Sonny Chiba’s Dragon Princess (1976)

Yutaka Kohira’s “Sonny Chiba’s Dragon Princess” (Or “Dragon Princess,” or “Lady Karate,” or “Assassin Woman’s Fist”) is a misleading title often being boasted as a Sonny Chiba film, even though he has nothing more than a glorified cameo. The actual star, Etsuko Shiomi headlines as a girl whose father Agaki (Chiba) is confronted by two martial arts masters who challenge him to a fight, intent on taking his position as top karate master.

Angered, he obliges the one on one fight and is cowardly ambushed by a small group of masters who tear his eye out and disable his arm. Wounded and bruised, he trains his daughter in the same martial arts, and she grows into a skilled warrior to avenge her father and the death of her best friend. She enters into a fighting tournament and now must take on a corrupt businessman and his colorful minions all the while the businessman begins assassinating competitors to ensure victory, all the while Shiomi keeps focused on avenging her father’s legacy and avoiding all attempts on her life.

Chiba plays a key role on moving the narrative forward; not only does he create Shiomi as a vengeful fighter, but he’s also the primary motivation for this revenge tale. “Dragon Princess” is revenge laden fun with the direction alone presenting an entertaining journey. Heroine Etsuko Shiomi goes from a pigtailed little girl to a pig tailed woman in seconds flat as her strict dad acts as her sensei. Goofy dubbing aside, “Dragon Princess” is actually a tight great little action thriller with some fantastic fight scenes.The battle on the roof between Shiomi and Agaki is just eye catching in its simplicity. Sadly, the film dissolves into a rather tedious affair mid-way.

The writer introduces under developed characters like a bodily function, and tragically taking the focus away from Shiomi and her character’s quest. As explained, the corrupt boss enlists the help of his minions including the men who assaulted her dad (and mysteriously haven’t aged a day), and she’s forced to wade through street toughs to get to them by the time the hasty climax is introduced. Etsuko Shiomi has a lot of appeal with beauty and surefire charisma, and fierceness taking the reins as the lead. “Dragon Princess” is a mixed bag of filler, and junky characters, but when it’s focused, it’s pretty damn good and will very much hold value for fans of revenge cinema.