Anyone expecting an historical adventure be warned, Goemon is more comic book fantasy than stuffy costume drama. From its Bollywood-style opening to its bloody, 300-inspired CGI climax, director Kazuaki Kiriya‘s follow-up to his glossy sci-fi anime Casshern is like a superior computer game brought to life.
In a hyper-real 16th-century Japan, a Robin Hood-type thief called Goemon steals a box containing evidence linking the death of the country’s ruler Oda Nobunaga to his right-hand man Hideyoshi Toyotomi – a brutal warlord who now governs with a heavy hand. But Goemon is more than a thief, he is one of two highly skilled ninjas who were tutored by Nobunaga. Thus, the stage is set for Goemon to avenge his former master’s death and bring peace back to the land.
The characters are all wonderfully OTT: Goemon looks like a modern-day Japanese rock singer, while the villain Hideyoshi comes across like Max Von Sydow’s Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon. The story is as wild and furious as the action set pieces, combining the campness of Flash with the darkness of 300, mixed with a heavy dose of Assassin’s Creed game playing visuals.
With its cartoon violence and juvenile heroics, Goemon also reminded me of those Stephen Sommers’ Mummy movies with Brendan Fraser, even down to the slang used – in the subtitles, of course. The twists and turns really do come fast and furious, and there is so much going on before your eyes you hardly have time to breathe before another dazzling fight sequence assaults your senses.
The final battle sequence, where our hero Goemon takes on a horde of Imperial stormtroopers in Onibaba demon masks is spectacular, ridiculous, and truly a stand out.
My verdict: What a sight!
Released 23 July in selected cinemas