Bodyguard Kiba 1 & 2 [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Eureka
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (20th March 2024).
The Film

Bodyguard Kiba: Returning from the United States after three years retracing the steps of his estranged mentor Tetsugen Daito (Mas Oyama), Naoto Kiba (Wolf Guy's Sonny Chiba) gains widespread press attention when he single-handedly foils a terrorist hijacking of his flight, killing all of the members without any harm coming to the passengers. When asked about his motives for the heroic act, Kiba claims that they were not patriotic but purely commercial as he plans to restore the reputation of the much-disparaged Tesshin-kai school and recruit new students to train a force of professional bodyguards; and that he is using the press conference as an advertisement of his services. No sooner does he return home then he is approached by his first customer, the enigmatic Reiko Miwa (Hanzo the Razor: Sword of Justice's Mari Atsumi) who needs his protection for four days before she leaves for Paris. Reiko is cagey about the identity of the threat against her; however, Kiba soon realizes the degree of danger when his sister Maki (School of the Holy Beast's Yayoi Watanabe) is assaulted and the words "cosa nostra" carved into her arm. Kiba does not entirely trust Reiko but she points out that protecting a client from the elite seven man "yellow" wing of the Sicilian mafia would be great promotion for his school… and the job certainly seems doable when Kiba manages to dismember two of them with his bare hands on a subsequent attempt on Reiko's life. As Kiba travels with Reiko across the country with a locked suitcase to arrange an exchange with Reiko's gangster former lover Takami (Samurai Wolf's Ryōhei Uchida), their movements are tracked not only by the mafia and Takami's boss (Wandering Ginza Butterfly's Takashi Hio), but also by a trio of murderous brothers whose brothel serves as a front for various smuggling activities with GIs at the nearby American army base.

Based on the manga by Kentarō Nakajō, Bodyguard Kiba predated Sonny Chiba's worldwide success as The Street Fighter by a year in Japan but was not released stateside until 1976 as "The Bodyguard" by which time Shin'ichi Chiba was so well known by his American-granted moniker that the posters and title card proclaimed "Viva Chiba!" and the dubbing transformed Kiba into Sonny Chiba himself. Fans of The Streetfighter, however, would probably have been disappointed at what is essential an extremely rough draft of what was to come. Opening in New York with the assassination an Italian mob boss by the so-called "Yellow Mafia" the film then weaves its way through not so much a plot as a series of incidents that require Chiba's Kiba to be extremely naive about the nature of his client's operation. There are some striking visuals but the overall tone of the film could best be described as "dumb," and even bordering on incompetent starting with English-language newspaper headlines of the aforementioned assassination that identify the mobster with the phonetic spelling of the Japanese pronunciation "Salbadole Locco" as well as a few English-language performances that are somehow worse than the American version's poor dubbing. Characterization is also paper thin with no truly satisfactory explanation as to the rift between Kiba and his mentor – seen only in flashbacks and photographs but played by Chiba's actual mentor Mas Oyama – since his sister's accusation of his ignoble motivations for promoting his school do not seem far removed from that of Tetsugen Daito who is known by the press for killing a bull with one punch and other such feats during his tour of the United States despite Kiba exclaiming that he wants to do more with his karate than merely "train for self-improvement." Although Kiba does comment on the destructive effects of drugs, his transformation from muscle-for-hire turned anti-drug crusader feels less like an organic character arc than the setup for a sequel which was not followed through (the American version, on the other hand, changes the dubbing to set him up from the start as dedicated to violently solving the drug problem in Japan). While quite bloody, the film lacks Chiba's trademark "Streetfighter" creative kills – although it does feature creative use of a severed arm – and the fight scenes are neither well-choreographed nor well-photographed so there is a lot of jumping around with the only real focus on the death blows, and even those lack the "impact" of the later film. Takashi Miike (Ichi the Killer) would take on the same property for a trilogy of direct-to-video films in 1993.

