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Featured Blu-ray and DVD Review: Blade of the Immortal

February 12th, 2018

Blade of the Immortal - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
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Blade of the Immortal

Blade of the Immortal is directed by Takashi Miike, who is only 57 years old, but has directed 100 movies in his career so far. That’s not an exaggeration; this is literally his 100th film. He has slowed down and is now only making two or three movies a year, rather than the pace of five or so movies a year during his early career. Has this resulted in better films? Does Blade of the Immortal have more mainstream appeal? Or is it only for more hardcore Miike fans?

The Movie

We are introduced to Manji, who is protecting his little sister, Machi. As we soon learn, she’s had a mental collapse, because her husband was one of several victims of a political massacre. ... A massacre Manji carried out. He killed is corrupt lord and the lord’s five bodyguards, the last of whom was his sister’s husband. Now he’s on the run. He is confronted by an old woman, a woman claiming to be 800 years old.

While this happens, Machi wanders off and by the time Manji realizes this, she’s captured by Shido. Shindo agrees to let Machi go, if Manji drops his swords. Manji agrees, but Shindo kills Machi anyway. Manji manages to kill everyone, but is mortally wounded in the process. Before he can die, the old woman arrives and instead of performing a mercy killing, she puts blood worm into his open wounds, where they will live inside him and kill him alive, forever.

We flash forward 50 years and we meet Rin. Rin wants to be a sword master like her father, Kurose, and trains every day to be accepted in a prestigious academy, much to the annoyance of her mother, who wants her to be more ladylike. Kagehisa Anotsu and the Ittō-ryū arrive to give Rin’s father an ultimatum. They are creating a united martial arts school by destroying all those who refuse to join them. Kurose refuses to join them and is killed, while her mother is taken away. Rin is spared, because she’s still a child. She wants revenge and while mourning at her father’s grave, the old woman shows up and tells her to hire a bodyguard and tells her about Manji.

Rin travels to Edo to find Manji. At first, Manji refuses to help her, despite her looking just like his sister. However, he changes his mind when Rin is attacked by Sabato Kuroi, a member of Ittō-ryū and someone who has grown obsessed with Rin. Manji has the advantage of immortality, so he defeats Sabato. When word of his defeat reaches Kagehisa Anotsu, he tells the rest of the Ittō-ryū to be cautious. Anyone who can defeat Sabato is not to be underestimated. With that, the two sides will inevitably clash.

If you are a hardcore fan of Takashi Miike, then you will likely see Blade of the Immortal as toned down Miike. This is not an insult; in fact, it makes the movie a lot more approachable for mainstream martial arts fans. Granted, the violence level is still well above the average entry in this genre, so keep that in mind, but if you only know Miike by his reputation, this film is a good entry point.

Is it worth checking out if you haven’t seen Takashi Miike’s films before? Yes. The overall plot structure isn’t overly complicated. After the initial setup, the film is mostly a series of fights between Manji and one or more of the members of Ittō-ryū. Many have a unique gimmick, so the fights don’t get too repetitive. On that level, it’s a blast to watch and if that’s all the film had to offer, it would be worth checking out. However, it is deeper than that, as the story of Manji and Rin has a lot more emotional pathos than was strictly needed in a martial arts action film and the actual plot is more complicated than it first appears. The two leads, Takuya Kimura and Hana Sugisaki, both give impressive performances, which adds to the emotional impact of the story.

The Extras

The extras begin with Manji vs. 300, an 18-minute long making of featurette. There are also over 85 minutes of interviews. If you were to just describe it as a making of featurette and some interviews, it would not sound impressive. However, the running time is longer than a lot of movies I’ve reviewed, so this is excellent, especially for a foreign-language import.

The Verdict

Blade of the Immortal is an energetic martial arts action movie that packs an emotional punch. The DVD or Blu-ray has plenty of extras and that lifts the overall quality from a solid purchase to a Pick of the Week contender.

Filed under: Video Review, Mugen no jûnin, Takashi Miike, Takuya Kimura, Kazuki Kitamura, Hana Sugisaki, Sôta Fukushi, Ken Kaneko, Yoko Yamamoto