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October 2002                                                SITE MAP   SEARCH
Princess Blade
cast: Hideaki Ito, Yumiko Shaku, Shiro Sano, Yoko Maki, and Yoko Chosokabe

director: Shinsuke Sato

91 minutes (18) 2001
widescreen ratio 16:9
Tartan Asia Extreme DVD Region '0' retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Jeff Young
Princess Blade (aka: Shura Yukihime) is a sci-fi samurai tragedy; based on a manga series and set 500 years in a post-holocaust future. Yuki (Yumiko Shaku) works for a team of assassins that used to be guards of the royal Takemikazuchi house. She learns that the current leader of her gang, Byakurai, was responsible for the death of her mother. When Yuki accuses him of murder, and tries to quit, she becomes the killers' next target. After a fierce battle, reclusive former terrorist bomber Takashi (Hideaki Ito) rescues the injured Yuki. Later, their burgeoning romance is threatened by a visit from Takashi's unforgiving former boss, and the arrival of the Takemikazuchi gang...
   From its opening scenes, where merciless sword-wielding hitmen and women ambush a travelling gangster's car on a rural road, to the horrifying violence of a revenge driven finale, Princess Blade maintains an atmosphere of icy dread and hopelessness. The characters struggle to live and breathe in a bleak future where a bullet train races through the post-industrial wasteland as if it hopes to escape from the cursed graveyard for machinery. The scenario has little room for people and no place at all for true humanity. For Yuki, who finds that she is the rightful heir to Takemikazuchi nobility, it seems as if a painful death is the only way out - unless...
   Unlike the many fantasy flicks made in Hong Kong, this imaginative Japanese adventure is sombre rather than whimsical. Donnie Yen ably choreographs some frenzied martial arts, but stunt wirework on the fighting sequences is admirably restrained, making Princess Blade as much a drama with strong characters that audiences will care about, as a kung fu actioner where you'll simply cheer for the heroine.
   DVD extras: text biographies, film notes by Mark Wyatt, Asia Extreme trailers.