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Sushi Typhoon – Part 3: Alien vs. Ninja

April 18, 2011

Alien vs. Ninja (Japan, 2010)

“If it bleeds, ninjas can kill it!”

Nikkatsu created their Sushi Typhoon sub-label to produce quality exports only. Director Seiji Chiba caught the drift and delivers the first blow. It’s a storyline go fuck yourself affair worthy of its title.

A decidedly foreigner friendly crowd pleaser, Alien vs. Ninja sets a handful of unlicensed H.R. Giger creatures against metro-sexual ninjas (hair’s fine, all’s fine). The ancient cyber-warriors battle the space bastards with fists, swords, guns, and shuriken.

Unlike the American new wave soft-exploitation films (Machete, etc), the Japanese could only dream of their share of the mainstream audience. Lacking home market and being subtitled abroad, Sushi Typhoon’s films are essentially festival circuit / V-Cinema combos.

The lack of budget shows in Alien vs. Ninja, too – perhaps more than usual. Shot on digital HD it’s not quite the demonstration video for the format. In purely technical sense the visuals tend to look dull to say at least. However, what is lost on tech front is taken back in sheer fun factor. Applause worthy WFT moments come in frequent intervals.

Humor and especially post modernism is always a risky topic. While mostly successful, there are moments in Alien vs. Ninja where a bit more pseudo-seriousness would be in place. A film about aliens and ninjas really doesn’t need to underline its humor factor. It’s not a big issue, though, especially with some fat ninja comedy – dumb enough to make 1980 Hong Kong audiences blush – hammering the viewer’s standards straight to hell.

The action design by Yuji Shimomura (Versus) and Kensuke Sonomura (Hard Revenge Milly: Bloody Battle) on the other hand is pretty much excellent for a low budget film. The battles vary from double-katana swordplay to weapon fights and alien vs. ninja free style fighting. It won’t win coherence awards, but the imagination is there.

CGI is used to moderate extent, but thankfully often for laughs not in the gore shots. The greasy creatures are all men in rubber suits – Yuji Shimomura in a rubber suit to be precise. He takes the beating from the lead cast that includes Masanori Mimoto, Shûji Kashiwabara, and the film’s only female actress, Mika Hijii.

Mimoto and Hijii are both competent action film stars. Mimoto being a former stuntman, he can handle the action on his own. Hijii was the winner of the Action Film Project documentary / reality show some years back, and has been making her living in films and TV series such as Garo ever since.

Director Seiji Chiba, who already directed Hijii in the female ninja pic Nukenin (2009), is Japan’s new low budget period actioner specialist. His resume comes with titles such as Evil Ninja (2010) and Kunoichi – Ninja Girl (2011), starring Rina Takeda of KG and High Kick Girl fame. Perhaps not the most talented storyteller, Alien vs. Ninja provides a suitable battleground for his ninja fantasies.

While no high art, Alien vs. Ninja is an exhilarating high concept turned into a successful movie. It leans a notch too much to the comedic side, and is relatively non-gory compared to the general standards of the new wave Japanese cult cinema, but it does come with just enough poker face to make it genuinely cool. Slightly flawed it may be, Alien vs. Ninja is still one of the most entertaining films of 2010.

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