I’m often surprised by the quality of entertainment that falls through my letterbox, but nothing quite prepared me for the day Akira Hirose’s Chanbara Striptease arrived in my mail. From the creators of Chanbara Beauty comes ‘blades, babes and boobs’, which unless I’m very much mistaken is also the official tagline for the movie.
Lili is celebrating her 20th birthday and during the ceremony she is mysteriously transported back in time to a small village in 18th Century Japan. The village is suffering at the hands of an evil geisha and her wicked army of bandits. Lili decides to protect the villagers and the honour of her family by using her skills with a katana and her magical hypnotic breasts. What’s that you say? Maybe we should start again.
The film follows a young woman called Lili, who on her 20th birthday is informed by her grandmother that she will inherit her family’s mystical martial arts technique. During the ceremony she is unexpectedly sent back in time to 18th Century Japan, where she stumbles upon a small village being menaced by an evil geisha and her wicked army of bandits.
One of the locals (Yoichi Matsuda) takes an immediate shine to her, and not just because she gets her breasts out at regular intervals. Apparently she has a nice personality to boot. Lili takes it upon herself to protect the villagers, armed with her sword and the profound knowledge that showing her breasts from time to time will make the world a better place. Let’s be honest here, any guy in the world could have told her that.
There’s a good chance I’ll struggle to write a substantial review here, but then, if you’re looking for substance you’ve rented the wrong movie. Unless of course that substance is flesh. So back to the tagline we go, and the promise of blades, babes and boobs. I’m happy to confirm that there’s plenty of flesh for your pound, courtesy of Sasa Handa, Ryo Akanishi, Lulu Anoa and Mina Asa. Barely a scene goes by without leading lady Lili whipping them out, and she gets some fine support from the head villain of the piece as well.
As for blades, well there’s plenty of action too. It’s not particularly well staged but the actors acquit themselves well enough for a film of this quality. Chanbara Striptease has nothing else going for it, following a familiar pattern from the outset. Exposition, breasts and blades, that's pretty much it. The film clocks in at less than 70 minutes, which means – somewhat fortunately – it never gets tedious. The acting is one-note of course but the characters offer light relief.
Talking of which, in case you were wondering, there are two sex scenes in the movie as well. Pretty much all bases are covered on this one, in a PG 13 kind of way. The innocent nature means that it never quite feels sleazy enough; Chanbara Striptease is relatively tame compared to recent Japanese fare. Perhaps it’s the lack of blood, or maybe it’s the lack of invention, but Chanbara Striptease fails to capitalize on a curvaceous concept. If you’re going to call a film Chanbara Striptease, you might as well drown it in sex, nudity and violence. Your target audience expects it. Having said that, perhaps that’s why they call it teasing.
Akira Hirose has crafted a harmless romp of a movie, which intrigues but never truly satisfies. Young boys might consider it the best film ever made, grown ups will probably compare it to a night with a Block-o-two. A good idea from a distance but up close Chanbara Striptease isn’t all that. AW