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To help them achieve their goal of taking over the world, a megalomaniac Japanese businessman and his son recruit a vicious gang of Geisha assassins. These include two feisty sisters with an amazing range of surgically added weapons.
For more about RoboGeisha and the RoboGeisha Blu-ray release, see RoboGeisha Blu-ray Review published by Dustin Somner on January 15, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Asami, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Naoto Takenaka
Director: Noboru Iguchi
» See full cast & crew
RoboGeisha Blu-ray Review
Cyborg Geisha's make terrific assassins...
Reviewed by Dustin Somner, January 15, 2011
It can sometimes take a strong stomach and a profound leap of faith to jump into the film productions of a different culture. In America, we assume our various forms of mainstream media fit within a certain set of established boundaries that cannot or will not be stretched by the heavy-hitting Hollywood studios. Sure, we may find the occasional outlier such as Lloyd Kaufman's Troma Entertainment, who which finances and distributes independent b-grade films full of shocking gore and outlandish humor, but such studios rarely attract more than a cult following of non-conformists. What we quickly learn when we turn our attention to the non-domestic market is how varied cultural acceptance can be. For instance, how many businessmen would you expect to find on your local transit system playing a handheld video game system, or reading what we would label a comic book? Likewise, how many adults in the USA would feel even remotely secure discussing the latest television cartoon series around the workplace water cooler, unless they're referring to their child's fascination with "Dora the Explorer"? In Japan, the comic book I'm referring to is known as manga, and the cartoon I mentioned is anime, but my point still remains valid. What's often embraced in one culture could be deemed quite foreign to another, leaving members of both populations to ponder why such trivial questions are relevant in the first place. Having said all of that, we can proceed with the reason you're here in the first place - to find out more about this strange little film known as RoboGeisha, and determine if you're one of the few film collectors that might find such entertainment intriguing.
Yoshie never considered herself worthy of a life as a Geisha, always playing second fiddle to her beautiful older sister Kikue. However, one day while observing her sister entertain a dashing young businessman named Hikaru, Yoshie mistakenly makes her presence known, embarrassing her older sister in the middle of a performance. Enraged by the interruption, her sister delivers a verbal and physical beating, eventually unleashing a hidden rage within Yoshie. Intrigued by such a strong spirit, Hikaru invites the two sisters to his father's steel manufacturing plant, where he reveals his collection of kidnapped warrior Geisha who act as political assassins in protection of the corporation's interests. Initially reluctant to assimilate into this warrior elite, the longstanding rivalry between the two sisters soon takes hold, leading to an ever-increasing accumulation of mechanical weaponry in place of their normal body parts. This see-saw competition for the top honor of number one assassin continues until both sisters discover the true plans of the corporation, which include the annihilation of Japan and the formation of their own sovereign command. Now it's up to the two mechanically enhanced Geisha's to stop the wild aspirations of Hikaru, and save Japan from the evil Kageno Steel Company.
RoboGeisha follows in the footsteps of such films as Machine Girl and Tokyo Gore Police, delivering equal parts gore, goofball comedy, and over-the-top action. Those of you with little exposure to this growing genre in Japanese filmmaking will undoubtedly stumble through the first half hour or so, struggling to pin down the goal of such entertainment - while those with an affinity for the outrageous antics that define such a genre will feel right at home. In fact, I'd wager you could show this film to an audience of 100 people, and come away with 50 who loved it (granted that may be a generous estimate), and fifty that hate it. Out of the half that hated it, at least thirty walked out before the end credits rolled, while the remaining twenty stayed for the sole purpose of acquiring ammunition in their argument against the creation of these films. What this all translates into is an acknowledgment that there's little middle ground to be found with a film like RoboGeisha, which makes a review of such content a bit sticky. If I endorse the film and deliver a glowing report, a healthy number of readers will conclude I've lost my mind and discount every opinion I offer going forward. As sad as that could be for me personally, the opposite reaction would elicit an identical response from the other camp. After all, how can one not find it at least slightly hilarious to watch Geisha's fight using swords that protrude from their rear ends, or Gatling guns implanted on their chests? Taking such a film even remotely serious will earn you a pretentious label among your peers, and reveal a level of detachment that nearly negates any resulting opinion of the production. Since neither result sounds appealing to me, the best way to approach this review is from the elusive middle-ground perspective.
