"I only hope they don't make an Azumi 3, as one mediocre sequel would be enough for such a great original film."
Azumi 2 (2005)
AKA: Death Or Love
Director: Shusuke Kaneko
Writers: Yoshiaki Kawajiri, Yu Koyama, Mataichiro Yamamoto
Producer: Mataichiro Yamamoto
Cast: Aya Ueto, Yuma Ishigaki, Chiaki Kuriyama, Shun Oguri, Kenichi Endo, Kai Shishido, Eugene Nomura, Tak Sakaguchi, Shoichiro Masumoto, Kenji Takechi, Ai Maeda, Toshie Negishi, Toshiya Nagasawa, Shigeru Koyama, Kazuki Kitamura
Running Time: 102 min.
Plot: Taking place shortly after the end of the first film, "Azumi 2" features the same actress, Aya Ueto, in the title role, this time going up against a corrupt government official (Mikijiro Hira) and his team of trained ninja assassins.
EQUINOX21'S REVIEW: While Azumi 2 wasn't as good as its predecessor, it was still enjoyable. It certainly didn't add anything new or interesting to the samurai-era film genre, and it almost seemed like a simple play off the original's success. The strangest parts were those involving the actors whose characters died in the first film.
Azumi 2 picks up a little while after the end of Azumi, with Azumi and Nagara on the hunt of the last of their targets. They need to kill just one more of the men responsible for the previous war and then their mission will be finished. There are a lot of things that stand in their way, however. There's a group of ninjas that belong to no ninja school, there's a bodyguard looking for revenge (for the killing of Lord Kato at the end of Azumi 1), a spy, some doppelgangers, and just all around large hoards of baddies.
The problems I had with Azumi 2 related to some of the plot points they were trying to implement. There were some characters introduced that were played by actors whose characters were killed off in Azumi 1. For example, there's a Robin Hood-like bandit who looks exactly like Nachi, Azumi's friend that she had to kill in the first film. Everything that revolved around his character lead to Azumi simply looking confused most of the time, instead of yielding emotional situations for her. Her confused looks translated more to boring acting. Boring acting leads to a less quality movie. A less quality movie leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.
There were a few other situations that the characters were thrown into that were painfully predictable. This didn't make them bad, but they weren't surprising and didn't have the impact they should have. The one unpredictable thing about most of the film was the numerous fights and how they'd end. There was one big bad ninja dude who carried a large two bladed sword that he'd throw like a boomerang, exactly like the large stone ninja guy in the anime "Ninja Scroll". Because the character was almost exactly like the one from the anime, I half-expected him to die the same way. Thankfully, he didn't. Neither did the other characters that had big fights. That was nice, but it wasn't enough.
If you see Azumi, you'll probably want to see Azumi 2. I only hope they don't make an Azumi 3, as one mediocre sequel would be enough for such a great original film. After all, her mission is completed (what, did you REALLY expect her to lose?).
EQUINOX21'S RATING: 6/10