OneChanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers (2008)

In the post-apocalyptic future, zombies roam the Earth, Japanese women are either scantily clad bad asses or barely able to function with seemingly no in-between state, and there is still plenty of blond hair dye to keep your style sense fresh. All because a corporate scientist really wanted to play God. Thanks, science!

Aya is a bikini-clad woman with a cowboy hat, a katana, and a mission to find her killer swordswoman sister Saki. Yes, this is based on a video game, and you’ll soon be able to tell the quality that went into this. She’s followed around by the cowardly Katsuji, whose antics are for comic relief. While fending off a super zombie who has The Terminator-vision, they come across Reiko, a mom who lost her daughter to the zombies and has since become a leather bustier-clad biker with an infinite ammo shotgun that fires 9mm rounds. Reiko is after the evil Dr. Sugita, a mad scientist who created the zombie plague and models his personal look off of Bob Hoskins. Since Saki is working for Dr. Sugita, Aya and Katsuji decide to team up with Reiko to take down the dastardly doc and his army of undead. Along the way, they face grief, search for food, and discover the meaning of friendship. Truly, this movie has something for everyone.

It even has throwback title credits that feel like something from a 1990s TV show. As the first zombie appeared, I wasn’t sure if I had inadvertently started up an episode of Highlander, only to then see the low budget CG bullets fly; in that moment, I realized the Highlander tv series had a bigger budget. But that’s ok, because then a bunch of people get killed by zombies, and we learn that ponchos are apparently bullet proof and the best possible option for covering up your fur-lined bikini. This is followed by more CG blood spray as Aya reenacts moves from the OneeChanbara video game series, and I question why I am watching a scantily clad lady with a sword do a bad rendition of a non-speaking Clint Eastwood. And this isn’t the worst that it gets.

No, it gets worse than seeing the evil mad scientist’s fur-lined autopsy table, which seems like a terrible idea to conduct surgery on. It gets worse than watching Reiko keep firing pistol ammo out of her double-barrel shotgun over and over again without ever needing to reload. It even gets worse than when Katsuji’s zombie sister shows up and does a bad impression of undead Gogo from Kill Bill: Volume 1. Yeah, someone’s a Tarantino fan, folks.

No, the worst is seeing the characters have to face their own life problems up close all over again. Katsuji has to face his undead sister, whom he abandoned out of fear to her doom. Reiko must face the death of yet another little girl, one who reminds her of her dead daughter. And Aya must face her sister, who happens to have murdered her father and caused her to stop smiling and adopt summer beach fashion despite its total lack of appropriateness. I could make fun of the movie for forcing the characters to relive their worst moments, but honestly? Considering how ridiculous everything else is, this actually gave an opportunity for a cartoonish train wreck of a film to have some emotional honesty, and the actors run with it to the best of their abilities.

In particular, Manami Hashimoto stands out as the gun-toting Reiko, a character she manages to infuse with both the ability to kick ass but also actually feel something and express it. In the moments where she has to deal with the loss of yet another little girl, she goes all in, and it’s the best performance in a film where characters are literally chewing on each other just as much as they are the scenery. It’s not surprising to me that Hashimoto was able to use this as a jumping off point into what is now an established acting career.

Of course, all the female leads are gravure idols or would become them later. These models are generally non-nude but appear in sexually suggestive and provocative ways in men’s magazines, DVDs, and other forms of media. Of course, the point is not overt seductiveness but instead some level of innocence, and while some gravure idols do transition into more adult work, many others move on to become actresses, singers, or both. That’s not to say there isn’t nudity in the film from nameless side characters. With the inclusion of a sex scene, the low budget and cheap lighting make it feel like a wannabe softcore porno. Considering Japanese organized crime is involved in the country’s porn industry, I wonder how many Yakuza it takes to make a movie about wearing bikinis while killing zombies.

A question I am left with though as I watch this film is what was the poncho budget? Seriously, half the zombies in the film wear them, from the very beginning to a massive horde in the third act, as well as our leading lady. Why do ponchos make for tougher heroes and villains, and how much money did they spend on getting the hundreds or so they needed to make this movie? Also, why does Dr. Sugita make his zombies wear ponchos? For a movie in which a woman rocks a cowboy hat and bikini, the poncho thing is actually the biggest fashion question I have. Sure, I want to know what the deal is with the bikini, but…rain slickers? Seriously? Just, why? Do zombies get worse when they’re wet? At least they’re not in heels, which is how our leading ladies get around after the end of the world.

In the end, the film comes to a final duel, complete with wailing ’90s guitar and lots of ridiculous wirework. And then the video game shit takes over, and what was already a bizarre movie goes completely beyond the top, then looks down at the top from orbit and spits on it. There are purple tornadoes, teleportation tricks, and more CG fireworks than a virtual representation of the 4th of July in Washington, D.C.

Do you want something to spring on friends at a party with no explanation? Yeah, here you go.

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