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Jipangu

Zipang
The Legend of Zipang

Japan 1990
produced by
Tokyo Hoso, Toho
directed by Kaizo Hayashi
starring Masahiro Takashima, Narumi Yasuda, Shu Ken, Yukio Yamato, Mikijiro Hira, Haruko Wanibuchi, Bengal, Shiro Sano, Chiyonosuke Azuma, Mikio Narita, Michiro Akiyoshi
written by Kaizo Hayashi, music by Meyma Co (= Yoko Kumagai, Hidehiko Urayama)

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Somehow, the rogueish warrior Jigoku (Masahiro Takashima) has come into the possession of a certain golden sword that grants him access to the wonderful kingdom Zipang that is supposed to be made of gold. But before he even knows it, he has a) brought an ancient warrior (Shu Ken) back to life who is on an eternal quest to find his true love, the queen of Zipang (Haruko Wanibuchi), and b) attracted the attention of Hanzo (Yukio Yamato), the chief ninja of the Shogun (Chiyonosuke Azuma), who wants to steal the golden sword for his master. But instead, Hanzo is sucked to Zipang along with Yuri the Pistol (Narumi Yasuda), a bounty hunter after Jigoku's head whom Jigoku has nevertheless fallen in love with.

In Zipang, Hanzo becomes the King's (Mikijiro Hira) prisoner while Yuri somehow manages to track down the Queen without even looking for her, and the queen, even though imprisoned by her own hubby the king, manages to get Yuri back to the real world somehow.

Hanzo, too, manages to escape Zipang, but without the golden sword and without one hand, which he later substitutes with a mechanical metal claw before leading his ninja hordes into an all-out attack on Zipang.

Jigoku and friends including the returned Yuri soon have to fight the King of Zipang, who is next to invulnerable in his metal armour and carrying the golden sword, and he almost kills the ancient warrior, and only refrains from killing Jigoku and Yuri too when he sees how much they are in love - which is his soft spot ...

Soon enough, Jigoku and friends and Hanzo and the ninjas all invade Zipang, where they finally fight and defeat the king - who once dieing bleeds gold that seems to rain all over his kingdom. Seeing the lovers the ancient warrior and the queen of Zipang reunited in the gold rain leaves everyone in awe, everyone but Hanzo, who now sees his chance to steal the golden sword - but once he turns it over to the shogun, it has turned into a rusty and crumpling piece of metal, and only now daóes the shogun realize the kingdom made from gold first described in Marco Polo's diary is actually Japan itself ...

 

Yes, in a way Zipang is as childish and silly as fantasy pictures can get and it's virtually loaded with clichés, some of them taken from Japanese popular culture some from Western sources ... and yet, Zipang is nothing short of great, a decidedly tongue-in-cheek rollercoaster ride through pop culture that uses all of its clichés, from over-ritualized fights to far-out armour and fighting gears to retro futuristic weaponry to one-against-all fighting scenarios to truly exhilarating effect and knows how to play with genre maqinstays to make them look fresh. Add to this wonderful sets, expertly staged action and fast pacing that leaves nothing to be desired and you've got one hell of a movie.

Recommended.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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written by
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Tales to Chill
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