Higanjima (2009)


"Kinetic and enormously bloody... Damn entertaining" 

    If you happen to be a fan of anime in the more recent years, Funimation is a name you will probably recognize. Granted, this movie is not  an anime, but a live action movie that for intents and purposes may as well have been rotoscoped to look like an anime, because it certainly feels  like an anime. Of course, it also has vampires, but not your everyday blood suckers either - these seem to be a bit dispelled from to typical "stake in the heart" vampires us westerners are so used to these days.  Well, let's just stop beating around the bush and get into it. 

    There lies in the middle of a Bermuda Triangle like spot of ocean in Japan an island overrun with vampires. Teenager Akira (Hideo Ishiguro) discovers from mysterious stranger Rei (Asami Mizukawa) that his brother Atsushi (Dai Watanabe) is on that island, and the island's name is Higanjima! After a brief tussle with a vampire on some normal Japanese soil, Akira and his group of friends travel to Higanjima to find his brother and (hopefully) bring him home.

   Now, there's a bit of a dual plot going on here, as you have this rescue (and subsequent escape from the island) on the main-front, and you have Atsushi's quest for revenge on the other. As it turns out, his girlfriend used to live on the island and the two went back to get her parent's permission for marriage. This ends up being the undoing of many a person, as while their and visiting an old run-down temple, Atsushi ends up letting loose Miyabi (Kôji Yamamoto) - a vampire with full intents to turn the island into his own personal vampire island.

   The plot seems a bit far fetched, but it's pretty easy to follow (especially considering the two hour long length) and relatively simple so rarely should one find themselves confused by the plot. The same can't necessarily be said about the action - not so much from the action itself, but the generally dark scenes of shooting making it hard to discern just what is going on. That being said, the action itself is pretty fun, with plenty of sword fights and digital blood, and the sword fights in particular are wonderfully done.

"Characters here feel directly pulled from a manga or anime..."

    Characters here feel directly pulled from a manga or anime, each being a very generalized type of person - the tough guy with the leather jacket and hair, the caring girl, the annoying/funny fat kid, the nerd, the main character who starts off useless but ends up being nigh-Neo grades of chosen. It works for what it is, since the entire thing feels like its lifted from an anime, but I can see where this could annoy some people (particularly when two characters will yell each others names for five minutes straight, even after one of them should intents and purposes be dead). The biggest problem with all these characters is the fact that there isn't really any kind of development with them in a more note-worthy ways then Akira suddenly realizing he has ridiculous sword fighting skills and should go save his kidnapped friend - and these kids go through quite a lot while on this island, so you would have thought (especially considering it's labeled as a horror movie) that at least someone in there would come off that island as a "changed man."

   Audio here does its job well as far as music and sound effects, and the music particularly likes to kick up during action - switching over to heavy rock-based and metal music to emphasize. The English dubbing (because sometimes I'm just too lazy to read) did a pretty good job of expressing things  (although I hear that the seriousness towards horror works better with the original Japanese audio) without being too ridiculous. Of course, classic problems arise from the dubbing - such as syncing to the lips - but this is the case with nearly any dubbed over movie.

   Overall, it was an enjoyable watch, and I had fun with it. There was a few moments during its course that I felt the movie was starting to drag on a bit (I remember distinctly looking down at my phone at one point and asking "How long is this?"), but this really only happened once or twice for me. There were also a few other characters (such as the Master) who I would have liked to find out a little bit more about, and at times it almost feels as though it should have been a show instead of a movie (which all ties back into the anime/manga thing). It has fun action, a new spin on vampires (they look a bit like hopping vampires, but act a bit more like intelligent zombies), a decent enough plot, and a couple interesting blood effects in there (camera spatters). 

Higanjima @ IMDB

Higanjima: Escape From Vampire Island (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
Starring Dai Watanabe, Asami Mizukawa, Koji Yamamoto, Hideo Ishiguro, Tomohisa Yuge