6 July 2015 | totalovrdose
Too Much Flare, Not Enough Flavor
The Tiger Mask could be compared, in part, to Naked Weapon and The King of Fighters, this B-grade action film using a lot of vibrant colors, produced from computerized animations, to make up for some of the lacking substance in the story. Though themes including greed, power, betrayal, family and loyalty are well produced, the limited plot surrounding the many arena-style fight scenes is hardly enough to draw us deeply or emotionally into the narrative.
The fights are very colorful and have some well executed effects, though obviously do not retain the acute realism of American cinema, yet still effectively accentuate the brutality and power of the confrontations. However, the addendum the feature is short-lived, and is only beginning to get off the ground when it comes to an anti-climatic halt, takes away from the enjoyment the viewer receives. The additional scenes that take place during and after the credits are, furthermore, unable to satisfactorily bring the story to a close, though, as a conciliation, the concluding soundtracks are sure to capture the ears of the audience.
Naoto is a child who grows up in an orphanage suffering economic stresses, the fear of foreclosure only scaffolding the pain he feels from being deprived a loving family. He is especially close to his friend Ruriko, however, all of this changes on a field trip when he is mesmerized by Mr. X (Shao Aikawa), a powerful underworld figure who provides him the opportunity to have his wish, to be courageously strong, fulfilled. As both a father-figure and leader, Mr. X appears with little sentiment or remorse, visualizing the children he acquires as assets alone. Each of the children are trained to be the best warriors imaginable, affording them the opportunity to fight in a tournament for coin. The childhood upbringing that occurs at the secret location, known only as Tiger Cave, could have been shorter, which exhibited occasional repetitiveness.
While there, Yumiko Shaku as Reina (who looks stunning in tight leather) appears as both affectionate matriarch and guardian trainer of those at Tiger Cave, however, her limited dialogue halts the effectiveness of her character. Upon graduating from training, Naoto (Eiji Wentz), who has become friends with fellow fighter Dan (Shinji Rachi), both score at the top of the class, alongside jealous competitor Joe (Katsunobu), whose rage against their adept abilities makes him an unpredictable adversary, this sub-plot being especially well managed.
As Naoto gradually begins to perceive the lifestyle of an arena fighter as less glamorous than originally imagined, he is forced to make a choice upon confronting his past. Happening upon the orphanage he grew up in, he meets his old friend Ruriko (Natsuna). Those who choose to watch this film because of their professional or personal appreciation of Natsuna (let's face it, much like Helen of Troy, her face alone could launch a thousand ships), should be warned that her role is unfortunately miniscule in contrast with other characters. Employed at the orphanage, which has continued to financially struggle, the relationship between her and Naoto is not successfully established, and questions regarding whether they are simply friends, or are harboring romantic feelings, is never explored.
As Naoto grows closer to the orphanage, his sworn loyalty to the Tiger Cave wavers, causing hostile tension to threaten the lives of those closest to him. Despite the effects, many of the film's settings, due to their cramped size and repetitive use, represent the allocated budget, while the occasionally predictable script takes away from the story, which could hardly be described as hugely original (no offense). Although some entertainment can be found in several of the film's fight scenarios, there unfortunately never seems to be enough characterization, depth or plot to effectively immerse us entirely in the experience.