ZIPANG (1990) is a rather strained Japanese costume fantasy about a group of characters seeking a magical golden sword on a journey that takes them to Zipang, a mythical sky kingdom. The main character is Jigoku, a wanted criminal traveling with a band of outlaws. His chief rival is Yuri `the gun,' a female bounty hunter who carries a two-shot pistol. The two eventually fall in love. (The lead actors are Masahiro Takashima and Narumi Yasuda.)
They meet a seemingly primitive man in loin cloth, dubbed `the Prophet,' who originally came from Zipang and was trapped on earth many long years earlier. Up in Zipang is a Princess in white trapped in a white stone hut waiting to be rescued by the Prophet. Jigoku and Yuri find that their destiny is to help the two reunite. But they first must confront an evil ninja with some high-tech weapons.
Director Kaizo Hayashi mixes swordplay, historical drama, slapstick, romantic comedy, fantasy and science fiction, but the film never finds the right tone nor do the story elements ever quite gel. An early battle between Jigoku and the bounty hunters is clearly a parody as Jigoku fights such famous Japanese swordsmen as Zatoichi and Tange Sazen and a famous French swordsman, Cyrano de Bergerac! The whole story of the Princess and the Prophet and the island of Zipang in the sky is not even told until more than half-way into the two-hour film, so for the first half we have no idea where the story's going.
The high technology used in some scenes is amusingly far-fetched. The ninja villain has a pair of binoculars with a zoom lens that takes pictures on a little metal chip that is then transported via guided flying throwing star to the castle of the Ninja's lord who then projects the photos from the chip with some kind of slide projector apparatus. Fans of gimmicky Japanese fantasy will be interested but others may find the movie's charms somewhat fleeting.
Director: Kaizo Hayashi
Writer: Kaizo Hayashi
Masahiro Takashima ... Jigoku Gokurakumaru
Narumi Yasuda ... Teppo Yuri
Mikijiro Hira ... King of Zipang
Haruko Wanibuchi ... Queen
Bengaru ... Kenzo
Shirô Sano ... Bunshichi
Chiyonosuke Azuma ... Ieyasu Tokugawa
Michiru Akiyoshi ... Mawarame
Shu Ken ... Man
Yukio Yamato ... Hanzo Hattori
Release Date:27 January 1990 (Japan)
Also Known As:The Legend of Zipang