December 2, 2017 – This is a Japanese samurai fantasy film with buckets of blood and coffins full of severed limbs, as well as some humor and a lot of sword fighting action. It is not for all tastes, but it won me over.
This movie, based on the manga series by Hiroaki Samura, is directed by Takashi Miike (his 100th film) who also directed one of my very favorite samurai movies, “13 Assassins” (2010). This film is somewhat lighter in tone than that earlier film, but that is not saying much.
The film opens with a samurai, Manji (played by Takuya Kimura) fighting a large group of fighters who are holding his deranged sister, Machi (played by Hana Sugisaki) hostage. She is murdered by the attackers. Machi had earlier witnessed Manji killing her husband in a battle, which drove her mad. Nearly dead after defeating the attackers, Machi is approached by a strange woman who inserts “blood worms” into one of his wounds. The worms somehow are able to repair him, and even allow his severed limbs to be reattached. Machi has become immortal, or nearly so.
Immortality becomes a curse for Machi and he withdraws from society, living a hermit's existence in the woods. He is bitter because of what happened to his sister. Later, he is approached by a young girl, Rin Asano, seeking revenge for the murder of her parents. Machi, who sees a resemblance to his late sister in this girl (because she is played by the same actress) agrees to help her.
Machi later discovers that a powerful martial arts organization, the Itto-ryu, led by a matchless fighter, Kagehisa Anotsu (Sôta Fukushi) is behind the killing of Rin Asano's parents. The Itto-ryu is out to kill both Machi and Rin. This turns out to be a tricky situation, because there are other powerful forces opposed to the Itto-ryu. As Machi is killing members of the Itto-ryu, others are doing the same.
Along the way, another complicating factor comes into play. It turns out another immortal warrior, Eiku Shizuma (Ebizô Ichikawa) is stalking Manji and Rin. In addition to being a skilled swordsman, Eiku Shizuma also possesses a poison that weakens the blood worms. Machi is poisoned by Eiku Shizuma and suddenly finds himself vulnerable.
The confluence of forces results in a climatic battle in which Machi, Rin, Kagehisa Anotsu and another fighter, Makie Otono-Tachibana (Erika Toda) all find themselves fighting on the same side, against government soldiers. It is not really an alliance, it is more complicated than that. There are also spies and traitors involved, making things even more complicated.
The ending, at least, is simpler, a mano a mano duel to the death. While the plot has more than its share of unbelievable elements, there are some interesting characters and the swordplay is very well choreographed. The ending leaves room for a sequel. This film rates a C+.
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