Azumi (2003): Breakdown by Rantbo
Gorgeous teenage girl slaughters half of Japan in protest of violence and bloodshed.
Back in 2002, I got really into ordering awesome/fucked-up looking Asian cultish cinema via shady internet sites. Amongst my early finds was Ryûhei Kitamura’s now semi-renowned Japanese samurai zombie shoot ‘em up, VERSUS. Which I thoroughly enjoyed. His film ALIVE came next and then ARAGAMI. A huge sucker for ass-kicking babes, his next film quickly became my favorite as it features one of the all time greatest: AZUMI.
Orphaned as a little girl by the ravages of war, Azumi is taken in by a wondering samurai and along with her 9 newfound “brothers” is raised and taught in the arts of the shinobi assassin. Trained for the sole purpose of finding and killing Japan’s warlords and thus, bringing peace to the country, the story follows the journey of Azumi and her kin as they seek out and destroy two of the land’s three warmongers, their assassins and—their armies.
Let me begin by saying the film looks fantastic. The locations, setting, set-design, costumes, weaponry, Aya Ueto’s ass—it’s all fit to impress and succeeds in doing so. And the cinematography: splendid, albeit a tad overly stylistic. But as I watched this for the first time back in 2003, BEFORE viewing the sense-overloading MATRIX REVOLUTIONS, it was a real exotic feast for the eyes. At the time, I just hadn’t seen things like this:
[flashvideo filename=videos/Azumi.avi.FLV /]
It was fucking cool, man. Still is, in fact. Add to this scene the knowledge that Azumi just spent the last 12 or so minutes cutting and exploding her way through an entire outpost of sword-fodder stuntmen, and you have yourself one kick ass reason to watch the show. Personally, to say I was impressed and entertained would be an understatement. Though, the film is not without it’s faults.
The main issue I have is with the overuse of unbelievable and silly looking wire work and it’s accompanying green-screen. Unlike when it was used in art-house martial arts films like HERO or CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON, the wires add a level of camp to AZUMI that I just didn’t like. The premise of a team of teenage assassins fighting warlords and ninjas was enough. I would have much preferred they took it uber seriously and kept these killers abilities within the Earth’s gravitational standards. Making matters worse, it shows up a lot whenever Saru the Monkey-Face Man is around, and he was already an annoying son-of-a-bitch because, as his name would suggest, he looks, acts and sounds like a monkey.
“Eek-eek, Oh-oo Wa-wa!” and all that nonsense would have been better left to a more Steven Chow style comedy-driven martial arts film. Not to shit on Chow’s parade, I like his work also, but I thought AZUMI was better than that. Or, maybe I’m jaded and just wished it was.
But, gripes aside, AZUMI is a balls-to-the-wall, hack-&-slash extravaganza. It’s fast, dark and sexy. A proverbial steel sword of entertainment, dripping with fan service, shoved right up your fun-hole. If you’re into samurai flicks, 60s westerns, martial arts, revenge tales, hot assertive ass-kicking women, or better yet all of the above—AZUMI is for you. And it only took three years after being made to get Stateside. Which means you won’t even have to order an expensive region 0 copy, like I did back in the day. So what are you waiting for!? Check it out.
[HOW BAD-ASS IS THE MAIN CHARACTER?]
Aya Ueto is Azumi
One of the sexiest characters ever created. And she’s pretty bad-ass too. For verification, one only has to look at the fact that when asked by her master to kill the person closest to her (a fellow student she clearly loved and had known since they were children), in order to sever ties with her emotions and become a killer through-and-through to her soul—she does. And that’s just the beginning of her tale. Azumi goes on to slaughter dozens upon dozens in her fight to end war and suffering. One may see this as hypocritical, but one may also be an effeminate nancy-boy for not first seeing how inherently bad-fucking-ass this character is for being a cold-blooded tornado of death and doe-eyes. Oh, and her music theme is bitchin as well.
[THE BODY COUNT: 300+]
This one’s kinda hard to sort out. But I have some numbers, that I’m sure at least come close.
– Azumi takes out 99. By herself. Check it out, HERE.
– Her band of brothers manage to score another 110+. That’s over 200 for team assassin.
