PSA: Don’t skip school kids, otherwise you’ll fall prey to a zombie horde.
What They Say
When typical Japanese high school student Rika skips school to visit her grandfather, she fails to take into account the fact that his remote village is infested with the living dead. What happens next isn't pretty, but fortunately, Grandpa Ryuhei just happens to be the greatest surgeon ever! Picking up what's left of Rika, he dusts her off and rebuilds her, better than she was, into the ultimate zombie fighter! Now, together with her friends Takashi and Yuji, Rika must take on the monstrous master of carnivorous cadavers: the grand-high lowest of the low, Zombie Boss Glorian! All hell breaks loose as one SERIOUSLY ticked off Japanese schoolgirl takes on the undead in the insane follow up to ATTACK GIRLS' SWIM TEAM VERSUS THE UNDEAD - ZOMBIE HUNTER RIKA!!!
Like all Switchblade Pictures releases to this point, this feature is done only with its original Japanese audio which is in stereo and encoded at 224kbps. Like most of these features, it’s a very basic stereo presentation that doesn’t have all that much of an impact to it. Essentially, it comes down to the simplicity of being able to hear the dialogue without any problems and that’s all it aspires to. It does this job cleanly and without problem so it achieves it well, but it’s certainly not going to be something that you’ll remember.
Originally released in 2008, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is one of the rare ones so far that is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This does help it a fair bit, though it’s still a shot on video type production, by giving it a much cleaner look and one that’s free of the problems we’ve seen on some of the other budget productions that have come over. There’s no serious blocking going on in the backgrounds, no mosquito noise or cross coloration either. Colors look good overall and it avoids any serious general noise as well. Though it doesn’t stand out as a top production, it has a better look and feel than most of what Switchblade has put out and is generally free of any serious issues.
Zombie Hunter Rika has a very neat cover to it with Rika in full color in her clean schoolgirl uniform on the right, sword in hand, while the background is done with a black and pink rough piece that showcases all the various zombies from the film. It’s a really good effect in how the two are meshed together and gives it a bit of an edge even with all of this pink to it. It’s low-budget in a way that works in its favor. It’s definitely a good looking cover that fits in well with the framework that Switchblade Pictures uses for its design. The back cover uses the same kind of style to it with different images along with the rather detailed summary of the plot. There are several shots from the film brought in as well which ratchets up the blood factor. There are a handful of decent shots from the film provided along with the production credits and a simple clean technical grid. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I’m not much of a huge zombie fan, though I’ve seen a fair share of them over the years through different kinds of styles, and have certainly found ones that I enjoy a lot. While the classics are hard to watch since I was never into them, I enjoy a number of modern interpretations, from the comedy-horror side such as Shaun of the Dead to variants like 28 Days Later which is essentially a zombie flick in my mind. Having heard good things about Zombie Hunter Rika, I went in with an open mind and an acknowledgment of the usual kinds of budgets you see in Japanese live action flicks of this particular nature.
The film centers around high school student Rika and her friend Nami who have decided to ditch school for the day to get away from their troubles. Nami is tired of such simple things as only having vegetables for snacks at home since her parents run that kind of store while Rika grumbles loudly about the expectations on her since her parents are all doctors. The only one who would understand her is her grandfather, Ryuhei, but he’s moved off into the countryside these past two years to a small village. Since they’ve already ditched school, they take the bullet train out there so she can see him. What they find upon arriving there however is that the small village has been infested with flesh eating zombies that want to gobble them up as well.
Thankfully, the cute pair find some help from a man who just arrived in town himself. As it turns out, he’s come to help his hot girlfriend Sayaka finish off poisoning Rika’s grandfather as she’s married him for his money and is slowly killing him. Ryuhei is a mess because of dementia and doesn’t even recognize Rika to tell her what a sham is being played out by this less than devious pair. Amusingly, this takes up a fair bit of time – along with the three maids in the household – while the town is obviously being overrun by zombies. While this domestic issue takes place, we see out in the streets three people who have survived so far that are trying to figure out what to do. In a real radical change of pace from zombie films I’m familiar with, you get to see zombies using guns to stop their much faster prey as well as driving cars out to where the surviving humans have congregated. Now that’s impressive zombie brain power.
The majority of Zombie Hunter Rika is fairly typical of the genre. Once we get the main group together, they decide where to go – in this case to the head zombie so they can kill him and return the area to normal – and along the way lots of them die. But there are some rather fun twists brought into this feature. The first is that we have a doctor that was bitten early and converted named Takashi. He’s managed to retain his mind for the most part and has put a grill over his mouth so that it helps him to avoid the need to feed. The other thing that comes into effect is that there is apparently an actual Zombie Hunter outfit out there as a part of the US Army. One of the survivors has videos of it – complete with an American in the role – fighting against zombies. He loses his arm in a battle and that arm eventually ends up on Rika when she loses her, thus giving her the ability to carry on the fight.
The big fun? Everything must be taken care of quickly as once the previous Zombie Hunter died, the US Army set in motion a plan to nuke the location where the Zombie Hunter fell within a certain period of time. And there’s only a few hours left! So the group has to defeat the original zombie of this particular strain in order to set the world right, which includes reviving all those who died along the way, before the entire area simply gets nuked. This flick is kind of all over the map in some ways, but it pulls it all together quite well. With conniving con artists, rock star looking zombies who get women who want to have sex with them, nukes, ancient evils and a reference to Black Jack, it simply does everything right and with style.
Zombie Hunter Rika is a whole lot of fun overall in that kind of near campy way that most zombie movies used to fall into for quite a long time. The Japanese angle on it is amusing with some quirks, including a trio of maids that spend time comparing their breasts sizes by whipping them out. And one of the maids even wears cat ears. It’s like they wanted to pique the interest of several different kinds of fans with this. There’s lots of blood flowing here, plenty of dead and some surprisingly good action sequences as well. Even more surprising is that the lead, a model, never actually strips down and they actually cut her arm of and replace it with a man’s arm. Zombie Hunter Rika has some replay value to it with the amount of things it has in play, but it also has a really good sense of fun as it tries to do some different things. Zombies. Nuke them from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.