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1 Ichi 
Written by: on June 9th, 2005

Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 2003
Director: Masato Tanno
Writers: Sakichi Satô, Hideo Yamamoto
Cast: Chisato Amate, Kôji Chihara, Eiki Kitamura, Yuki Oikawa, Nao Omori

DVD released: July 12th, 2005
Approximate running time: 83 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen
Rating: NR
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo
DVD Release: Unearthed Films
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.95

A gang of thugs lead by Dai the best fighter in school terrorize the other kids. Dai becomes increasing more paranoid when he starts to notice that Shiroichi (Nao Omori) has been watching all of his fights. They know each other from another school they both had attended and were expelled from. Shiroichi tries to remain calm with everyone attacking him from all sides as his rage continues to grow until it is unleashed one night when a rival school mistakes Shiroichi as one of Dai’s friends. The next day there is a new kid in school Onizame (Kôji Chihara) who had the pleasure of witnessing Shiroichi’s violent outburst. During his first day at school Onizame quickly establishes himself as the #1 fighter after he beats Dai into submission. Now there is only one person in Onizame’s way Shiroichi who he faces off against in one final chaotic battle.

1 Ichi is based on a popular Manga series created by Hideo Yamamoto. It is also the prequel to Takashi Miike’s hugely successful film Ichi the Killer. Masato Tanno worked as a second unit director and assistant director on several Takashi Miike films including Ichi the Killer before stepping out on his own as a director.

Early on director Masato Tanno would lay the foundation that would vividly reveal the birth of Ichi the Killer. Viusally he assaults the viewers senses from the opening frames with violent action after violent action without any counter balance for the characters actions. This film is surprisingly light when it comes to back-story especially when it comes to getting to know Ichi and his inner workings. Nao Omori once again reprises the role of Ichi and his subdued performance perfectly compliments the characters violent outbursts. It is just too bad that his isn’t allowed to go into greater depth with the Ichi character as they make him through out the film play essentially the same character he played in the previous Ichi film. The films color scheme is subdued when compared to Ichi the Killer, still Masato Tanno manages to keeps things inventive and fresh through out. Another one of the films strongest assets is its sound design that is so powerful at times you literally feel that you’re right there in the action. 1 Ichi is a satisfying prequel that on stands on its merits and on some levels it matches its predecessor Ichi the Killer.

The DVD:

Unearthed Films present 1-Ichi in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the films original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. For a production that was shot on video the flesh tones look healthy and colors look strong. Black levels remain constant and details look sharp through out. There are no problems with compression or edge enhancement. Overall the source material used for this transfer is in great shape as it is virtually flawless and free of artifacts.
This DVD transfer is progressive scan.

There is only one audio option included for this release the films original Japanese language track and it is presented in a Dolby Digital stereo. Dialog crisp and comes through crystal clear. For stereo track the sound mix is impressive as the sound effects and action sequences make full use the mixes sonic field and then some. English subtitles have been included that are easy to follow and understand.

Extras include the films original trailer as well as trailers for other Unearthed films releases like Rock & Rule, Rubber’s Lover and Electric Dragon 80,000 Volts. Rounding out the extras is an interview with Takashi Miike and Masato Tanno that runs about fourteen minutes in length. Both directors discuss the origins of the Ichi character and their film versions of the character. While most of the info is interesting at times the two directors tend to lose focus and drift off into unrelated subjects. Unearthed films have put together another impressive audio/video presentation with their 1-Ichi release. It is too bad that they didn’t assembly more quality extras for this release. 1- Ichi is brutal film that retraces the origins of Shiroichi (Ichi) while matching the intensity of its violent predecessor Ichi the Killer, recommended.

For more information about 1 Ichi visit Unearthed Films here.

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