Riki-Oh is a Japanese manga that obtain minor success being adapted into two OVA (Original Video Animation) and a live action film, though trying to find any information on the manga series itself is rather difficult. This is a strange case in cinema where a live action adaptation of a manga surpasses it source in material in popularity and overall success. Reason for this being “Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky” is an material art film unlike any other; campy, driven with plot holes, poorly dubbed, bloody, gory, over the top nature gives the film its own identity that stands out like no other in its genre.
Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricki follows a young man with superhuman strength who’s incarcerated at a prison run by corrupt officials and seeks to use his martial arts to clean up the system. Most difficult part of adapting a 12 act manga onto a film is making its story logical. Undergoing major changes (Riki, the protagonist, motivation is slightly altered with a newly created character) from it source material the film has a disjointed and surreal feel. Things don’t come across as clearly as they should through silly explanations, though it does fit the tone of the film. Everything said and done in the story is nonsensical not once taking itself seriously. In a film where the protagonist can literally punch a hole through a criminal stomach (of course it occurs in the showers) a serious tone wouldn’t fit the nature of the characters action. It’s protagonist just like all the characters are simple minded playing a singular define role. Riki is clearly the hero, the warden clearly the villain, the “Gang of Four” are clearly the henchman, and the prisoners (often used to move the plot) are the onlooker of the events. These characters remain simplistic in order to mix a prison film with an anime story. Our protagonist stands up against the man, the hero faces the warden’s equally powerful henchman, the prison dealing in drugs, the torture to break down the hero spirit, and so forth combine elements of two different narratives working wondrously with one another. If anything could be taken as a negative in the writing would be Riki was made too powerful making scenes where Riki could easily overcome an obstacles all the less believable. While the film as a whole lacks any sense of logic at least aspects however goofy were explained as oppose to Riki weakness which is simply passed off in a single sentence.
The English dub of the film is awful in good way adding to the film cheesy nature. It bodes well with the acting as expressions are over the top and there’s nothing subtle about the actors performances down to their appearances. Uttering deadpan dialogue blending with the amount excess on screen. Su-Wong Fan performance while average looks like person who punch a hole through someone stomach and a welcoming presence that carries the film with ease. Mei Sheng Fan regardless if viewing the dub or not is wonderfully cartoonish. His over the top expressions and lack of any sense of subtle line delivery perfectly fits into the whole nonsensical world. As for other actors they’re simply here to either play a good guy or bad buy; either acting tough or acting weak. Choreography is performed very slowly and the fights themselves are very basic. Fight scenes won’t impress with their complex choreography, but they are cleverly designed to contain moments only this film can offer. Lets face it how many other martial art films can you name where a fighter literally uses his own intestines in a attempt to strangle his opponent to death. Perfectly framed like its source material every gory moment is a memorable one that shows the best mixture of low budget particle effects. Every gore filled moment has an excessive amount of blood and body pieces flying or hanging from what’s left from the person body. All the blood effects soaked effects admirably provides a sense a fun and intrigue. Especially in the film climax where Riki faces off against a paper mache monster ending in what’s to date the bloodiest climax in the martial art genre.
Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky is campy, over the top, nonsensical fun that goes for sheer entertainment value. Its framed violence replicates the manga it’s adapting, the practical gory effects are impressive and every one of them offers something memorable, and is the best mixture of what viewers enjoy from bad movies without actually being a bad movie.