Bodyguard Kiba 2: Deadly Triangle Jump takes place in an alternate reality in which Kiba (Sonny Chiba again) was still the loyal pupil of Tetsugen Daito (Mas Oyama again) until he broke the school's rule against dueling in response to a slight against the school and his title by the rival Kikoku-ryu school's Sameya Ikkan. Arriving at the duel site, Kiba finds himself the victim of an ambush. When his sister Maki (Sister Street Fighter's Etsuko Shihomi) is badly injured trying to help him, Kiba flies into a rage and kills all of his opponents. Sentenced to prison for three years, Kiba leaves the karate world in disgrace and refuses to fight while doing prison labor until he witnesses fellow inmate Nanjo (Terrifying Girls' High School: Lynch Law Classroom's Tsunehiko Watase) in a similar situation on the yard. When Kiba is released from prison, he is picked up by glamorous Mika (Snake Woman's Curse's Yukiko Kuwahara) who appears to be the mysterious benefactor who has been having special meals smuggled into the prison for his lunch and paying for Maki's medical care, only asking him to turn up at the Plaza Night Club that evening in return. Looking for a job, Kiba is tricked into running up a bill that he cannot pay; however, bar singer Mari (Lone Wolf and Cub: Babycart at the River Styx's Maki Mizuhara) comes to his aide and pays his bill with her tips. Kiba arrives at the club to discover that his actual benefactor is owner Akamatsu (Goro the Assassin's Akiyoshi Fukae) who wants to hire him as a personal bodyguard in anticipation of Tatsumi (Kagemusha's Hideo Murota) and his gang attempting to take over his business. Although Kiba plans on just doing the job he was hired for, he becomes more personally invested when Tatsumi's gang rape Mari after she is seen in his company. Akamastu is unable to simply cut Tatsumi loose due to the secret he shares with hostess bar owner Karasaki (Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs's Rokkō Toura); however, when Nanjo turns up threatening to expose them unless he gets compensation for the wrongful prison sentence he served, Kiba is caught between a friend and his obligation to Akamastu for his sister's expensive medical care.

Bodyguard Kiba 2: Deadly Triangle Jump has about as many characters as the first film, but also a better plot that makes actually makes effective use of them. While the first film was a loose blueprint for The Street Fighter, the sequel has more in common with the seventies yakuza dramas in which a character seeking redemption tries to live by rigid principles surrounded by people who have no honor. Although it is Nanjo who is states he is obligated to Kiba for saving him, it is Kiba who rather naively attempts to mediate between Nanjo and the gang; he does, however, point out that the only outcome he can see if they do not compromise is that everyone will likely die. While all of Mari's psychological damage is on display due not only to her assault but the backstory she gives to Kiba when he disarms her by attempting to pay back his debt to her, the film also manages to convey in these same scenes how Kiba's own more subtle transformation from an arrogant martial artist to a man hoping to be worthy of the respect of a woman who is not entirely broken under her mask of resignation. When the gang do double cross Kiba and Nanjo, the film satisfyingly explodes into a bloodbath of vengeance, with Kiba/Chiba finally letting loose after so much self-restraint, abducted Maki proving she is not helpless, and Mizuhara's Mari pulling some effective Meiko Kaji-esque death glares. Due to the lack of direct connection between the two films in the series, it is just as well that Chiba's subsequent refinement of his idealized character should start afresh as The Street Fighter.


Bodyguard Kiba's aforementioned American version was released theatrically by Terry Levene's Aquarius Releasing and on VHS by Media Home Entertainment, and it was that cropped master that popped up on subsequent unauthorized DVD releases until BCI was able to source a 35mm print for their anamorphic Sonny Chiba Collection set, and it was presumably this master which was used for the upscaled portions of the American version (87:54) here which was not included in Shout! Factory's stateside The Sonny Chiba Collection (which also included the sequel as well as Yakuza Wolf films which have recently been released by Eureka and Samurai Reincarnation, the Eureka release of which has been previously reviewed HERE).

The 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.35:1 widescreen composite presentation of that cut is a curiosity worth watching at least once for the changes – including a sequence flatly-acted sequence in which American martial artists Aaron Banks (Mean Johnny Barrows) and Bill Louie (The Old Master) debate the respective merits of Bruce Lee and Sonny Chiba – but the upscaled material is borderline unwatchable. The 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.35:1 widescreen presentation of the Japanese cut (87:36) is the more consistently attractive presentation with a degree of softness in long shots owing to the scope lenses but superior detail in the close-ups of sweaty faces and piercing glances (evident almost right away with the extreme close-ups of the hijackers). The grading is more considered than on some recent restorations, with blacks, blues, and grays distinct from one another in sequences in which those are the predominant colors like the assault on Mari's apartment at night, the morgue visit, and the parking structure exchange among others.

