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Samurai Fiction (JAPAN 1998)

Director : HIroyuki Nakano
Cast :  Morio Kazama, Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Tomoyasu Hotei, Tamaki Ogawa, Mari Natsuki and Taketoshi Naito.

Feudal lord Kanzen Inukai receives a precious sword from the Shogun, but it is stolen by the samurai Kazamatsuri. Kanzen’s young son, Heishiro, insists on retrieving the sword himself to protect the family from the shame of losing such a precious gift.

by Edward Tang

“Samurai Fiction” is basically just an older samurai film touched up with new aged music and ideas. I did have a good time during this film, but didn’t really see anything special that could grab me. I must admit that parts of it seemed to tickle the boring fancy but could be passed on because it was a nice refreshing way to look at the genre in motion. The direction was sound, from all of the black and white shots, to the beautiful country side and for the interesting shots including how when someone would die, they’d cut to a red screen. The fights in this film were probably the weakest, because they just really never amounted to anything, it was a bunch of quick movements and they’d be done. But on the other hand, there are basically no shots of blood which makes for a much cleaner film that just has to be enjoyed, rather than looked upon with harsh eyes.

The story revolved around a precious sword which was stolen by a tall samurai named Kazamatsuri. During such a young dude named Heishiro goes to find it, avid his father’s respect. His father sends out two ninja to find the sword as well, as two of Heishiro’s friends join his journey. When Heishiro and company meet up with this tall bastard, he basically kicks the shit out of them. Heishiro on hand gets taken up by a rogue samurai and his adopted daughter to heal him from his wound. Kazamatsuri goes into town, where he becomes somewhat of a popular guy and is treated as such. Heishiro eventually does heal and trains to try and defeat the swordsman, while he is persuaded not to by the older swordsman. So basically, Kazamatsuri kills the folk he was riding with, he steals away the old swordsman’s daughter and challenges him to a duel. Kazamatsuri loses the duel and jumps off a cliff, where in later they retrieve the sword. One year later, Heishiro marries the daughter, and everyone becomes happy!

It’s a shame that this film didn’t have good fight sequences because I think it would have been perfect. The entire story moves along quickly and easily, and is taken in with ease. There were some moments that were boring, going into detail on how the old guy came across his adopted daughter (he killed her father in a duel) but those scenes are far and few between. By far from being boring, it relies on some easy comedic moments and some cheesy but effective 80s-type rock songs. For the most part, this film is just fun, because it really never takes itself seriously. There’s a sequence in such where it introduces Heishiro’s friends with them running from each other, which is shot well and is funny at the same time. Then again, where an old fat ninja basically falls out of ceiling boards and says something to the degree of “I just can’t get rid of old habits”, that was fuckin’ funny. The music on hand as well, added to this film, where as sometimes its just a waste, the hippy type rock actually works itself into scenes with ease.

The film relied more on the entertainment aspect, that developing a true story. The story moved very slowly at parts, and seemed to lose luster towards the end. Not that I was complaining but the film tried to be semi-serious when falling into the end, while it had a real fun pace in the beginning. This doesn’t take away from the film, as it basically is another Jidai Geki style plot with enough to deliver the goods. I must say that this film was awesomely directed, giving the black and white scheme to those classic Kurosawa films that us movie fans can’t be without. The style made this film not horribly funny, but enough to give you a smile on your face as thing went along. Judging this other shit, the voice-over portions seemed a little forced and I didn’t really get why this guy was talking about this being 300 years earlier, or whatever that was meant to do. The film was strong in the eye candy and the actors did follow suit.

I really didn’t find anything special in the fights, where they weren’t overly gory as in some of the classics (which wasn’t bad) they weren’t really anything fun. This film more or less relied on the characters to do the goods rather than the actors to be full fledged martial artists whom also have a keen knowledge of weapons and fighting skills. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by so many other films but the fight scenes in this just seemed a little clumsy if anything. HIroyuki Nakano (director) gives these scenes somewhat of a quirky sense, more than a “I’m here to claim my honor” or some shit like that. With saying that, the fighting scenes weren’t really a distraction on being just okay, they just didn’t stand out. What did stand out however was the characters and their basket full of interesting emotions.

The main goal of these characters are to show that life is much more than avenging or fighting for the next day, life is worth living and is a gift. The acting is good, all the characters having different traits that give them a unique presence on screen. I’m not sure what the goal of Kazamatsuri was, but he had this subtle nature about him that you almost expected him to do something at any moment. Throughout the screams and all around annoying nature of the main character, he does learn a small lesson and eventually finds out that life is more important than silly f*ckin’ differences. What was nice about this film is that I didn’t really dislike any of the actors and that is truly the mark of something good. Too many films give out annoying kids or monkey-faced losers who basically piss on the film’s good graces. Luckily, this cast is filled with talented faces whom make this film a better experience.

If you would like a newer version of the classic films with a new-aged romp in character styles and music, this film is probably the one you should grab. Nothing truly shines in this film to make it a classic, but it is a good time and is worth your fuckin’ time. From the direction, to the cast, to some of the fun (alright I’ll admit it) fight scenes, this film is truly a winner.

Plot : 4/5
Acting : 4/5
Entertainment : 4/5
Overall : 3/5

Buy this movie at YesAsia – Samurai Fiction

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