Kibakichi (2004)

Rating: B-

Dir: Tomoo Hariguchi
Star: Ryuji Harada, Miki Tanaka, Mubu Nakayama

Back before the early 17th century, men and monsters lived, more or less in peace; then, when fighting broke out, the monsters withdrew to remote areas. Enter Kibakichi, survivor of a werewolf clan that was all but wiped out when he brought humans to their village. Now he wanders the countryside, alone; but when he finds another haven, it may be time to settle down. Or is history simply going to repeat itself – this time with Armageddon in the shape of automatic weaponry, newly arrived from the West. Actually, it was about another century before the Gatling gun appeared, but it’s pointless to quibble about historical anachronisms in a film where the hero is a werewolf.

And that’s the key issue here; you either buy into the concept, or you don’t – and if it’s the latter, then this film will seem silly or even laughable. Matters aren’t helped by effects which range from the adequate to the laughable. If you’re not used, say, to Japanese monster flicks, where realism isn’t the main goal, what you get here may seem particularly lame. On the other hand, if you can suspend your disbelief, this could work very well, especially in an apocalyptic final third when all hell breaks loose. It’s somewhere between a horror movie, a Western, a samurai picture and a plea for tolerance. There’s no way this should work, and a less scattergun approach might have helped, but it’s doing something different, and enough of it works to make the (obvious) sequel enticing.