Yakuza Weapon Blu-ray Review
Yakuza Weapon comes to UK Blu-ray with a 1080p resolution, encoded with the AVC codec and framed within a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The disc itself is Region B locked.
It's a surprisingly good image, certainly better than I was expecting. It follows in the path of most lo-fi Japanese cinema these days, having a slightly yellowish, sepia tone to it. The obvious post-processing techniques applied cover up a few contrast issues to some extent but have a knock-on effect on skin tones and colours.
Blacks, in duskier scenes, definitely suck any detail into them, and they never show off much detail anyway, as in lighter scenes they look boosted to inkier levels. There's some crushing in there, but it's not a blight and is usually lost in the whirlwind of action, so Tak's dark ensemble isn't staying still for long.
It's a far more stable image than I had prepared myself for, I expected artefacts and banding to show themselves infrequently, but thankfully they didn't, however chroma noise (likely captured at source) is sporadic and tight lines can wobble a bit. There's even an air of dimensionality to it all, though this flattens quickly in insufficient light. Shadow detail is the area in which these types of films always trip up, lack of adequate (if any) location lighting seems a prime reason. Coupled with an insanely fast shooting schedule results in some shots looking better than others and a few soft shots popping up, lessened by some sharpening.
The majority of scenes hold up well, with better-than-expected delineation and passable contrast. There's some fine detail and through the skewed colour palette some tones, notably primaries like red, can be bold, admittedly thanks to a bit of technical tampering. The colours are more akin to a painting, striking in their artificiality. Intentional blooming adds to this effect.
For budget fare though it's pretty good, and if the measure of a transfer is whether it could look better, I think the answer is probably not.
There is only one audio track: Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.
It's an odd track to rate, it ticks many boxes, but it papers over the cracks by way of volume above all else. It matches the cartoonish elements well, cranking the dial to eleven and leaving it there for the most part.
Voices are clear, but never fly out of the centre speaker with the immediacy and impacting nature you'd want from your shouted Japanese dialogue; there's certainly no stellar “Tetsuooooo”-like moment, even though there are plenty of opportunities for the track to endow us with one. I'll forgive a mix almost anything, but robbing me of quality Sakaguchi shouting glory is not one of them. The centre does its job, but there's little it does to facilitate the invigorating anger on display.
And therein lies the problem of volume over dynamic range, when everything is loud where's the impact coming from? It's an all out audio volley of cannon-fire, without diversity it becomes flat, a potentially deadening assault on your ears. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed this, speaking as someone who generally listens to music via headphones turned up to eardrum bursting levels I’ll never turn down a loud mix, but it's not something you can truly commend it for. A good lossless track should be capable at any level of volume.
There's some dimensionality in the design, effects can move about the soundscape but instances of anything truly discreet or capably tied into the whole are minimal. Effects from the rears make up for their lack of precision by way of volume again, and the LFE certainly makes its presence known. Unfortunately the fronts take the brunt of the weight and this leads to a pretty flat soundsphere.
I feel strangely churlish for complaining - it's clear, and has heft that could be mistaken for vibrancy, and maybe I expected too much, the effects were always going to be telegraphed and lacking finesse but the dialogue and score could have been far more layered, rounded and striking.
It certainly packs a wallop when the bullets fly and madness abounds, but a word to the wise, the BD menu music is even louder still, so don't go lowering the volume prior to diving in if you want the full all-out Yakuza Weapon experience.
Deleted and extended scenes – SD – 6:30
A few interludes and a bit more about Shozo's transformation but were there to be a few more cuts like this the film itself may have fared slightly better.
The making of Yakuza Weapon – SD – 46:20
A very good fly-on-the-wall type running documentary, covering the day-to-day of the production. The good working relationship and humour of those involved with the Sushi Typhoon project (an offshoot of Nikkatsu centred around more extreme cinema) as well as the chemistry between Sakaguchi and Yamaguchi comes across well.
Takuzo's weapon – short film – SD – 15:34
A weird companion piece about Shozo's two underlings, one of whom wants to follow in his boss's footsteps and get “remodelled” with enhanced abilities, and the other, as luck would have it, can perform such a procedure. It's pretty funny, with some mad body-metamorphosis and a Taxi Driver impression thrown in for good measure.
Toki's wedding part 1 – SD – 16:23
Sakaguchi travels back to Kanazawa for his sister's wedding. It's a bit of a strange extra, but those looking for some insight into Tak's familial relationships will get something out of it. Part 2 of the documentary is available on the release of Dead Ball.
The tower of Kurawaki – SD – 5:11
A demo of the supposed 36 assassins that reside in the tower, many obvious lampooning such as “Gladiator” but all with equally weird characteristics like - “Lewd Foreigner” and “Perm Gunman” being two more choice examples. Someone obviously had fun with the dressing up box.
Opening day stage greeting – SD – 5:48
The standard passing of the mic amongst cast and crew in front of an early audience.
Dream Jumbo talk Show – SD – 22:59
Yamaguchi and Sakaguchi are joined by manga legend, and mentor of the late Ken Ishikawa, Go Nagai. The latter is the main draw, his thoughts on Ishikawa and the film are enlightening but his discussion of his own work will be a bonus for fans. Unfortunately the use of white subs on top of the already white Japanese text makes some bits hard to read.
Trailer – SD – 2:25
It's hard not to like a trailer that uses the tagline “Better, Stronger, Bad Ass-ier”.
Isolated music track
In case you wanted to solely enjoy the tunes.
As with the many lo-fi slices of comedic carnage coming out of Japan, Yakuza Weapon contains a good amount of jaw-on-the-floor incredulity, both in terms of its disassociation with reality and its schoolboy humour. There are a couple of great bad taste weapons and deaths in there, and they're delivered to the viewer with just the right amount of hammy acting. It's a bit long and pacing becomes an issue, but there's a real sense of fun surrounding so much of the film that it's almost impossible to feel aggrieved by the way it stumbles from pillar to post.
The disc is pretty solid, the image being the most obvious potential pitfall, being hastily shot on a shoestring and with the now standard look of post-processing applied, it isn't the artefact ridden mess many Japanese splatter releases have proven to be. That doesn't make it a great success, but in relative terms fans should be pretty pleased with it. The audio is capable of potency but often falls flat due to uniform levels and a lack of dimensionality. It fits the material in some ways, and it certainly has no major issues, but for a lossless track it has minimal range. The extras are a resounding success, offering some unique insights and more.
As a package Yakuza Weapon on Blu is one of the best Asian “extreme” releases going, the competition may not be fierce, but this at least can be seen as a respectable addition to your collection.
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