Click here to return to the main site.

DVD Review

DVD cover

K-20: The Legend of the Black Mask


Starring: Takeshi Kaneshiro, Takako Matsu, Tôru Nakamura
Manga Entertainment
RRP: £15.99
Certificate: 12
Available 10 January 2011

In an alternative timeline, where the Second World War never happened, Japan's feudal system continued to evolve creating a land of masters and serfs. Struggling to make a living as a talented circus performer, Endo Heikichi, is set up by an old man and arrested as the legendary thief K-20, escaping from the police Endo has to find the real K-20, if he is to clear his name. Along the way he gains the help of a noble woman and her fiancé, who happens to be the policeman who first arrested him...

K-20: The Legend of the Black Mask (2008 - 2 hrs, 11 min, 48 sec) is a Japanese comic book themed feature film written and directed by Shimako Satō and based on a novel by Sō Kitamura.

Although the accompanying documentary would have you believe that this is a ground breaking film, it would be closer to the truth to say this would only hold for any of the Japanese audience who have never read an American comic (which would be most of them as American comic aren’t really popular) or seen the numerous adaptation. A more knowing western audience would immediately recognise the iconography and even the odd idea which has been lifted from another film.

That is not to say that the film lacks merit, the whole eventually being greater than its parts. The film opens with K-20 stealing a tesla type device which can project electricity, so it’s a pretty decent weapon, a fact which appears to be missed by everyone apart from K-20 who is on a mission to discover the location of the full size machine. Poor Endo Heikichi (Kaneshiro Takeshi) gets duped into playing the patsy role, and he is especially convincing as a possible K-20 because of his athletics skills.

What follows is a pretty straightforward ‘who-done-it’ with Endo playing cat and mouse with K-20. To help him in his endeavours is Hashiba Yoko (Matsu Takako) and her fiancé Akechi Kogoro (Nakamura Toru). Given that this is an alternative timeline there is a sumptuous amount of CGI eye candy on offer as well as impressive wire work which, freed from the constraints of the usual historical drama, is kept just this side of impossible to be believably entertaining.

The picture is pin sharp with the option to listen in either Japanese 2.0 stereo or 5.1, both have optional English subtitles, which are clear and not overly distracting. There is only a single extra in the form of a Behind the Scenes (24 min, 55 sec) feature, which has lots of shots of the unprocessed special effects and contributions from cast and crew. It’s not a very in-depth piece, but then Japanese extras tend to consist of everyone being terribly nice about the film and each other.

Overall there is much that will feel familiar both in style and content, but the acting is good and even though I guessed the identity of K-20, who spends most of his time dressed in a remarkably similar way to V for Vendetta, at least this was only ten minutes before the film reveal. The only time the film dips in action and pace is during a prolonged training sequence, otherwise the two hours cracks along at a good pace.


Charles Packer

Buy this item online

We compare prices online so you get the cheapest deal
Click on the logo of the desired store below to purchase this item.

£11.99 (
£10.99 (
£9.99 (

All prices correct at time of going to press.