Kunoichi: Lady Ninja (1998) Review

"Kunoichi: Lady Ninja" Theatrical Poster

"Kunoichi: Lady Ninja" Theatrical Poster

Director: Hitoshi Ozawa
Writer: Junichi Inoue, Hitoshi Ozawa
Producer: Yoshimi Arai, Tetsuji Hayashi
Cast: Hitoshi Ozawa, Yuko Moriyama, Tomomi Kuribayashi, Kazuki Takeda, Yoshio Shima, Tomoroo Taguchi
Running Time: 105 min.

By Numskull

‘Ninja Magic: Energy Ball!’ A blazing, luminous sphere is conjured out of thin air by one of the Seven Beasts of Katoh, and with a murderous glint in his eyes, he directs it towards the imperiled Hori girls with deadly speed and accuracy!

“But wait! What’s this? It looks like the lovely Okei’s dormant ninja powers have chosen a most opportune moment to awaken!

“‘Ninja Magic: Returning Echo!’ Okei sits up and spreads the pair of sleek legs that her ninja costume, unconcerned with authenticity or practicality, leaves so accommodatingly exposed. As squiggly purple lines clearly intended to represent an irresistible electromagnetic pull or some shit materialize in the air, the villain’s deadly orb is drawn to the source of this new energy! Yes, the Energy Ball is clearly outclassed by the Returning Echo magic emanating from… from… uh… Okei’s… um… well… you know… her… ah… THERE.

“In goes the energy ball, and the brave young ninja’s body becomes host to an orange-sized bulge that threatens to rip her flesh asunder! Driven by forces beyond mortal ken, it makes its way up through her abdomen, her chest, her neck, and finally into her very head itself! OH NO!!! Will Okei’s efforts all be in vain? Will the battlefield become strewn with fragments of her skull, scalp, and brain? Will shiny white stuff burst forth from the head so soon after the meeting of ball and vagina?

“Oh, heavens be praised! The valiant Okei spews the Energy Ball forth from her mouth and sends it hurtling towards her foe, whereupon it explodes in a blinding burst of righteous ninja destruction! The Beast of Katoh dies a horrible death, his carcass falling back to the earth in bloody, smoking chunks! A rousing victory for the Hori forces! Hurrah!!!”

And so forth.

This may sound like grand entertainment. And it is, sort of. The problem is that there isn’t enough of it. Kunoichi: Lady Ninja (the 7th and last film in the Kunoichi series; knowledge of the other six may help but is not required) takes itself too seriously, inserting FX-heavy action scenes like the one described above in between laborious plot and character development scenes, resulting in a ride so uneven it would make even Wong Jing say “Wow, that’s really uneven.” I know this is a jaded Westerner speaking, but it seems to me that if you’re going to do stuff as “out there” as magnetic vaginas and electrocuting nipples, you might as well just go all out and cast off any pretense of seriousness.

This wouldn’t be such a big deal if the story was involving, but seven ninja girls getting into all sorts of trouble until their hitherto unfamiliar magical powers decide to spring to life just didn’t do much for me. I am reminded of another manga adaptation: Riki-Oh, The Story of Ricky, which coasts through an hour and a half or so on its shock value and little else. This is a film best left ignored.

Numskull’s Rating: 5/10

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