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Shogun’s Shadow (JAPAN 1989)

aka (Shôgun Iemitsu no ranshin – Gekitotsu)

Director : Yasuo Furuhata
Cast : Sonny Chiba, Ken Ogata, Hu Chien Chiang, Hiroki Matsukata and Hu Jianqiang. Written by Hiro Matsuda and Sadao Nakajima.

An order is given to the young shogun heir, Tachechiyo, to embark on a journey to Edo to participate in an initiation ritual that will mark his passage to manhood. Seven samurai, headed by master swordsman Igo Gyobu (Ken Ogata), are charged with the task of delivering him safely to his destitation. Along their journey, they must combat an advancing army under the command of Iba Shoemon (Sonny Chiba), a vassal of the Shogun. The seven samurai must fight to the death to get Tachechiyo to Edo.

by Edward Tang

“Shogun’s Shadow” is a great thrill ride of a film that took me by surprise as a fast-paced flick that really doesn’t stop to smell the roses. Although Sonny Chiba takes top billing on the DVD box, you can’t really call it his film. The film belongs to the heroic deeds of Ken Ogata, a star in his own right, and just wasn’t as well seen as Chiba was with his Street Fighter series. Ogata with a multi-talented cast get us involved in this simple story, of a group of samurai trying to take a small boy to Edo, but are chased by ruthless assassins who want the young boy dead. The story isn’t all that impressive, and you’ve probably seen it before, but something about the characters made me really get into this film. For you “action fans”, there is a select amount of action here as well, some very good scenes and of course Sonny Chiba and Ken Ogata square off to a great fight in itself.

The cast was talented as I said, a few characters stood out as well. Ken Ogata, maybe you aren’t too familiar with that name, he had a role in a Zatoichi film and all too recently, he was in a Takashi Miike film “Izo”. He is a great character in this film, he plays the basic heroic samurai who won’t back away from his honor nor defending of the young child’s life. Basically he plays the hero role to a key and looks good when he is kicking ass. I give Ken the credit for having the most memorable role of the film. Of course, Mr. Sonny Chiba has to be mentioned a few times. His face is all over the DVD cover, and obviously that is a good ploy for his fans. His presence in this film is pretty good, he doesn’t really play a harsh character, just another honorable man who is hired to take out the kid. Don’t expect to see a long role from him, he is in the bulk of the film, but only has a few prominent scenes, especially any time he picks up the sword. Seeing his filmography, you could call this his last prominent film in this genre. The rest of the cast was good for what it was, Hu Jianqiang for example was dancing all around this stage and really entertained with his fast motion plain energy. He was a great addition to this great film.

The story was very simple and to the point, with a few problems that can be ignored if you take them for what they are. Any scene that involves the “dying” Shogun is basically overacted and worthless. But those can be ignored for the fight scenes, and this not being any more violent than other films, it easily uses desperation to make each fight seem heavier and heavier. Basically every moment that the soldiers got closer, another samurai would have to depart the group to take out as many as he could. The samurai would do good but would just be over-powered at the end. But this film had almost a Speed-like (the Keanu film) quality to it that it seemed to never slow down. The action for the most part was great, Chiba’s Japan Action Club does a great job at making fun and entertaining sequences. There is a particular scene that is just plain great, Chiba enters what looks to be the hideout for the young boy, he strides through everyone and everything, as he takes out the surrounding guards with a few motions of his wrists. 

The final battle between Chiba and Ogata isn’t necessarily a classic, but will get the job done. The fight isn’t really a “duel”, both men are breaking through buildings, throwing things in each other’s faces, jumping on roofs, but as I said it was entertaining although very much an entertaining mess. The ending scenes are pretty good as well, but the overacting in the Shogun’s quarters and the bizarre laughing by the girl just was plain bad. But it ends on a good note, the boy is safe, Gyobu’s journey was complete and he would go onto becoming the next Shogun in the territory. 

Chiba and Ogata give us a great show of great action sequences and some really intense moments. This film is a must see for fans of the Samurai genre, and any fan alike for Sonny Chiba. The film contains a great cast and great visuals (seeing a man light himself on fire to let the boy escape, an exploding horse, the entire rope over the falls moment) and is a great film all around.  

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

Notable Scenes
- The Chiba/Ogata Showdown
- the Shogun’s last stand against Oman
- the entire sequence of Ogata. and company escaping the armies
  (as the others die fighting)
- Chiba’s raid on the fort.

Buy this movie at YesAsia – Shogun’s Shadow

Comments (One comment)

very good movies

saman / November 4th, 2012, 7:14 pm

What do you think?