Abashiri Family

Japan, 2009
Original title: Abashiri Ikka: The movie

Director: Teruyoshi Ishii
Starring: Erica Tonoka, Mai Endo, Teppei Enomoto, Kenji Goda
IMDB: Not yet rated

The Abashiri Family is a live-action adaptation of the Go Nagai manga. If that name sounds familiar, even to non-manga fans, its because he's a bit of a legend, and so many of his works have been made into movies. For instance Cutie Honey, Devilman, Kekko Kamen, Maboroshi Panty, Mazinger Z and more.

According to Nagai's IMDB bio, it lists his trademark as "Likes to put in as much nudity, sexual and scatological material as he can to see what he can get away with.". Righto! Now that we've established tonal context ...

Unfortunately, this outing is not so perverse ... however it does succeed in continuing his tradition of over-the-top craziness that I've come to love in Japanese cinema.

The Abashiri Family are a nasty bunch of criminals, presided over by their patriarch Daemon. There is Goemon the pervert, Naojiro the cyborg, Kichiza the bomb specialist, and the sexy daughter Kikunosuke (J-idol Erica Tonoka).


They live in an outlaw city at the foot of Mt Fuji called the Nippon Extra-Territory, where they have a long-running feud with a rival crime family. Unbeknownst to the Abashiri's, their rivals have contrived to have them implanted with special 'anti-crime' chips that immobilise them whenever a criminal thought enters their head.

With this advantage, the rival clan hopes to exterminate the Abashiri's once and for all - but it won't be that easy! Both clan partriarchs have magical powers, and the daughters have the obligatory ass-kicking martial arts skills. Throw in some chanbara-style swordplay and you've got all the traditional elements of the modern Japanese live-action flick.

Fans of B-grade J-Mayhem will know not to expect a huge budget, and so it is with this entry. It's obviously low budget and the cheap-ass special effects are especially cheesy. Nonetheless there are also some surprisingly effective scenes.

What this film adds to the mix, is what is so often missing from this kind of fare - laughs. When you've only got a small budget and are going for a b-movie vibe, you need to add one or more of a) Laughs, b) Boobs, or c) Scares. Sorry to say there's no boobs or scares here ... but there are plenty enough laughs to make up for it. This is no doubt helped along by the seasoned acting skills of the two patriarchs, who add a semblance of quality to proceedings.


The eye-candy factor is provided by J-idol Erica Tonoka in her feature debut, and she's as cute as you'd expect. She also gets to wield a katana in her school uniform and get covered in blood - as you probably also expected. What you might not have expected is that she is surprisingly funny, with what seems a natural gift for comedy.

When all is said and done, this is a cheapo b-grade comedy from Japan. But as far as such things go, its a pretty good one. I laughed out loud throughout, and so found it easier to overlook some of the film's shortcomings. If you're in the mood for a bit of light-hearted Japanese madness, I recommend giving it a blast.

Rating: 6/10


Alex said...

This sounds fun! I watched Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl recently and it didn't really do much for me (I didn't find it as funny as it was meant to be, I think, plus I got bored of the hour-long set-up), but this seems like a more interesting low-budget action flick.


Hi Alex ... yeah Vampire Girl didn't resonate with me either. Not exactly sure what was missing, but I suspect it just needed more humour. I was hoping Nishimura would push the envelope on that one, and step things up from Tokyo Gore Police with a little more sophistication. But really he delivered just more of the same, as I alluded to in my review. However, the walking blood systems were pretty cool!

As for this one, well I gave it 6/10 ... which in my book means 'average with some redeeming features', so not exactly a recommendation. And that rating takes into consideration the low-budget genre its working in. However it is often funny and has some good acting (alongside some bad acting and amateurish scenes). Mixed bag really. Vampire Girl is a better film, but Abashiri was more enjoyable.

Ventilation Shaft said...

This review was right on time, because just a few days ago I got this flick, along with Nishimura's latest 'Mutant Girls Squad' and the video-game adaptation 'Dead Rising'. Unfortunately, I haven't checked any of them yet...

But, the screenshots from 'Abashiri Family' look hilarious, indeed. "Goemon, G-class Molester", hahaha! I'm looking forward to the laughs, though I admit of getting kind of tired of all these low budget J-shockers... and yet, I always somehow end up watching them!


I look forward to hearing your thoughts on it VS - not many reviews out there for this one, so will be good to read another opinion.

Anonymous said...

I really like Machine Girl and Tokyo Gore Police but I think they should throw the old school Grindhouse filter on the film. I think it would add to it. Make it look old and dusty like Planet Terror and Black Dynamite. Just my thoughts.



Ninjasound - totally agree. The recent crop of Japanese exploitationers look a bit too clean for the genre they're working in. Adding a bit of 'texture' to them would definitely improve the atmosphere and style.

Although the grindhouse effect might be a little too derivative.

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