my thought, my perception, my sense

3 Samurai Movies You Should Watch

It started when I was curious about one Japan movie I had in my notebook. I knew from many forums that this movie is damn good. So I gave it a shot and the result is considerably great. I rarely watched Japan movies. The last J-movie I watched before these three is Death Note (which also impressed me well).

But I really amazed the way these J-movies provided. So who are them? Let’s delve into the details one by one.

The first Samurai movie I meant is “13 Assassins“.

The movie is all about 13 assassins which composed of 12 samurai and 1 rogue (I don’t know the exact word to describe this one, but approximately he is a rogue) who went on a mission to kill an atrocious Lord named Naritsugu (Goro Inagaki). Beware of the way you’ll see how he demonstrated his cruelty in this movie. You could feel the same anger caused by his dishonorable conduct the same way Shimada Shinzaemon (Kôji Yakusho) felt. Shinzaemon, who is the leader of the assassin group, was asked by the Council Elder to kill Naritsugu. Then Shinzaemon began to gather his men, from his best disciple to his own nephew. All these samurai were high-skilled samurai at that time, since the time plot of the movie is at the end of Shogunate era (arround 1860s) where it was quiet hard to find good samurai amid the arm gun advent at Japan.

Two things appeared prominently in this movie. The first is inevitably the action. What made me enamored is that the fighting scene is much more detailed than most of Chinese colossal movies. You could feel the anger of the samurai when he is surrounded by the enemies. You could also feel that it is hard for the enemy to attack the samurai even from behind. This is what I don’t see in most Chinese fighting scene (those who are usually place at open field with thousands of soldier running into messy chaos).

The second thing that the movie depicted is the tactic used by the assassins. Yes, they were using bombs but they utilized it beyond what you could expect. Trap, buffalo, arrow are the main weapons they used to get the advantage over hundreds of Naritsugu’s men. This movie has successfully described the best samurai fighting scene you expect to see. Very worth to be added to your list if you like non-arm-weapon war.

The second samurai movie is “The Twilight Samurai

Now ease your fighting-thirst because you won’t get it in this movie. The movie is rather about the struggle of a samurai, Iguchi Senbei (Hiroyuki Sanada), who had to take care of his sick wife, 2 daughters and old mother. It was a very tough task for a samurai who also worked at local food store to sustain his family’s life. According to the movie, he was valued 50-koku (this was the way a samurai was valued at that time to determine his wealth) which was very low compared to other samurai.

He was nicknamed “Twilight” by his workmates because Iguchi always came home hastily to serve his family when his friends asked him to go to tea-house together. It is very touching when you watch his struggle. The romance came when he must accept the challege from another higher-rank samurai to defend his childhood friend, Tomoe Iinuma (Rie Miyazawa). In addition to that, he was later ordered by his clan to kill a disobedient samurai of great sword skill. The final battle is rather boring compared with that you see in 13 Assassins but what the movie tried to expose is the romance between a poor samurai and his beloved.

The last movie of the list is “Love and Honor” which is also Yôji Yamada‘s film beside the previous one.

The theme is pretty similar to the previous one, but I personally believe this one is more superior in describing the romance. Name it, you have a blind samurai, Shinnojo Mimura (Takuya Kimura), who got poisoned when he served as a ‘food-taster’ for his High Lord. So there was this rule that before a High Lord eat something, the food must be tasted first by his samurai to check whether it contains poison or not. I don’t know whether this practice really happened in the past. Further research might answer.

Shinnojo was quiet lucky for having a wife, Kayo Mimura (Rei Dan), who served him very well especially since he became blind. Not to mention his subordinate, Tokuhei (Takashi Sasano) who was very loyal to him since Shinnojo’s father passed away.

But that’s not the entire story yet. The problem came in when Kayo tried to ask help from a higher-rank samurai, Shimada Toya (Mitsugoro Bando) to help her husband. The prominent difference of this movie from The Twilight Samurai is that it was the wife who struggled to sustain her family. However, Shimada cunningly asked Kayo for her body, something that Kayo forcedly did. This secret was finally revealed to Shinnojo who furiously evicted Kayo from the house – leaving only Tokuhei to serve his master. Shinnojo, who felt very dishonored by Shimada’s conduct, planned to challenge Shimada for a duel. At first, I thought he would cancel the plan due to his blindness. However with the help of his sensei during the ‘blind-fighting’ training, Shinnojo really managed to do it.

I was really impressed by all those movies. They provided me the way a samurai at that time struggle till death to defend his honor. Amid the crowd of today modern life, I wonder if we could have the same courage to defend our honor like those samurai did. We perhaps don’t need  sword as our weapon. Instead our wisdom and guts do suffice.

NB : There are many samurai movies that I haven’t seen yet. Mostly they are from this list. I’ll post some of them later if I find another great movie.

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