Manji, a highly skilled samurai, becomes cursed with immortality after a legendary battle. Haunted by the brutal murder of his sister, Manji knows that only fighting evil will regain his soul. He promises to help a young girl named Rin avenge her parents, who were killed by a group of master swordsmen led by ruthless warrior Anotsu. The mission will change Manji in ways he could never imagine - ...
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Manji, a highly skilled samurai, becomes cursed with immortality after a legendary battle. Haunted by the brutal murder of his sister, Manji knows that only fighting evil will regain his soul. He promises to help a young girl named Rin avenge her parents, who were killed by a group of master swordsmen led by ruthless warrior Anotsu. The mission will change Manji in ways he could never imagine - the 100th film by master director Takashi Miike.
Prolific auteur director Miike Takashi's '100th film' is a bit of a cracker! Blade of the Immortal is a samurai film based on a manga of the same name starring Takuya Kimura as Manji, an immortal samurai and blade for hire who Rin enlists as a bodyguard to avenge her father's death at the hands of master swordsman Anotsu Kageisha. The film is set in the Edo Period, mid-way through the Tokugawa shogunate and the feud between the shogun and Kageisha's Itto-Ryu ("One-Sword School") forms a political backdrop to the action. It is primarily an action movie, but sub-plots like this and a very human element in the developing relationship between Manji and Rin (a strange master-student relationship where the student never really learns anything) prevent it from feeling like a constant onslaught. The fight scene choreography is spectacular though, and the cinematography and sound design masterful. If the opening scene doesn't bring a smile to your face, I'd have to say you're just not really into samurai or fantasy films!
It has more of a comic book sensibility than 13 Assassins, as you might expect given that the source material is manga, but it holds its own with Miike's other great period piece. There isn't a lot of depth here, but it's solidly written, well- acted (if I were being uber-critical, I'd say Hana Sugisaki's performance might have been dialled down a notch) and the pacing is just about right, so that it never drags despite the fairly long run time. I wasn't really aware of him before but apparently Takuya Kimura is a well-known Idol actor in Japan so Miike casts him against type here and really goes for the full comic book anti-hero, laying waste to his Idol image with scars across his face and a defective right eye. There's something of Toshiro Mifune in his performance and it's a safe bet that the film owes a lot of its visual style to samurai films of the 60s and 70s but as ever, Miike dials everything up to 11 - the violence, the characterizations and surreal touches - to deliver something broadly familiar yet joyously bizarre in the finer details.
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