Higanjima 彼岸島 (2010)

Higanjima   Higanjima Film Poster

Japanese: 彼岸島

Romaji: Higanjima

Release Date: January 09th, 2010 (Japan)

Running Time: 122 mins.

Director: Kim Tae-Gyun

Writer: Tetsuya Oishi (Screenplay), Koji Matsumoto (Original Manga)

Starring: Hideo Ishiguro, Dai Watanabe, Miori Takimoto, Asami Mizukawa, Koji Yamamoto, Ayako Omura

Based on a manga by Koji Matsumoto, the film starts media res as a terrified man runs through a forest and hides in a temple. Soon, the reason for his terror appears as vampires burst in and begin to torment the poor chap before a masked stranger bursts in using a huge log to obliterate a vampire’s head.

Nothing subtle here then.

Akira Miyamoto (Hideo Ishiguro) is a normal school-boy with a family falling apart due to the disappearance of his older brother Atsushi (Dai Watanabe) and his fiancé’s disappearance. When a mysterious woman tells Akira she knows where Atsushi is, she offers hope of finding him but he is suspicious and recruits his friends to get more information about the woman. Unfortunately, they are attacked by a vampire which the woman eliminates. She reveals more about what has happened to Atsushi and asks Akira to accompany her to the island. Which is inhabited by even more vampires. Akira is determined to find his brother and his friends are determined to protect him.

And so, they head to the island brimming with confidence and looking woefully underprepared. This is a fast moving b-movie and knows it. Once surrounded by a horde of bad-guys one of heroes says, “Guys, there’s something strange about these villagers.”  I couldn’t help but grin.

Directed by Kim Tae-gyun (Volcano High), this is a neat title which ignores subtlety and reality in order to tell a story which can be compared with the recent live-action adaptation of Blood: The Last Vampire but without dire plot and CGI.

Higanjima’s plot is somewhat predictable and the cast of characters are generic manga clichés: lead character who has to battle emotions, weak cheer-leader girl, bad-boy with a good side and a punch perm and so on. The villains are slightly more varied and entertaining with the main antagonist being a camp vampire who devours his scenes.

I’m unfamiliar with the source manga but going the action route is great because the camera work is kinetic making the plentiful bloody action scenes energetic and unpredictable whilst maintaining a great rhythm and frequently getting blood on camera lens.

The film is visually interesting, making great use of the volcanic island it is set on and its WWII bunkers. I found the most interesting thing the film reinforces is the idea that Japan is a chain of islands, some of which might be unknown and mysterious.

The visuals do take a dive when it comes to CGI. Used well throughout the film in creating and enhancing enemies and fights there is a giant beast towards the end which was underwhelming to say the least. But at that point, I had drawn enough entertainment to consider Higanjima a great rental title. The end promises a sequel and I can say that I’d be willing to check it out.

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