Bushido Man (2013)
After completing his training in the martial art known as The Cosmic Way, a man named Toramaru travels around Japan challenging masters of various styles to a duel. One of the principles of the The Cosmic Way is "to know your enemy you must eat his food", so he also samples the cuisine of each region he visits. The film begins when he returns to his sensei at the end of his travels, and recounts his journey.
I was drawn to BUSHIDO MAN because it has fight choreography by Kensuke Sonomura, who was responsible for the great fight(s) in Hydra recently. He doesn't direct this, but Takanori Tsujimoto probably gave him and his team free reign on the action - of which there are a lot more than in HYDRA.
Each fight showcases a different style, starting with kung fu and then covering styles associated with various classic movies. To defeat the masters of these styles Toramaru must learn something from each of them, to progress towards his goal of becoming the ultimate master of martial arts.
I was pretty sure BUSHIDO MAN was going to have great fights given the cast and crew, but what I didn't expect was that it would also be hilarious! It's quite coy about it at first, playing the first couple of fights straight, but it gradually becomes more absurd until by the end it's not too far off the craziness of a Noboru Iguchi film like The Machine Girl... but still with excellent fights.
It's clearly low budget and sadly doesn't have the benefit of Yoshihiro Nishimura's effects genius, but it does have some talented fighters and a choreographer that knows how to use them. The cast actually includes a number of action choreographers (including Sonomura himself), and they deliver some fast and intricate choreography that only a team of experienced movie fighters could pull off. Each fight is unique and had me gripped to the edge of my seat... well except perhaps one, but I'll let you decide for yourselves which one I mean.
Takanori Tsujimoto also directed the low budget classic Hard Revenge Milly and its sequel, and Miki Mizuno's appearance here is a treat for fans of those.
BUSHIDO MAN is a terrifically fun and creative film, executed with a competence and dedication that overcome its budget limitations. Fans of martial arts action and absurd Japanese comedy should be equally satisfied at the end of it's sub 90 minute runtime. There are also some delicious looking meals if that's your thing!