Out on patrol, feudal era ninja cool cats Yamata (Masanori Mimoto) and Jinnai (Shuji Kawashibara) and their oafish sidekick Nezumi (Donpei Tsuchihara) spy a strange fiery object falling from the sky. The mysterious spacecraft unleashes an array of bloodthirsty creatures that ravage the local villages, impregnating victims with their slimy offspring. Aided by beautiful but deadly ninja girl Rin (Mika Hijii), the shadow warriors spring into action against the alien invaders.
Cult filmmaker Keita Amemiya pioneered the feudal era science fiction action movie with Moon Over Tao (1997) and Japanese filmmakers have revived the concept several times since, most notably with The Sword of Alexander (2007). With Alien vs. Ninja writer-director-editor Seiji Chiba has produced a slick sci-fi actioner showcasing the Japanese ability to transcend low budgets by means of inventive visuals and energetic action choreography. It is one part ninja adventure, one part sci-fi and eight parts splatter movie, but unlike several po-faced Japanese rubber monsters-and-gore movies of recent times (e.g. Meatball Machine (2005)), boasts lively humour, engaging characters and a welcome lack of misogyny.
The film is heavily influenced by anime and classic superhero fare from the Seventies, e.g. Henshin Ninja Arashi (1972), mixing characters drawn in the classic ninja movie mould (the gung-ho young hero, the vain hipster, and the clownish fat guy) with cartoon slapstick and heroes styled like rock stars. Gorgeous ninja girl Rin is winningly drawn as smart and resourceful and someone who does not take any sexist guff from the boys. She leaps into action with gusto, memorably donning iron boxing gloves for a visceral punch-up with one alien beastie shot in a series of breathlessly bawdy close-ups on bosoms and buttocks suggesting some form of violent interspecies coitus, firmly in the tradition of eroticised ninja stories a la the porno horror anime La Blue Girl (1992), only suggestive rather than explicit. In movies of that ilk, ninja girls submit to sexual degradation to vanquish phallic-tentacled monsters, but Chiba subverts this fetishistic treatment as Rin stabs the alien in the groin then gives him the finger. Take that, space pervert!
Chiba borrows as much from Predator (1987) and Alien (1979) as his grab-bag of J-pop culture influences, but his tongue-in-cheek style aims to amuse rather than gross-out. That is despite extreme splatter scenes including a geyser-like eruption of human body parts and disposable extras stripped down to their skeletons. The alien itself switches between a fairly humdrum designed rubber suit for its slime-slavering close-ups and a hyperactive CGI creation for the wide shots. There are lulls whenever the heroes get stuck debating what to do while Nezumi’s comic shtick grows tired. Attempts to add a few layers to the comic book characters are welcome but half-hearted at best. Nevertheless the eventful climax throws in a mob of alien-controlled zombies that inexplicably chant “fuck you!” in English and a hilarious means of extracting the alien parasites worthy of Itchy and Scratchy, before the riotous final face-off between Yamata and one morphing, sword-slinging alien. The action is fast and furious and there are bucket loads of alien gloop.