Azumi? Azu-you, punk!

Most modern Samurai/Ninja flicks tend to follow a similar template, but Azumi takes its inspiration from an unusual manga and peppers the formula with a Power Rangers aesthetic.

Still, does this mix make the kill shot or is Azumi a victory of swords over substance? Hit the jump to find out:

Based on the Japanese comic of the same name, Azumi follows the misadventures of a young orphan girl in feudal Japan who is raised in secret, along with nine other lost children, as an assassin and trained to kill three banished warlords before they can complete their scheme to start a civil war. Azumi walks the line between Samurai and Ninja, killing and ridiculing both, along with a series of ne'er-do-well bandits, along the road to her quarry.

Cue knickers-flashing sword fights against hundreds of extras, which are extremely awesome, but what raises Azumi above trash like BloodRayne are the small moments of contrived pathos. In almost the first scene, our ten orphan assassins are asked to partner up with the person they care about the most... then kill them to prove their determination. Small touches like this and the vaguely-sympathetic nature of the villains add a depth that justifies the exploitation. Like the comic that spawned it, Azumi is a consideration of whether good ends justify bad means, mixed with hot women lopping off limbs and getting blood facials....

This is, of course, the reason we read manga in the first place and it works even better on the big screen; though the film is a little less ruthless and a little more shallow than the source material. Nonetheless, Azumi satisfies at 3am after the pub, but is intelligent enough to be more than a guilty pleasure.

Then the sequel happens and it all goes so very wrong...

With the same cast but a different director, "Azumi 2: Death or Love" retreads all the same ground that the first one did as Azumi and her sidekick try to finish off the last warlord. The sequel offers little the first one didn't, and what it copies it does so cheaply and without flare. The only interesting features are the pre-Battle Royale presence of Chiaki Kuriyama, and some distinctly unusual game-style "bosses", including an invincible, masked gentleman with a boomerang spear and a Ninja version of Spider-man with poisoned webbing... I kid you not....

All of this is rather laughable and done with so little finesse that you'll find yourself wishing the sequel had never happened. See it as a curiosity, but buy yourself a copy of the first Azumi as you'll probably want to watch it over again.

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