Have we gotten over being depressed by the dilutive impact flawless CGIs have had on the martial arts universe, a movie realm that had been uniquely ruled by physical capability, gravity, athletic grace and sleight of hand? Like card tricks and sex acts, there’s hardly a point to this internationally beloved genre if the action they display only happened on someone’s hard drive. But the Crouching Tiger demon is loose, and popular—even genre pope Tsui Hark, with his unwatchably gumdroppy Zu Warriors (2001), has gone the way of all-pixels. Ryuhei Kitamura’s Azumi, released in 2003, is a prime sample, a kind of Buffy the Warlord Slayer in which a petite, miniskirted assassin (Japanese pop starlet Aya Ueto) and her friends are commanded by the master to venture out into the CGI world to prevent war by taking down the warmongers. If you’re considering the scenario via Japan’s ubiquitous pedo-porn tendencies, you’re too educated for this exhaustive, manga-based bloodbath, which trails after these angsty teenyboppers on a scorched-fake-earth path through hundreds of growling baddies of every genre size and type. Blood flies like water-park spray (or hangs in the air as animated bloblets), limbs hack off like chicken wings, pubescent thighs flash, and the characters weep sugar tears. If it wasn’t for the gore, it could’ve been an ad for Claritin. As it is, Azumi is the world seen through the bloodshot eyes of Xbox zombies.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 11, 2006