Kamogawa Horumo (Battle League Kyoto)

The less you know about this crazy-ass Japanese gem, the more fun it will be.

Starring: Takayuki Yamada, Yoshiyoshi Arakawa, Sei Ashina, Takuya Ishida, Chiaki Kuriyama
Rating: 8/10
Directed By: Katsuhide Motoki
Runtime: 113 minutes

For those of you who aren’t in the know, FantasticFest is 8 days of movie geek heaven. For a certain type of movie geek. The type of movie geek who sits in his seat and says “Alright, show me what you’ve got!”. FantasticFest-ers are oft times looking for shock and awe, and finding it in films that would make your average festival attendees run from the theater, screaming like banshees. And in 2009, we got all of that. In spades.

Kamogawa Horumo was not one of those films. And you should realize that before you read too many reviews of this film. If you’re looking for Tokyo Gore Police levels of violence, insanity, and arterial fountains, then this isn’t the movie you want to find.

Oh, it’s weird. It’s all sorts of weird. What the fuck is going on levels of weirdness. Just not in that way. It’s weird in a way that’s funny and, while it pains me to use this word, cute.

As a new crop of freshmen begin their studies at Kyoto University, several of them are recruited by a social club. The “Order of the Azure Dragons” is a “regular group, the kind you might find absolutely anywhere”. They go rafting, have dinner parties, the beer flows freely; who wouldn’t sign up?

Soon, the new members are being told that, as we all suspected, the Order of the Azure Dragons are not so ordinary. They are being taught a new language and some rather interesting choreography.

Everything that happens after that is best left to an actual viewing of the film. It’s so much more fun when it’s a surprise. Yes, you can find trailers on-line, and yes, there are numerous reviews that will give you a spoilerific synopsis of the film, but where’s the fun in that? Just pop it in, sit back, and enjoy the process. It’s not going to change your world, but it’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun. And isn’t that what it’s all about, really?

Yoshiyoshi Arakawa gives a magnificent performance as the senior Azure Dragon attempting to guide the new generation of recruits into the ancient tradition, and I was blown away by Chiaki Kuriyama, who I’ve decided may just be the Japanese Uma Thurman.

If films like Machine Girl and Tokyo Gore Police are a main course meal for you, think of this as more of a dessert, one that you might even be able to share with your less jaded friends and family for a change. It’s still got all the bat-shit craziness you want from your Japanese cinema.

The film is getting a Japanese DVD release soon.

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