Moon Over Tao

Moon Over Tao (1997)
Media Blasters
Cast: Hiroshi Abe, Toshiyuki Nagashima, Yuko Moriyama
Extras: Bonus Trailers

When considering films from the East that dealt with old fables, I typically think of the Chinese films of Tsui Hark and his contemporaries. However, these films also come from Japan, and the recently released ’Moon Over Tao’ is a great introduction to this tradition. The film is set in 16th Century Japan, where we find two warriors, Hayate (Hiroshi Abe), a samurai, and Suikyo (Toshiyuki Nagashima), a sorcerer, charged with a task by their master. A strange sword has been discovered which can cut through stone and remain unscathed. Hayate and Suikyo are sent to learn the origin of the sword, and to see if more of these strange weapons can be procured. Their quest appears to be fairly normal, until it is learned that the sword was made from pieces of a meteorite. The core of the meteor is now in the hands of the evil Kakugyo (Takaaki Enoki), an old foe of Suikyo. Things get really strange when the guardians of the meteor, three female aliens (all played by Yoko Moriyama) arrive on Earth to retrieve the core. It appears that the center of the meteor holds an ancient evil that, if unleashed, could destroy the world.

’Moon Over Tao’ is an entertaining mixture of action and science-fiction. The film opens like a traditional samurai film, but once the aliens and the evil Makaraga monster show up, things definitely take a turn for the unique. Compared to its Chinese brethren, this film is edited at a much more leisurely pace. But that’s not to say that director Keita Amemiya (best known for sci-fi flicks such as ’Hakaider’ and ’Zeiram’) ever lets things get slow. On the contrary, things move along quite nicely and there’s a surprisingly good balance between action and drama. During the third act, the film becomes quite violent and there is a fair amount of gore. Also, kudos to ’Moon Over Tao’ for its nice mixture of puppetry and stop-motion effects in the creation of Makaraga. ’Moon Over Tao’ is a fun fantasy film that offers good acting and an engaging story.

’Moon Over Tao’ rises unto DVD courtesy of Tokyo Shock and Media Blasters. The film is presented in a letterboxed format with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Unfortunately, the transfer has not been enhanced for 16×9 TVs. Still, the image here is very rich and clean, showing only slight artifacting at times. The colors are realistic, with natural fleshtones. There some minor defects from the source print at times, but these are hardly distracting. The Dolby 2.0 Surround track offers clear dialogue and flourishes of rear speaker action. Also, the DVD offers several audio options, with the original Japanese dialogue and a dubbed English track. The only real flaw with this DVD is its lack of extras, but that’s a small complaint to finally have ’Moon Over Tao’ available in the U.S.