Mounted quickly after the first film, Bodyguard Kiba 2: Deadly Triangle Jump was sadly not exported stateside despite the fact that it is the better film – although since the first film was released after The Street Fighter, American exhibitors may have felt that Chiba in the sequel was even less "Terry Tsurugi" this time around – and it made its official stateside debut in the aforementioned Shout! Factory Chiba set. Despite the similar low budget, the sequel looks slicker and the archival materials also look more consistent in Eureka's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.35:1 widescreen presentation, however the film's close-ups do not look quite as sharp as those in the first film (possibly evidence of a rushed shoot).


Bodyguard Kiba 2: Deadly Triangle Jump and the Japanese version of Bodyguard Kiba features LPCM 2.0 mono Japanese tracks that are relatively clean but never truly quiet given the age of the materials and the mix while the English version of Bodyguard Kiba features an English LPCM 2.0 mono track that sounds coarser in quality (if it is the same source as the video master used for the American-exclusive scenes then that is not a surprise). Bodyguard Kiba features some instances of English dialogue, but only one lengthy conversation has optically printed vertical Japanese subtitles accompanying it (these subtitles appear on the English version as well since the reconstruction uses the Japanese master for this scene).


The Japanese version of Bodyguard Kiba is accompanied by an audio commentary by action cinema experts Mike Leeder & Arne Venema in which they note both the film as blueprint for The Street Fighter but also the influence of the recent Battles Without Honor and Humanity, the fashionable elements the film incorporated like drugs and recent hijackings, the manga source, as well as the odd Catholic iconography throughout the film that may have been an influence on John Woo's The Killer. They also discuss Chiba's training under Mas Oyama – who was as much a PR man as a martial artist – actor/action director Hio serving as one of Chiba's trainers, and Chiba's founding of the Japanese Action Club to train stuntmen. They also discuss the American post-production for Aquarius Releasing by Simon Nuchtern who would go on to shoot direct an appended ending sequence that would turn a dull Manson-esque softcore exploitation film into the Grindhouse hit Snuff and the later 3D slasher Silent Madness.

"Talking Chiba" (27:51) is an interview with action choreographer and director Kenji Tanigaki who discusses the Japanese pop culture popularity and ubiquity of Chiba during his childhood with daily appearances on the serial Kage No Gundan and his Japanese Action Club graduates in film and television amid the influence of Hong Kong martial arts and action stars while he was growing up in Japan.

The disc also includes the theatrical trailer (2:43).

Bodyguard Kiba 2: Deadly Triangle Jump is accompanied by an audio commentary by action cinema experts Mike Leeder & Arne Venema who note that the film was released just five months after the first film, that it was necessary to recast Kiba's sister with the actress/stuntwoman who had doubled for the original actress, and puzzle over some of the film's stylistic choices in contrast to those of the first film. They also provide some needed cultural context to story elements like the functioning of a hostess bar – of which Kiba's character was just as naive – and the casting of certain actors from the first film here in different roles like Eiji Gō (The Yakuza).

In "Kiba or Chiba" (35:18), Japanese cinema experts Tom Mes and Jasper Sharp discuss attempts by the studios to launch Chiba as a leading man in his younger days and his various supporting turns in dramas and his larger roles in Yakuza films before his first real martial arts vehicle in Bodyguard Kiba and how the template was refined into the aforementioned The Street Fighter as well as better defining the image of Chiba as we know him now.

The disc also includes the theatrical trailer (2:39).


The first two thousand copies of the set include an O-Card slipcase featuring new artwork by Chris Malbon as well as the nineteen-page booklet "Fast Fists and Fast Lives: The Rise and Fall of Ikki Kajiwari" by Jasper Sharp which focuses on the manga source but also its author Asaki Takamori who the type of delinquent bound for the yakuza but who also harbored dreams of being a writer and published his first short story at age seventeen under the penname of Ikki Kajiwari writing sports and action-oriented stories and later manga that were adapted to television and animation in the sixties, his move into film production, and some of his legal issues later in life.


Eureka's Bodyguard Kiba 1 & 2 provides us with both the template for The Street Fighter in the first film and the second film which was superior but not in the mold of who we we would come to know as Sonny Chiba.


Rewind DVDCompare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to,,,,, and . As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.