Ichi (2008)

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Released 30-Jun-2009

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Menu Animation & Audio
Featurette-Making Of-VFX
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 114:38
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (69:22) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Fumihiko Sori
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Haruka Ayase
Shido Nakamura
Yōsuke Kubozuka
Takao Osawa
Case Amaray Variant
RPI ? Music Michael Edwards
Lisa Gerrard


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Japanese dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    This new take on the classic samurai fare of the 1960s and 1970s is based on the Zatoichi franchise and has been re-tooled for a new generation of fans by director Fumihiko Sori of animated features Appleseed and Vexille.

    Equally gorgeous as she is deadly, Ichi (Haruka Ayase) is a wandering "goze"; a homeless blind musician who begs from door to door, wandering village to village. It is customary for such outcasts to group together for safety, blind women in particular, however Ichi was exiled from her troupe after sleeping with a man, an experience she has taken in her stride. On her own now, she's searching high and low for the father-figure who taught her how to wield a sword. Happening upon the town of Bito, she befriends a young street kid and learns of a local festival approaching, the main act of which is a blind swordsman fitting the description of the man for whom she is searching.

    As you would expect for a woman of her beauty and skill, there are numerous times in the course of her quest where she needs to do away with brigands, thieves and lecherous low-lifes in an extremely bloody fashion, and this soon catches the attention of the local gang-leader, Banki. A ruffian representing the antithesis of our heroine, Banki is a cruel scoundrel with a hideous facial disfigurement and an ego only eclipsed by the body count he leaves in his wake. He hints that he knows of a blind swordsman with a very similar style to hers, so perhaps this Banki guy holds the clues Ichi is searching for?

    As great as it may seem in summary, this is sadly a very hit-and-miss affair. Performances feel somewhat forced, even hammy at times and I couldn't help but notice a number of glaring, awkward holes in the plot. It could be said that this may be intentional, keeping in the 'spirit' of the films Ichi is paying homage to, but what rescues this film from b-grade doom is pure style; an outstanding atmosphere thanks mostly to the brilliant soundtrack score by Lisa Gerrard (Gladiator, Dead Can Dance) and the stunningly beautiful cinematography. Also worth a mention is the design; amazingly detailed and as authentic as any great samurai film you would care to name. It's a shame they couldn't seem to get it all together.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This video transfer is true to the film's theatrical exhibition; presented in an 1.85:1 aspect, complete with 16x9 enhancement.

    The image is sharp and clear throughout, with excellent shadow detail. I wasn't able to detect any annoying NTSC to PAL conversion artefacts in the slightest, which has been a common flaw in titles such as these in the past. Colours are rich and lifelike, although the film has undergone significant colour grading, which is explained in the extra features.

    MPEG compression glitches are nowhere to be seen, as are film artefacts. A slight grain is visible at times during softer scenes, however this is easily discountable as part of the film's style and charm.

    An English subtitle stream is included of course, with yellow titles for dialogue and white text for translations of signs and Japanese characters that appear on screen. The subtitles are well written and easy to read.

    This disc is dual layered (DVD9 formatted), with a break placed during the feature. I didn't notice the layer break at all on my equipment.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are two soundtracks included, both of which are in the film's original Japanese language. The default soundtrack is Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s), while the alternate dts 5.1 (768Kb/s) may be selected on the fly or from the setup menu.

    The dialogue is crisp, clear and natural, and perfectly in sync.

    Surround channel activity is conservative at best. During your average day-to-day scenes the mix is predominately frontal, while the surrounds spring to life during fight scenes with swoops, slashes and the like. The superb soundtrack score by Lisa Gerrard is also mixed in an enveloping fashion, with orchestrations and light percussion spilling to the rear channels from time to time.

    In comparing the two soundtracks, I found little to separate the dts from the Dolby aside from a slightly brighter tone present in the dts option. Both soundtracks are great regardless, so which one you choose will likely come down to personal preference.

    The subwoofer, like the surround activity, is used very subtly to accentuate the odd thud here and there, as well as to build tension in the appropriate places.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    This a good range of extra material, most presented with 16x9 enhancement and English subtitles where necessary.

Making-of (14:43)

    With commentary from an unintroduced voice, whom I presume to be the Director, we're guided through many of the film's special effects sequences. CG effects were used for all manner of reasons, from fixing an actor's hairline or complexion to erasing distant power lines in a shot. All of the film's blood is computer generated as well, which proved challenging when trying to time effects with camera movements.

Theatrical Trailer (1:47)   

    Deceptively dramatic, this trailer may have been made to pull in the female audience. It's not 16x9 enhanced.

Madman Trailers

    Trailers are included for four other Madman titles; 13: Game Of Death, the hilarious Tokyo Zombie, Sword of Alexander and Zatoichi The Outlaw.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 2 Japanese releases from Geneon are available in a number of different editions, including Blu-ray. I'll stick to the DVD versions for the purpose of this comparison. The Japanese premium edition is housed in a deluxe package with booklet and two bonus discs of extras, including cast & crew commentaries, deleted scenes, making-of, VFX documentary, press conferences, trailers, TV spots and music videos (no English subtitles included). The standard edition lists the same special features as our Region 4 disc, but does not seem to include English subtitles either.

    For English speakers, it's obviously hard to go past the local release.

Summary

    Ichi is a great piece of samurai action, in the tradition of the classic Zatoichi series.

    The video transfer is true to the film's theatrical exhibition, and is reproduced well on DVD.

    The audio transfer includes two surround options, one of which is dts encoded.

    The extras are interesting and relevant to the film.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3910, using HDMI output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector, Screen Technics Cinemasnap 96" (16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-3806 (7.1 Channels)
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora III floor-standing Mains and Surrounds. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Center. Mirage 10 inch powered sub.

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