Thursday, April 19, 2018

Goemon's Spray of Blood DVD comments

(All rights belong to their owners. Image here from for review purposes only.)

Sigh. Sometimes, the backstory is 20 times longer than whatever it is I want to write about. Anyway, in March, 2017, I posted a blog entry about seeing a poster advertising a new Lupin III movie, saying that this was the one film I actually wanted to see in the theaters. However, a couple days later when I finally had a chance to go see it, it was no longer playing. Entitled, "Chikemuri no Ishikawa Goemon" (The Spray of Blood of Goemon Ishikawa), it looked closer to the original Monkey Punch designs than anything else I've seen recently.

So, a couple weeks later I get a postcard in the mail saying that my Tsutaya rental shop membership was about to expire, but if I brought the card in I'd only have to pay 300 yen ($3 USD) to renew for another year, which would also let me get the first rental free. I walk the 2 miles to the nearest shop, and they have Spray on their shelves already. I grab a handful of movies I want to watch, including Spray, renew my membership, and return to the apartment to binge watch everything.

"The Spray of Blood of Goemon Ishikawa" is amazing. It's billed as "hard-fisted action," and it definitely is that. The artwork is fantastic, the animation is fluid, and the voice acting is almost indistinguishable from the first TV season. The problem is that it's only 30 minutes long, and is just the first half of a two-parter. Meaning that if you saw it in the theaters when it came out, it would have to be paired with another, longer film, or you'd feel really cheated (especially when regular movie tickets are $20 apiece). In the story, Jigen, Lupin and Fujiko target a casino run by an old mafia boss. The boss supports a large gang of highly trained thugs, who are getting fed up with the old man's favorite bodyguard, Goemon. Meanwhile, a massive blond-haired guy on a farm (he looks like something out of Heidi of the Alps) gets a call contracting him to assassinate Lupin. Zenigata gets word that Lupin will be at the casino.

One night, while the casino is packed, Lupin and Jigen infiltrate the place and make their way to the vaults. It looks like they may pull off this heist, until the blond guy (puffing on cigars and riding a massive motorcycle like a cowboy) shows up and starts demolishing the building with a pair of thick, short-handled cleavers. Things end with the gang killing the boss in a coup, blaming Goemon for failing his task of protecting him from the assassin. Goemon is ostracized. He also goes up against the blond, who destroys his katana, smashes him against a wall, and thoroughly demolishes his self-esteem. Lupin, Jigen and Fujiko escape, terrified of the blond. The monster gets surrounded by the police and allows himself to be arrested and locked in a cell. Lupin does a check on the monster, and it seems he's a former soldier that was badly burned in a fire, then rebuilt. His teeth are great big platinum plates. Part 1 ends at an impasse.

Fast forward one year. I've been busy with all the things I've been busy with, and haven't gone back to Tsutaya since then. I get another postcard in the mail, asking me to renew my membership again, and offering another free DVD rental in return. I debate the necessity of having a rental card, and eventually decide, "why not." I return to Tsutaya, locate part 2 of Spray, and go back to the apartment. That night, I pop the DVD in the laptop, and finish watching it. Again, this half is 30 minutes long, and is virtually flawless. Bloody, bloody, bloody, like a Sam Peckinpah flick, and simply amazing. In fact, it's the first DVD in a long time where I watched it again the following day. A little later, I get ready to type up this blog entry, and I'm convinced that I did record my impressions of part one for the blog, but I can't find the original source file anywhere. Either I didn't do the write-up, or I did and lost the file before posting it to the net.

Part 2 starts out with Goemon recovering from his shock at his loss, rebuilding his katana without a handle guard (called the "tsuba"). He then goes out to a rock tower standing in the ocean some distance from shore, and just stands there in "ready to draw the blade" stance, as Fujiko, Jigen and Lupin watch from a safe distance. A gigantic shark leaps from the waves, and cuts a long, deep gash in Goemon's back, but the samurai doesn't react. Fujiko is stunned, and Jigen replies that their friend is suffering from mental trauma and is trying to recondition himself to clear his head out. Fujiko thinks men are stupid and leaves (and is not seen for the rest of the film). Next, Goemon surrounds himself with bonfires, and then stands under a waterfall (a large tree floating down the river goes over the falls and slams into Goemon, nearly killing him). Lastly, he stands in the middle of a castle courtyard and passes out on the third day. Lupin and Jigen give up on him, try hitch hiking home, and are discovered by Zenigata, who arrests them. Turns out, though, the assassin broke out of jail, recovered his cleavers, and left a trail of bodies behind him as he stole a police bike and drove away. Zenigata had managed to locate the guy and shot out the tire of the bike, causing him to fall down a cliff. The monster simply stood back up, grinned maniacally at Zenigata and walked off.

The monster blocks Zenigata's car with a rock fall, and tries to cut his way through the car to get at Lupin. Zenigata shoots at the guy, but he blocks the bullets with one cleaver, and flicks them back, where they hit Zenigata in the leg with the force of a gunshot. Lupin and Jigen escape to a nearby shrine, and are nearly killed by the monster (Lupin gets a wooden stake through his arm). Meanwhile, Goemon staggers up a road, and runs into the mobsters from his last job. They decide to kill him after roughing him up a bit first. As he's laying on the ground, lightning runs through his body to his brain, and he suddenly visualizes how the gangsters are going to attack him. He stands up and gets into his "waiting" pose. The killers are pleased that he's trying to fight back, and they spring on him. There now ensues a blizzard of attacks, and body parts flying all over the place as Goemon kills or disables over twenty people in a few seconds. He gets the new boss to surrender, then makes his way to the shrine.

Goemon intercepts the monster, who initially just tells him to not interfere. Goemon goes into his stance, and the monster attacks. He cuts up Goemon's shoulder, but the samurai puts a deep gash in the back of his left thumb. Goemon gets another electric flash, and in the next attack has a massive slab of upper arm sliced off, while managing to lop off the monster's right arm. Things go a bit farther, and the monster's head goes flying. In fact, the blond guy has just envisioned his own death and scrambles back out of fear. He concedes that Goemon's attack is perfect, tells Lupin that he's cancelling the contract on him, and then pulls out a cigar before leaving. Zenigata limps up and tries to rearrest Lupin and Jigen, but Goemon confronts Zenigata. Zeni tells him to get out of the way, and the samurai growls, "if you're going to kill me, go ahead". Zenigata pulls the trigger, and the last thing we see is Goemon unleashing his katana before the screen goes black. The closing credits include stills of both the main heroes and the lead mobsters, while the ED song is Rob Laufer's "Satori."

Summary: Yeah, lovin' it. Not for the squeamish, though. The parts where the tree trunk goes over the falls and crushes Goemon, and the cleaver slices through his upper arm, had me cringing in sympathy. Both DVDs were marked as part of the 50th anniversary of the release of Monkey Punch's original manga. There seems to be a related DVD pair for Jigen, Daisuke Jigen's Gravestone. I'm going to have to get that next. Highly recommended to those that aren't offended by realistic-looking cartoon gore.

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