It's an interesting, if somewhat gimmicky concept: two directors challenge each other to make a movie in a week, using only one set, a limited number of actors, and the same concept: a battle to the death. The two directors were Yukihiko Tsutsumi (who's yet to make much of a splash stateside, though his entry was released on R1 disc last July) and Ryuhei Kitamura, director of Versus and the upcoming Godzilla: Final Wars. Tsutsumi's entry was 2LDK, a story of two actresses having it out in a contemporary condo; Kitamura supplied Aragami, a samurai story of the supernatural.
A wounded samurai on the run from a losing battle finds himself trapped in a remote temple with a man claiming to be Aragami, a demonic creature who lives for fighting. He's also tired of his immortal existence, and hopes that the samurai is the man who finally put an end to his endless, sleepless, ennui.
As might be assumed by its rushed production schedule, Aragami is far more talk than it is action. The two main actors, Takao Osawa and Masaya Kato, are up to the challenge, and what could be endless philosophizing and angst is leavened with Kitamura's humor. Keep reminding yourself that the movie was shot in course of a very grueling week, and you'll be entertained; watch it expecting the scope of Versus or Kitamura's other chambara, Azumi, and you will be inevitably disappointed.
Once you get past all the Media Blasters logos, you can settle down to a nice transfer with solid blacks (and there are lots of shadows in Aragami). The English dub track is very good, though I definitely prefer the original Japanese.
There are many things offered in the Extras section of the disc - the only problem is so many of them are the same. There are no less than five videotaped appearances by Kitamura and his two stars at press conferences, premieres, film festivals, and a tape that ran before the double feature of Aragami and 2LDK.
The Making of Aragami, however, is a nice 45 minute video documentary that features an obviously exhausted Kitamura, some tired, punchy actors, and swords that keep breaking ("Maybe we should have used real metal?")
There are also trailers for the Aragami/2LDK double feature, Versus, Alive, One Missed Call and Deadly Outlaw Rekka.
Dr. Freex, 12/16/2004