It’s always a crapshoot when you put the world of live action film in the hands of an illustrator. It’s not a matter of the talent being there but a matter of whether or not the platform can support the vision. Keita Amemiya is a very talented artist. His character designs and fantasy visuals are the stuff of legend but bringing that to the screen is a very risky maneuver. The budget may not be there but luckily for all of us lowly viewers he somehow successfully captured the enthusiasm. There’s enough money here to get things rolling but his focus on action truly saves the day. Zeiram may not be the balls to the walls fight fest that was originally envisioned but it sure as hell entertains in its fast paced ninety minutes.
A bioengineered fighting machine by the name of Zeiram has escaped whatever spot in the galaxy where it originated. We get a good look at just how efficient it is at what it was designed to do as it makes short work of the guards trying to stop it. Unfortunately for humanity its next stop is Earth. There’s is some hope though, an enormously cute and ridiculously bad ass bounty hunter named Iria and her super intelligent computer Bob take the job of bringing in Zeiram. Let’s just hope it goes off without a hitch….
Iria sets a trap for her bounty once she gets enough power running in the empty warehouse she’s laying up in. She’s built a virtual reality world called The Zone where she’ll teleport Zeiram and take him into custody. It’s basically an alternate version of the area of Japan she has mapped with the necessity of being free from people. It looks to be running smooth when two bumbling electricians come into play, investigating the strange power surge in the supposedly vacant area. The stolen electricity soon becomes of no concern when they accidentally transport themselves into The Zone.
The younger Teppei is accidentally sent in early so when Iria and Kamiya go in he’s already wandered off. Kamiya jumped in as Iria left so she immediately encases him in some sort of crystal prison thing to keep him out of the way. It’s a good call, he’s an annoying goof. Teppei runs into Zeiram and is almost blown away but he manages to scamper off. Before Zeiram can hunt him down and murder his ass, Iria finds her target and the battle begins.
After many attempts, Iria’s weapons prove to be pretty damn useless. Bob warns her against hand to hand combat but never one to listen to her AI partner, Iria dons her battle-suit and brings on the close combat. Zeiram proves to be more than capable of putting up a fight and he has some tricks up his sleeve to boot. Not only does he have a weird porcelain faced snake thing that pops out of his head (we later learn it serves as his mouth) and mutilates with its razor sharp teeth but he also shoots out seed like things that birth weird midget mutant monsters. Fortunately, Iria ain’t no slouch and she manages to capture him in the crystal like prison she placed Kamiya in earlier. Ready for transport, one of the mutant buggers attacks at the most inopportune moments and Iria gets sent back to our reality… leaving the two electricians in an empty version of their world with an imprisoned murder machine.
Of course, Zeiram escapes and Iria finds it difficult to get back to The Zone. This little kink in the plan forces her to count on the two accidental heroes to take down Zeiram or at least survive long enough so she can get back and kick some ass.
Insanely fun every step of the way, Zeiram benefits from a completely likable cast. Yuko Moriyama is excellent and, more importantly, believable as the bad ass bounty hunter. The two humans play off each other quite well and while they may have some annoying traits it never comes off as forced (something I’ve found quite a bit in Asian genre cinema). Their idiocy is mainly thanks to the situation and that’s far more believable than some of the unfathomable idiocy I’ve seen in similar movies. The heroes are all good and well but the true master stroke is Zeima himself. Kind of resembling a madman’s worst nightmare of a penis, he impresses right off the get go. As you probably guessed, he takes more than one form as he takes more damage. The weird mouth appendage creature is also some fine phallic nightmare fuel.
There is definitely a cheap vibe hanging around the air but you’re never allowed to dwell on it thanks to the casting, the fine monster and constant action. It’s worth tracking down and should leave you smiling… and maybe hesitant of penises (but that could just be me). 8/10