Takashi Miike is back behind the camera and lord is it good to see him where he belongs, or not. This time round he’s tackling a Manga comic of the same title.
Blade Of The Immortal follows Manji, Takuya Kimura (Howl’s Moving Castle, Hero (TV)), a samurai who is cursed by an 800 year-old nun-type figure Yaobikuni, Yoko Yamamoto (The Family, Village Of Eight Gravestones), who makes him immortal through the use of blood worms.
Manji is on the run when the nun finds him, and has just witnessed his sister Machi, Hana Sugisaki (A Stitch Of Life, The Pearls Of The Stone Man), die.
Fast forward 50 years, Manji is a loner until Yaobikuni sends a young girl, Rin (Hana Sugisaki again), to him after her father was killed by Anotsu Kagehisa, Sota Fukushi (Kamen Rider, Library Wars). He is destroying dojo’s hell bent on creating an all-powerful dojo, the Itto-ryu, who will win whatever it takes, including underhand tactics.
Rin convinces Manji to be her bodyguard and take revenge for her against Anotsu. This sees him also make another enemy in Shira, Hayato Ichihara (God’s Puzzle, Rainbow Song), a complete psychotic who is in a rival group to the Itto-ryu.
To protect Rin, Manji must go up against all manner of different foes and in all manner of numbers. From single, sword-wielding masters, to hundreds, if not, thousands of shoguns at a time.
Blade Of The Immortal opens in typical Takashi Miike style. By that I mean it opens with a bat-sh*t crazy fight involving Manji taking on an enormous crowd of sword-wielding guys, and slashing his way through the lot.
You’d think this is the most crazy and enormous fight scene you’ll see in the film, but you’d be wrong, wait till you see the final fight scene. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
50 years of not fighting all that much means Manji is a bit rusty in the old sword skills. This allows Miike to have a whole heap of fun with limbs being lopped off, and subsequently reattaching via the worms, slashes, blood and the weapons, oh man the weapons.
Manji’s choice of outfit means he has giant sleeves in which he keeps an almighty array of weaponry. There’s so much, that we don’t even get to see it all. There’s daggers and swords, throwing stars, throwing knives of makes and variety the like of which will make a blacksmith drool.
The fight scenes, of which there are many, are supremely directed, allowing you to see every aspect but with a great injection of pace and urgency. There’s also a whole heap of drama as Manji, who is tired of being immortal, must change his ways in order to keep Rin alive.
The way Miike frames shots in Blade Of The Immortal leaves you thinking of oil paintings at times. It’s a gorgeous looking piece of work and a fitting 100th film for the legendary director.
Kimura, also known as “KimuTaku”, might not be known to many in the West but he is considered an idol and has a squeaky-clean image in the East. Given that, the performances he gives in Blade Of The Immortal is supreme, Miike rings every ounce of pain, anguish and emotion out of him.
The actors around Kimura are also great, Fukushi is a great piece of casting. He has almost model-esq looks which gives him an additional air of menace when he unleashes his giant axe he wields.
Rin, it’s fair to say, is inept in the fighting department, reduced to just screaming Manji a lot and crying. Manji says he teaching her how to fight but she never engages anyone, only throws throwing knives at people which are always batted away with ease.
She is the humanity in the movie, providing the occasional screeching speech and moving people to a change of mind. It’s the one slight weak point in the film but by no means will stop you from enjoying it.
Blade Of The Immortal is a well put-together, gorgeous looking, amazingly choreographed and moving film. It even has moments of comedy. It’s well written, by Tetsuya Oishi (Death Note, Beck), and supremely directed by Takashi Miike (Yakuza Apocalypse, Crows Zero) . Here’s to a further 100 films, at least!