Japan’s first martial art film to focus on the Korean art of Taekwondo is quite interesting and may have some farfetched elements, but overall not a bad film.
Tatsuo is a former national champion in Taekwondo and runs a small dojang. However, as he gears up for retirement, he has decided to give the dojang to his son Toshimichi if he can win the upcoming national championship. As Toshimichi competes and eventually wins the tournament, he is advised to begin more training for the next tournament. Along with good friend Ishiba and two others, Toshimichi heads en route to training when they are caught in an accident.
Upon awakening, the group soon finds themselves under attack by various opponents. Meanwhile, Shinpei, Toshimichi’s older brother was to have inherited the dojang, but instead he ended up leaving and working as a low level gangster. As Shinpei deals with his actions, Toshimichi has learned that he is now facing the ultimate challenge, one in which his soul is the prize. Will these two brothers be able to keep their spirits intact all for the love of their martial art?
This shot-on-video martial arts action film is the first Japanese film to focus on the martial art of Taekwondo. The Japanese branch of the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) gave their full support to the film under the direction and screenplay by Hideyuki Katsuki. While a straight out story about a family involved in the art would have been good enough, considering this is Japan, there has to be a little twist to the story and the film is more about the spirit of the art.
The film can be said to be a tokukatsu fan’s dream due to its core cast. Kamen Rider Decade’s Masahiro Inoue makes the most impact as his character Toshimichi must deal with following in his father’s footsteps to not only become a champion, but the pressure to run the family dojang makes Toshimichi question what he must do. While Inoue must rely on his skills to keep his spirit, the other “spirit” comes in the form of Ryoma Baba’s Shinpei. The Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters’ Blue Ranger plays the elder brother who feels he can use his skills to make money as a gangster rather than run the family school. However, he questions his inner spirit as to what he must do to make his life truly a better one.
Tensai Sentai Goseiger’s Kyosuke Hamao makes his final appearance before his retirement from acting in this film as family friend Ishiba, who joins Toshimichi and shows his support by rooting for him and eventually joins him in the battle in the forest. Now, as for the forest scene, this is where the madness happens. The forest acts as the battlefield for Toshimichi’s “ultimate challenge” where if you get knocked down, even if you win, you will lose your spirit. This is told through the eyes of the very strange looking Magi, played by veteran Renji Ishibashi. Rina Koike and former baseball player Shigeru Nagashima round out the cast as Toshimichi and Shinpei’s sister Saki and taekwondo patriarch Tatsuo and they don’t get involved in the action but more on the dramatic side of the story.
The taekwondo action of the film is nicely done for the most part. The tournament scenes are what one would expect in perhaps an actual tournament with Inoue, a real-life taekwondo stylist, showcasing his skills. The forest fight scenes are quite interesting for the most part as they involve all comers using their various skills. However, there are parts that bring that Japanese-style madness where at times, there are shades of crazy VFX and wirework insanity. However, for the most part, the fights are actually not too bad with Stunt Team GOCOO taking charge in utilizing the cast’s skills.
In the end, despite how the trailer may look, Taekwondo Damashii: Rebirth is actually a film that relies more about the spirit of two brothers, one physical and one mental, all as they face their own challenges to find their destiny within the art of Taekwondo. Not on par with some of today’s top martial arts films, but still a pretty decent look at the art of TKD in Japan.
WFG RATING: B
A Toei Video Co. Ltd. production. Director: Hideyuki Katsuki. Writer: Hideyuki Katsuki.
Cast: Masahiro Inoue, Ryoma Baba, Kyosuke Hamao, Shigeru Nagashima, Rina Koike, Renji Ishibashi.