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Moon Over Tao: Makaraga 
Written by: on December 23rd, 2005

Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 1997
Director: Keita Amemiya
Cast: Toshiyuki Nagashima, Hiroshi Abe, Yûko Moriyama, Takashi Ebata, Naomi Enami

DVD released: September 11, 2001
Approximate running time: 96 mins
Aspect Ratio: Letterboxed
Rating: Unrated
Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
DVD Release: Media Blasters
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.99

An alien meteor has fallen to earth in feudal Japan. An evil priest has smelt the crust of the meteor into impossibly strong swords for his bandit followers. A local lord becomes aware of the swords and sends a samurai, Hayate (Abe), to investigate along with a former general now turned monk, Suikyou (Nagashima). The priest refuses to deal with the two and a battle for supremacy begins. This is interrupted when the owners of the meteor, three alien uberbabes, come to retrieve what is left of it something they call the Makaraga. Once blood is spilled, the Makaraga awakes and the whole planet is at risk.

Usually, I am a sucker for a bit of genre mixing – Psychedelic westerns, Shakespearean Samurai films and political erotica, I love it. So I had high expectations of this mixture of science fiction and samurai flick. Added to this is the attraction of gorgeous Aliens kicking stupid men’s backsides – I thought this film would be a winner.

Frankly though it is a mess, a humourless po-faced mess. The production values are excellent and the acting is convincing but the story allows little time for anything approaching human relationships to be portrayed. It is as if the director and scriptwriter are so scared of boring people that a completely new direction must be thrown in every 5 minutes. This would be alright in a well edited, fast moving and butt kicking movie but here the editing is perfunctory, the pace is all over the shop and the fights are crap and slow. Two further difficulties arise in an awful score which turns every piece of action into undramatic mush and CGI to put your teeth on edge. With the computer effects, you find yourself wondering whether it was better to spend time killing this impenetrable monster or just hitting the delete key. Say what you like about men in monster suits waving their arms around going “grrr” but they don’t look quite as unreal as this pointless squiggle.

Also in a film, it is usual to get the audience to want the planet to not be destroyed. This would have entailed portraying some characters that we could care about whereas here we are asked to admire their haircuts rather than their valour. In addition, this film tries to be a metaphor. The Makaraga is a metaphor for the horrible weapons that we say keep the peace in the world but actually could destroy it – dear God won‘t somebody just think of the children!.

Moon Over Tao is a waste of your time unless you like your films to be inhuman and empty spectacles.

The DVD:

This US disc has a reasonable transfer. It does all look a bit like video to me and the letterboxing suggests that this film was made for TV not the cinema.

The sound is very good with atmospheric noise created well and effects noises satisfying. There are dual language options.

The disc carries 4 trailers for other Tokyo Shock releases – Riki Oh, Reborn from Hell 2 and Hakaider

I am not a big fan of Anime or Japanese sci-fi but when it is done well like in Hellevator it can be a thing of beauty. I am surprised if people find any qualities in this film.

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