There's a bounty out on the head of outlaw samurai Jigoku (Masahiro Takashima), and all the bounty hunters in the land are itching to get their hands on him - and the reward. However, they won't stand up to the finest hunter around, Yuri the Pistol (Narumi Yasuda), so called because of her skill with gunslinging, and she has made it clear that she is determined to bring in Jigoku dead or alive. As this argument is going on, he is having problems of his own with a multitude of warriors launching themselves at him to prevent his latest scheme - as ever, it's gold he and his team are after...
Both an homage to the samurai and swordfighting epics of the past and a look to the future with its more fantastical elements, the breathless pace of Zipang, or Jipangu as it was known in Japanese, won over many converts to a cause that began as all action, then ended up as soppy sentimentality. Written by its director, Kaizo Hayashi, best known for the private eye drama The Most Terrible Time in My Life, this was the film he made before that, and although produced on an obvious low budget he had made the best of what he had.
The best being a slightly tongue-in-cheek approach and a light, almost kidding air to the story with Jigoku an engagingly raffish leading character, as adept with his blade as he is at turning on the charm. In the first sequence we see him in he's showing off by battling an army of killers with a selection of numbered swords, all provided by his willing companions (who seem to stand around doing not very much while their boss is strutting his stuff). This action is typical of the rest of the film, with no real bloodshed and a boundless energy racing across the screen.
What Jigoku and his band are looking for is gold, and their resident map reader thinks he has pinpointed the site of a priceless sword (that is shaped like a cactus, for some reason). They make like Indiana Jones and go tomb-raiding, and after avoiding a few traps they come out the owners of the artefact, a sword so powerful that it can blow things up with one stroke. However, they have awakened a force of nature in the form of a man wearing very little clothes, and not only that but a group of ninjas sent by a God from another dimension are after them too.
What all this is driving towards is a love conquers all message, because when, say, Jigoku claps his eyes on Yuri he likes what he sees and even though she plans to kill him he wins her over and by the finale they are a couple. The King of the Land of Gold, known as Zipang which is in that other dimension, is the spoilsport because he despises love and wants to put a stop to it, especially since the Queen fell for that force of nature chap and has been banished to an ice prison for her emotions. Zipang manages to be surprisingly touching, although if its the swordplay and general Eastern weirdness you're after then you will still be satisfied - don't miss the "elephant" that has nothing to do with the story. Nevertheless, you'll like these characters a lot. Music by Meyna Co.