takemikazuchi, killed Yuki’s mother so that he could take control of the clan.
After returning from her mission, Yuki confronts Byakurai. In the ensuing sword fight, she is overpowered and flees. Labeled a traitor and pursued by the rest of the clan, she makes it to a road and escapes in the back of a truck. The driver is Takeshi, a young man affiliated with the insurrectionist movement. He unknowingly takes the injured Yuki to his home. At first wary of the icy assassin, he comes to realize there is more to Yuki than meets the eye.
Takeshi is also trying to leave the group he works for. He regrets the terrorist actions he has participated in. These two disillusioned people come to trust one another. Yuki gradually bonds with Takeshi and his mute, kindhearted sister. However, a peaceful life outside the Takemikazuchi is not to be. Byakurai and the rest of the clan hunt her mercilessly. Even her exceptional skills with a sword may not save her. Both Yuki and Takeshi will have to survive the wrath of their former compatriots if they are to build a new life together.
The Princess Blade is a visually stunning and emotionally involving Japanese action movie. The fights, choreographed by Hong Kong action star Donnie Yen (Iron Monkey), are fast and brutal. The film also uses color to great effect. From the cool blues of the Takemikazuchi bunker, the grays of the abandoned industrial areas, and the lush green forests where several fights take place, it’s always interesting to look at. Special effects artist Shinji Higuchi (Heisei Gamera trilogy) provides some industrial-future cityscapes to good effect. This is a good-looking movie, but its real power lies in its characters.
At first, Yuki is a stone-cold killer. Her icy resolve is necessary for her work. Then, her world is turned upside-down, as she becomes the hunted. She meets Takeshi, who is burdened with sadness and regret over the things he has done in a misguided effort to improve his country. These two wounded souls begin to heal together, but cannot escape their respective pasts, leading to a heart-wrenching climax.
The standout performer of the excellent cast is Yumiko Shaku (Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla). Her background as a model and pop idol might make some skeptical of her abilities as an actress. However, she is a revelation here (in her first film). Her appeal as Yuki goes far beyond her physical beauty; she brings real depth to the role. Though the character is an unapologetic killer, Yumiko infuses her with uncertainty and vulnerability as she develops. The audience can see the emotional barriers breaking down. This in turn adds greater impact to the film’s visuals and action sequences. The cast features several more faces familiar to tokusatsu fans: Shiro Sano (Godzilla 2000 and GMK) as the shady rebel leader, Hideaki Ito (Pyrokinesis) as Takeshi, and Kyusaku Shimada (Sakuya, The Slayer Of Demons) as Byakurai. Cap it all off with a strong musical score by Kenji Kawai (Sakuya), and The Princess Blade is one of the best action movies in recent years. Grade: A
Video: The Princess Blade is presented in widescreen, despite what the back of the box says. Unfortunately, it’s not anamorphically enhanced. Color reproduction is very good, which serves the movie well. The image is sharp, but there is some grain. Some darker scenes are murky and lacking in detail. Neither of these drawbacks are major problems; the biggest disappointment is the lack of an anamorphic transfer. This would have made the picture sharper, even on standard TV’s. Get with the program, ADV. Grade: B
Audio: Both the original Japanese language track, and ADV’s English dub, are included. Both are in 5.1, even though the back of the box lists the Japanese as 2.0. Both are sharp and clear, with music, sound effects, and dialogue well reproduced. The English dub isn’t very good. While lip synch isn’t bad, the voice work is dull and flat. Much impact and drama is lost in the dub. This film works much better in the original Japanese. Grade: B+
Extras / Menus: The only extras on the disk are ADV previews. The trailer for The Princess Blade selectable from the main menu is ADV’s own promo trailer. Unfortunately, no Japanese trailers for the film are included. Grouped separately under “ADV Previews” are promos for: Mutant X, Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda Season 2, Parasite Eve (just a teaser really), The Hypnotist (for some reason, the picture is vertically stretched), Farscape Season 3, and Gamera 3: Revenge Of Iris. The G3 spot has been edited down from the version on other ADV disks; gone are the cheesy “turtle” opening and the incorrect assertion that Iris is “more powerful than the Legion.”
Additional promos for the Anime Network and Newtype USA magazine play when the disk first boots up. There is also a single page of DVD credits selectable from the main menu. The main menu is animated, and the scene selection and ADV preview screens have animated film clips in the selection windows. All of the menu screens have music. ADV’s official website for the film includes detailed cast & crew biographies, and production notes. It’s unfortunate ADV didn’t include them on this DVD. Since they skimped on an anamorphic transfer, there’s certainly room on the disk. Grade: C-
Final Analysis: The Princess Blade is an action movie with a heart. It has depth and impact that are rare for the genre. The disk specs are somewhat disappointing (non-anamorphic, little in the way of extras). The movie itself is definitely worth seeing, though. Recommended. Final Grade: B
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