PictureIchi comes presented with a superior 1080p High Definition video rendition in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of widescreen 1.85:1. Detail is exceptionally good, allowing for every facial imperfection, or environmental nuance, to become noticeable whilst watching the movie - allowing it a level of realism seldom encountered on anything but the best discs. Following on from that, it should be noted that this is far from a Big Screen Blockbuster production, so the video quality is rather remarkable considering this, and often even shows up the budgetary restraints and defects in the period settings and costumes that you would associate with this kind of film. The colour scheme is also represented well, a surprisingly diverse palette is on offer and the colours across this range are given the best possible presentation, up to and including the glaringly obvious CGI blood (which is made all the more apparent by the power of High Def). Black levels are strong and allow for superior shadowing, and grain is kept to a bare minimum. Although the material does not offer enough to justify either a perfect score, or to justify your using this disc to show off your equipment with (there is simply no real 3D pop here), it is nonetheless an excellent presentation.
SoundOn the aural front things are pretty decent with the original language Japanese Dolby TrueHD track, which prioritises dialogue whenever necessary, allowing it to come across clearly and coherently throughout. The effects - largely slashes and clashes of samurai blades - bring the action to life, and allow the surrounds to serve some purpose. The score is fairly uninspired, but gets the job done, and gets reasonable enough presentation by the track. Overall this is a decent enough rendition of a decent enough soundtrack, unexceptional on any level, but not in the least bit objectionable either. There is an English dub, but I stay clear of those because they never do foreign films justice, and the English subtitles are more than adequate to carry you through the movie.
ExtrasFirst up there is a chunky Making-Of Documentary that runs at a feature-length level, clocking in at 75 minutes. Quite a special addition really for a film like this, it is made yet more unusual by its approach to showing us the making of this movie - taking us through pivotal scenes across the narrative. It presents a crude before-and-after vision for each scene, utilising cast and crew interview and background footage to explain the filmmaking process. Whilst this may be a bit too long for casual viewers to sit through, fans will lap up this comprehensive offering.
In addition to the massive Making-Of we get a 15 minute Visual Effects Featurette looking at the various CGI uses across the movie. Most of the effects are of the blood-spatter nature, although it is nice to check out the other instances of CG used. A nice companion-piece to the main Documentary.
We get over a quarter of an hour of Deleted Footage, most of which comes with compulsory Commentary from the Director. Whilst he does not talk over all of the dialogue - and lets some of the new stuff play out - almost every scene contains only a marginally extended bit, and it feels like he is building them all up to be far more extensive that they are. Basically this is 17 minutes of extra footage, 14 minutes of which is footage we've already seen in the final film, split over a dozen difference scenes, each with just a few seconds of extra material on them. It is truly insignificant, poor quality b-roll footage barely deserving of a skimming through, and it is a shame as the commentary is very interesting and informative - it just does not feel like footage that warrants such comprehensive inspection. Perhaps if some of the material had been incorporated into a finished film, it would have come across as a more well-rounded affair, but taken as a standalone offering, this deleted footage is distinctly watch-once stuff.
The Press Interview gives us 20 minutes of the Director and a couple of cast members discussing the movie prior to three premiere showings, after which we get a ten minute interview with the Director and Haruka Ayase, who chat about some of the ideas that they were trying to put across in the narrative.
The disc is rounded out with a bunch of Trailers for this movie and others by the same Studio.
VerdictIchi was not quite what I was expecting. It is difficult to top Takeshi Kitano's outstanding interpretation of the classic Zatoichi character, and so I was expecting this new take - with the novel twist of having a female central protagonist - to fail on several levels, but the end result is remarkably engaging. It may have a few flaws - mostly stemming from what seems to be production value issues - but if you can overlook these, it is an undeniably enjoyable samurai flick with a top notch performance by the gorgeous Haruka Ayase. On Blu-ray we get decent enough video and audio, as well as a hefty selection of solid extras. Fans of the Zatoichi character should definitely check it out, and newcomers could do worse than to check out this punchy addition to the limited array of female-lead action adventures.
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