– Two separate groups of bandits collect around another 50, between a village raid and a turncoat fight against one of the warlord’s men in the finale.
– Mogami, a released psychopathic sword-for-hire goes predictably apeshit and wacks 20+ of his own men and takes out one of Azumi’s compadres.
– A bloodthirsty trio of mercenaries, known as the Sajiki Brothers rack up 17.
– Then for added spice, 4 more randos, including Azumi’s mother and two more of Azumi’s fellow fighters.
And this tally doesn’t even include the ocean of bodies from a flashback of Azumi’s master’s:
No way am I going to try and sort that shit out.
[MOST SATISFYING ASS-KICKING & DEATH]
Azumi vs. Mogami
For all intents and purposes, this is the final fight of the film. The second warlord resorts to some dirty tactics to stay alive, but none so nefarious and ill-advised as releasing this nutter from a dank, soiled prison. Obsessed with fighting and killing both skilled opponents and novices, Mogami screams with orgasmic glee when he sees Azumi in action and goes off on a killing spree of his own men out of sheer excitement for the battle to follow. Finally, when all is (literally) dead quiet, these two titans of extermination clash steel and it’s one hellova show.
[DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO]
Translated, his name means Bitchmask Make-up. I dare you to prove otherwise. On top of the effeminate face-paint, Mogami is almost never seen without a single stemmed rose in his hand, which contrasts quite fashionably with his fully white kimono and silky long black hair. He’s like Sephiroth’s gayer twin brother. Which, if you’ve seen Sephiroth, is saying something.
[Editor’s Note: that hand so gingerly cupping Make-Up’s balls, actually belongs to none other than Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima!]
[EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY]
Along their journey, Azumi and her kin meet an entourage of street performers and one of her brothers, Hyuga, takes a liking to one of the female entertainers. He never gets to act on his puppy-dog lust though, as the Sajiki Brothers beat him to the punch, kidnapping the young girl and her three female friends into the woods to make with some surprise sex. Azumi and crew show up in time to stop the penetration… or rather, orifice penetration, as three of the girls are killed by sword, axe and blade.
The one girl they manage to save, Hyuga’s sweetie, having lost her whole family, leaves with Azumi and Hyuga. The trio make plans to abandon their professions and go back to the girl’s home village. BUT, along the way, Hyuga is killed before his new love’s eyes and then the next day the girls are attacked AGAIN, by a completely different group of bandits and get roughed up and slobbered on with pre-rape juices before Azumi is able to save the day. How dare any of us complain about a shitty weekend.
[EPIC MOMENT AND BEST ONE-LINER]
EP-M: Azumi Rambles Into Town…
Mogami: Do you really think someone will come and rescue a dying old man like you—huh, old man?
Azumi’s Master: She’s already here. [Shit explodes…]
…and she eviscerates everything. Azumi almost single-handedly wipes out the entire town’s population with nothing but her sword and cunning—with an assist by some dynamite. But only an assist. For the most part, it’s all Azumi and her skills with the blade. Reminiscent of Yojimbo or Zatoichi, the twist of having a little girl thrash and slash the hurricane of destruction and chaos is inspired and really got my blood pumping.
The Eldest Sajiki Brother: We kill whoever we like…
Azumi: Oh, I see…
[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]
“Learn from Azumi. The strength comes not from muscle, but from speed!”
“An assassin is unable to choose whom to kill. Depending on your mission, sometimes you must kill a child, or a great and respected person. The way of the assassin is to have a mind of steel and to become inhuman.”
[THE CHECKLIST: 16 outta 25]
[X] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor”
[X] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[ ] Crotch Attack
[X] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[ ] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[ ] Factory/Warehouse
[X] Giant Explosion(s)
[X] Heavy Artillery
[X] Improvised Weapon(s)*
[X] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[ ] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[X] Manly Embrace(s)
[ ] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[ ] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[X] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[X] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[X] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[X] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[ ] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[ ] Tis The Season
[X] Torture Sequence(s)
[X] Unnecessary Sequel [Azumi 2: Death Or Love]
[ ] Vehicle Chase(s)
[X] Vigilante Justice
*Azumi uses a rock to kill some fish…
Azumi (2003) © Vitagraph Films, Urban Vision Entertainment and AsiaVision