Beginning with the positives, RoboGeisha is pure insanity, unspoiled by the parameters of what's acceptable to the masses, yet restrained enough to remain harmless. Compared with other productions in this vein, the level of gore and/or perverse fighting techniques is subdued to a degree that allows the comedy to shine through, making it more approachable to the masses. I'm sure this will disappoint some of the hardcore cult followers of Japanese cinema, but coming from the perspective of someone who's more easily repulsed by films such as Samurai Princess (a truly awful gore-fest with no redeeming qualities whatsoever), I found RoboGeisha surprisingly enjoyable. Granted the film has moments when it flirts with tasteless antics or incorporates gags that go a bit too far, but viewers with an interest in films of this sort can hardly complain when a film does exactly what is purports to do. In other words, if you're squeamish, easily offended, or lack the ability to tap into your immature side, this probably isn't the production for you.
Although any mention of downsides on a film that never takes itself serious in the first place can seem a bit redundant, I need to mention of couple of items worth your consideration. First, this is an extremely low-budget affair, with a production cost estimated at a paltry $250,000. What this translates into is an end product that contains shoddy CGI, paper-thin sets, and performances that aren't always convincing. To a certain extent, these elements are simply a part of the quirky (yet endearing) nature of the film, but considering this is a site dedicated to the review of high definition entertainment, it takes some willpower to remain forgiving. The second minor issue worth mentioning has to do with some pacing issues around the midpoint of the film, when Yoshie ends up among a group of individuals hell-bent on taking down the steel manufacturing plant. This entire plotline feels unnecessary and tacked on (yet accounts for almost half of the story), adding precious little to the plight of the two Geisha siblings. Though these minor quibbles will sound a touch on the nitpicky side, they transcend the normal debate regarding what is or isn't tasteless in this line of entertainment, and focus solely on the merits of the film itself. I'm sure readers could debate the pros and cons of nearly every aspect of such a polarizing film, but I'll leave that for the forums on this site.
RoboGeisha Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in 1080p utilizing the AVC codec (at an average bitrate of 15Mbps), RoboGeisha looks surprisingly clean in its transition to high definition. Nobody ever expected a film with such a low budget to reach demo-worthy heights, so perhaps my enthusiasm should be tempered by an acknowledgement of my low expectations at the outset, but even with the inexpensive sets and awkwardly incorporated CG effects, the film retains a level of clarity that falls in the above average range. Likewise, the use of color throughout the film is quite vibrant, bringing out the crimson tones of Yoshie's cloak, while subsequently delivering skin tones that never veer away from a naturalistic palette. The depth of the image is further enhanced by spot-on contrast differentiation, which highlights such things as the reflection of light on a blade (see screenshot #1), or the subtleties of background props during low-light sequences (see screenshot #2). This wouldn't be possible without precise black level depth, allowing shade variation more room to work within each shot. All in all, this is proficient visual presentation courtesy of FUNimation, further demonstrating the potential for low budget films to impress in high definition.
RoboGeisha Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Although the technical merits of the visual presentation emerged victorious, the same can't be said of the audio offerings on the disc. I'm sure FUNimation did everything they could given what they have to work with, but when you have front heavy sound design on the native track, there's not much a lossless upgrade can do. Sticking with the Japanese mix, we get reasonable clarity and volume balance, but there's a great deal missing in the immersion department. This is a zany movie to its core, but when the audio is this subdued, it honestly feels as if you're missing a key component in the overall equation. Matters improve somewhat on the English 5.1 track, but unlike the dubbed presentation of anime, live-action films are difficult to stomach without the voice-acting of the original actors. Lip movements don't blend seamlessly with the spoken words, dialog has a tendency to lose a fraction of the intended message (a by-product of translation), and it's just plain difficult to put an English spin on a production this culturally defined. Don't get me wrong, the English dub certainly delivers the sense of immersion that's missing in the Japanese offering, but it still felt like I was choosing between the lesser of two evils. In the end, both audio tracks remain serviceable from a technical standpoint, but remain far from ideal in comparison with the best Blu-ray has to offer.
RoboGeisha Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
RoboGeisha Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Offering a recommendation on RoboGeisha is like telling someone they're bound to enjoy raw eel. Many people will despise it, a few may feel ambivalent, and the remaining ragtag group will somehow find it the most delicious thing they've ever tasted. I fall among the ambivalent crowd – resistant to the hatred of the masses, yet unwilling to endorse the production as anything more than an adult-oriented version of "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers". Such films certainly deserve a place among the international community (especially given the cultural dichotomy I described in the opening section of this review), but at the end of the day we can still call it what it is – mindless, goofy, ridiculous, incomprehensible, and a bit off-putting.
RoboGeisha Blu-ray, News and Updates
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