eita Amemiya returns to robot territory with
"Mechanical Violator Hakaider", and seems to have learned his
lessons well from his previous efforts. The result is a visually impressive
and entertaining film that will satisfy fans of science fiction and Japanese
cinema. If only the script relied more on its own ideas instead of others,
this could have been a masterpiece.
The film opens with a gang of
treasure hunters getting more than they bargain for when they uncover a
warrior android with a nasty case of amnesia. Unfortunately for our treasure
hunters, finding the android proves to be a huge mistake, as the cybernetic
amnesiac graphically slaughters them before setting off to learn his
identity. His quest takes him to Jesus Town, formerly Jerusalem, now under
the oppressive rule of Girjev and his robotic servant Mikail. After learning
his true purpose, the android fights to free the people of Jesus Town from
their evil ruler.
Keita Amemiya gives us a visually gorgeous film, a veritable feast for the
eyes and a treat for the senses. The film clips by at a rapid rate and never
gives the audience the chance to catch its breath. Amemiya also gives us
unique costuming, with the good characters garbed in black and the evil ones
wearing white. There's also plenty of religious imagery to be found, and
characters sport angel-like wings and statues of Christ and the Virgin Mary
are desecrated. Despite Amemiya's dark vision of Christianity, he never
strays into the realm of the blasphemous, and seems to be instead holding
organized religion accountable for its shortcomings.
The script by Yoshinori Kitase, from an original story by Shotaro
Ishinomori, is fairly good, if a bit unoriginal. We've seen all this
post-apocalyptic shenanigans before, making it seem as if the writers took
the script for "Terminator",
Max", and "Guyver"
and pureed them in a blender, submitting the results to be filmed.
Thankfully the script has some saving graces, offering up decent dialogue
and well-developed characters. Even better are the action sequences,
scripted with enough adrenaline to keep viewers glued to the screen.
As far as the acting is concern, the performances range from excellent to
nondescript. Yasuaki Honda gives a spectacular and weird performance as the
despotic Girjev, and at times seems to be channeling Michael Jackson on his
stranger days. Toshiyuki Kikuchi gives an equally good performance as
Mikail. The character displays great compassion and sadness, yet is capable
of merciless murder. As a result, Mikail becomes one of the most memorable
and conflicted characters in "Hakaider".
Unfortunately the rest of the cast aren't quite as
successful in their portrayals. As the title character, Yuji Kishimoto
delivers a one-note performance. The actor is without a doubt very
good-looking, but he never manages to become more than a pretty face, an
object of obsession for the females in the audience to drool over. The
rest of the cast is serviceable, but never manages to transcend the
Another major plus are the robotic suits, which are very realistic and
appear quite formidable onscreen. This is especially true of Mikail's suit
-- a beautifully rendered and whitish armor. It's the perfect contrast to
Hakaider's battered black suit, and gives a nice visual contrast between
the two characters. Girjev's soldiers are equally well realized, with
white uniforms covering them from head to toe. They have a menacing and
sterile air about them, even if they do resemble the snow troopers from
"Mechanical Violator Hakaider" is a movie that, although
imperfect, is still very well done. An amazingly visual and exciting piece
of work, it's a satisfying way to pass an afternoon, even if you can't
help but wish it was more imaginative and had better performances.