Issue #246          HOME          E-mail:        BACK ISSUES            January 10th, 2005

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9 Souls
(2002; Little More Co./Tohokushinsha Film Corporation/Eiso Gekiho Co. Ltd/Film-Makers Inc)

Ryuhei Matsuda Yoshio Harada Mame Yamada

RATING: 6/10


Nine convicts (whose ranks include a ruthless biker, a mad bomber, a career delinquent, a pusher, a porn king, and a dwarf doctor-turned-escape artist) break from prison and soon find themselves at the center of a surreal comedy of errors. Just prior to the escape, looney Yamamoto (Jun Kunimura) revealed to his cell mates that he stashed a pile of counterfeit money in an elementary school time capsule. Despite sharing this information, he gets left behind when the others find a hole allowing them to escape through the prison’s sewers. Their search for the money does not quite work out as planned, so the men (who have developed into a bizarre family unit) begin to split off from the group in search of their fate.

Genta Dairaku Kee Ryuhei Matsuda

If you are looking for a linear, logical narrative, 9 SOULS will have pulled the rug out from under you well before the halfway point. Writer/director Toshiaki Toyoda (PORNOSTAR, BLUE SPRING) keeps things on a surprisingly even keel, however, as he gradually shifts from comedy to drama to surrealism and back again. There are a number of interesting and unusual relationships (a father who killed his son gradually bonds with a son who killed his father), some touching sequences (particularly one set in a strip club that sits in a most unusual location), and a few brief moments of effectively jarring violence. The film’s humor (including bits where the men dress in extremely unconvincing disguises, including drag) is less successful and the fact that it is meant to be obvious does not really make it any more amusing. Ultimately too drawn out at almost 120 minutes, 9 SOULS remains an intriguing meditation on destiny and atonement. While most of the men’s fates are pre-determined, the story still takes a few surprising detours and Toyoda’s stabs at profundity resonate more convincingly here than in BLUE SPRING. The principal players are Yoshio Harada (giving the best performance as the nominal leader of the group), Koji Chihara, Mame Yamada, Ryuhei Matsuda, Takuji Suzuki, Itsuji Itao, Kee, Onimaru, and Genta Dairaku.


The anamorphic transfer is a bit dark in spots, but quite satisfactory, and there are some pleasing touches in the 5.1 mix. Toyoda is interviewed in two segments totaling 45 minutes and Tom Mes provides comprehensive analysis of the film’s themes and the director’s technique (the commentary track on my screening copy was plagued by numerous dropouts, but Artsmagic has promised to fix the problem before the title streets later this month). A theatrical trailer, bios/filmographies, and translated promotional material are also included. As with several other Artsmagic discs, the layer change has seemingly been placed at random and could have unfolded a few seconds earlier without causing a distraction.

This DVD is available from Amazon:

Images in this review courtesy of Artsmagic. To read captions, hover mouse over image.

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Copyright © John Charles 2000 - 2005. All Rights Reserved.

DVD Specifications

  • U.S. Release
  • NTSC Region 1 Only
  • Artsmagic #ATU 015
  • Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Sync Sound Japanese Language
  • Subtitles (Optional): English
  • 12 Chapters
  • 16:9 Enhanced (1.85:1)
  • 119 Minutes

Ratings & Consumer Information

  • Great Britain: 18
  • Quebec: 13+
  • Contains moderate violence, coarse language, nudity, and crude content


  • 10 A Masterpiece
  • 9 Excellent
  • 8 Highly Recommended
  • 7 Very Good
  • 6 Recommended
  • 5 Marginal Recommendation
  • 4 Not Recommended
  • 3 Poor
  • 2 Definitely Not Recommended
  • 1 Dreadful