"I was thoroughly entertained by Aragami. I relished in all aspects except one. The run time, for a feature length film, was only 70 minutes."
Aragami: The Raging God Of Battle (2003)
Director: Ryuhei Kitamura
Producer: Shinya Kawai, Yuji Ishida, Haruo Umekawa
Cast: Takao Osawa, Masaya Kato, Kanae Uotani, Tak Sakaguchi, Hideo Sakaki
Running Time: 80 min.
Plot: Fleeing from enemies, a wounded samurai passes out in a mysterious temple deep in the mountains. The Samurai awakens, completely healed, only to learn that the temple's host is the goblin Aragami, and that the only way to escape is to destroy him!
Availability: This title is available at HKflix.com
EQUINOX21'S REVIEW: I'd heard about the Duel Project from reading another review on City On Fire. The review was for 2LDK, and it was not very favorable. However, the second part of the project, Aragami, was directed by Ryuhei Kitamura, director of Versus and Azumi, so I figured I'd at least give it a watch. I'm really glad I did.
The project involved two directors each filming a feature length movie, with a set consisting of one room, two characters, a fight, and one survivor. That's what you get with Aragami, and it's pulled off very well. Set in a Buddhist temple in or around the 18th century (it's never specifically stated), the story is of a samurai who carries his friend to safety after they've both been wounded grievously in battle. He wakes to find a man who had tended to his wounds and gives him an offer, an offer he can't (though at first, does) refuse.
The set was amazing. It's a temple of darkly stained wood, with lush colored drapes hanging around the entire thing, and Japanese characters carved into the walls allowing different colored light to permeate through. You simply must see it to fully grasp my meaning, after all a picture is worth a thousand words. I'm not sure what the budget was for the films of the Duel Project, but it looked like a million dollars. It was just superb. It had better be, considering it was the only set you'd see for the entire film.
As for the characters, there were actually five in the entire film. There were the two main characters, the friend that the samurai brings to the temple in the beginning, the woman who lives at the temple and the future challenger. The main characters were the samurai, whose name is never stated, who is challenged by the other character, who calls himself Aragami, the "Raging God of Battle". Since it's a feature length film, and only one set, you know it's got to be rather talky. You can't have fighting going on for the entire film. The parts where they talk work very well, and move the story forward just enough every time so that you get a little glimpse or nugget of information whenever the discussion moves forward. It's paced very well and keeps you interested to see the next step or the next fight.
The fights were very well done. Since this is essentially what the entire film was about, they had to make sure they gave you your money's worth. I'd say they did, at that. You get two distinct styles of fighting. The samurai uses his samurai training and styles, and Aragami uses his godly abilities (and eventually reveals himself to have once been the samurai called Miyamoto Musashi, a household name, even today) and his long sword/short sword combination. Aside from a few close ups, which don't distract from the rest of the fight scenes because there are ample numbers of them, the fights really left me satisfied.
I was thoroughly entertained by Aragami. I relished in all aspects except one. The run time, for a feature length film, was only 70 minutes. Even though it ran very short, it worked well, because they didn't try to drag it out any more than they needed. After all, there is only so much you can do in one room with two speaking characters. Check it out!
EQUINOX21'S RATING: 8/10