Buichi Terasawa is a director of guilty pleasures. Some of his previous efforts, notably Space Cobra and Midnight Eye Gokuu, are violence-laden excursions enjoyed by many a group of college guys looking to see something that's "cool." Gokuu and Cobra's style gets them far, even with their failings, because they exude a special nonchalance; those shows are definitely entertaining, though they don't qualify as classics. Kabuto, unfortunately, is one of those off days, where a desperate attempt to appear "cool" just comes off as another dumb martial arts flick.

Kabuto is the story of a samurai warrior (named Kabuto, simply enough) determined to save the land from Tamamushi, an evil enchantress who took over the kingdom after she seduced the reigning lord. She's imprisoned the rightful heir, Princess Ran, but she's recently escaped. Lots of violence ensues as Kabuto rescues Ran, then loses her, then rescues her again...

OK, so what's to like here? Well, the action sequences are definitely enjoyable if you like ninja movies, and there is an attempt at character development, which is rare for a 45 minute show. But what's wrong? Not quite but almost everything else. The character design is not unusual but not attractive, and the frame rate in sequences dips way down, so its not all that great to watch per se. The dialogue is cliche, the concepts inane, standard throwaway nude shots, etc. Some of the music is actually quite great and effective, but then they bring in hard rock music for the fight scenes, which throws the whole show off. There's also a lot of technology showing up for feudal Japan, but no explanation as to how or why. It seems that Terasawa was trying to latch upon the Vampire Hunter D vibe--one character has a symbiant in his hand, and Kabuto often dresses and acts like D--but there's no comparison. Kabuto is just not worth the effort unless you really like the martial arts thing, and even then it's a lesser work.

Kabuto -- graphic violence, nudity -- C-