Director: Takashi Miike
Starring: Takuya Kimura, Hana Sugisaki, Sota Fukushi, Hayato Ichihara. Japan. 2h 20m
Miike’s career has turned into a long line of massive remakes of Japanese Classic cinema for some time now. I’ve been racking my brain why, but I’m still unsure what he’s trying to achieve, but it’s working out for him and I wonder what’s next? He’s making some solid and faithful remakes but I do wonder if we really need them all despite their powerful impact? This just seems to be another one, however even while watching the series after the film.. I found it’s expressionary style and character depth on a different planet entirely, and yet each are ridiculously impressive but in their own way.
The whimsical light palette of the animated series that takes a really relaxed and artistic approach is cast aside for a blood soaked violent gory martial arts horror, and yet they still make magic of the story of an immortal blades man on a mission filled with pride and honour.
Overall the film stays pretty truthful to the original media but it doesn’t go too far into the sick and twisted body horror fantasies and deeply disturbing poetic license. On the contrary Miike makes this adaptation feel as if it could slot in between his other recent remakes Hara Kiri and Seven Samurai. He forces his immortal swordsman through blood drenched feudal japan with some style and determination. Cinematographer, Nobuyasu Kita, who also worked on 13 Assassins (2010) along with other gory thrillers like Shinjuku Incident (2009) and The Black House (1999), manages to appropriate the dark feudal compositions that remain iconic in classics like Lone Wolf and Cub. He adds a sense of Bushido into a story filled with impossible bad guys and special effects.
“But do right and wrong matter when it’s for people you love?”
Maji (Kimura) a complicated samurai is mortally wounded by a group of Ronin after a digression, accepting his death, an old woman known a Yaobikuni implants “Sacred Bloodworms” into his body which constant heal his body, reattaching limbs and instantly re sealing sounds, hes now immortal. 50 years after this life changing event Maji spends his time travelling Feudal Japan as an ageless immortal. When he’s approached by a young girl named Rin Asano (Sugisaki) she requests his aid as a bodyguard to help protect her as she avenges the death of her father at the hands of the Kagehisa Anotsu and Itto-Ryu society of Samurai Assassins.
The pair strike up an unusual friendship but travel together seeking revenge from the most deadly people in Japan and leave a quake of blood and bodies in their path. One of more memorable elements of the movie are the bloodworms which live in Maji and the effects team did a really good job of making them look the way they should but didn’t go that extra mile to make them really creepy and sinister like a virus as a lot of fans really wanted and it’s changes in tone and character which fail to elevate the film. There was an obvious struggle to add in as many fight scenes as the original, an indication that maybe the run time could have been lengthened by splitting the movie into a duo or trilogy ?
Blade of the immortal is blessed with psychotic bad guys with enormous sharp weapons, getting into sickly bloodbaths but still has the pleasures of the classic Japanese cinema elements such as philosophical ideas, sharp tongues and young damsels in distress and the iconic Chiaki Kuriyama makes an appearance so it has to be a winner.
Without much reason to make yet another version of this strange fantasy, at least Miike makes it worthwhile to get through, but when are we going to get Afro Samurai??
Related: 13 Assassins (2010), Hara Kiri (2011), Blade of the Immortal series (2019-) Ninja Scroll (1993).
Lists: Manga live action remakes, A-Z of Japanese Cinema Vol 1
Spotlight: Takashi Miike