Set in the future of an alternate reality where the Cold War never ended, 009-1: End of the Beginning (2013) tells the story of a cyborg super-spy, 009-1 (Mayuko Iwasa) begins to remember her former life while on a mission. Her search for the truth will lead her to uncover conspiracies, battles with robots, run-ins with gangsters, and into conflict with a horde of mutant undead. 009-1: End of the Beginning mixes up enough genre tropes and cliches to fill four low budget movies.
Clearly 009-1: End of the Beginning is more indebted to Ghost In The Shell (1995) than to its actual source material; a manga by Shotaro Ishinomori. 009-1’s re-emerging humanity is only superficially addressed in the film, with the bulk of the runtime dedicated to elaborately choreographed fight scenes. The myriad of flashbacks provided offer very little in the way of adding depth to the titular character. This unfortunate choice obscures 009-1’s motives for going rogue in search of the truth behind her origins.
As Albert Pyun did with Nemesis (1992), director Koichi Sakamoto is able to wrestle some genuinely compelling cyborg centric spectacles from a small budget. The bad CGI and scene transitions aside, the combat in 009-1: End of the Beginning is excellent. The fights between 009-1 and Miriam (Nao Nagasawa) are the highlights of the film. Each of these actors has an innate charisma that lends their two-dimensional characters enough gravitas to throw some dramatic weight behind their violent clashes.
However, Sakamoto is more reliant upon the image of scantily clad women and erotic asides to sell 009-1: End of the Beginning than he is the combat. The fight scene in a pool is particularly hampered by this impulse where cut-aways to buttocks and thighs disrupt the pacing of the fight choreography. Yet 009-1: End of the Beginning never manages to become more sexually explicit than the shorts of Bunny Yeager. The aforementioned erotic asides are just needless insert shots of women in the background swaying in their underwear or kissing (even 009-1’s machine gun breasts are never seen on camera).
Really 009-1: End of the Beginning is exactly what one would expect from the poster/box art. This is a no frills sex and violence caper with only the slightest nod towards dramatic content. The manga that inspired 009-1: End of the Beginning holds far more promise than these filmmakers were able to realize.