Home > Film, Interviews, Reviews > Film Review And Q&A: ‘Blade of the Immortal’ (無限の住人- Mugen no Jūnin) Takashi Miike

Film Review And Q&A: ‘Blade of the Immortal’ (無限の住人- Mugen no Jūnin) Takashi Miike

Fights involving different types of weaponry leave nothing to the imagination!

Blade of the Immortal posterFilmed in Kyōto and based on the manga series of the same name by Hiroaki Samura ‘Blade of the Immortal’ is Takashi Miike’s 100th film, his previous films in the jidaigeki genre include ‘13 Assassins’ and ‘Hara-kiri; Death of a Samurai’. The film follows Manji (Takuya Kimura) who after witnessing his sister die and lying on the battlefield near death is made immortal by a strange nun called Yaobikuni (Yoko Yamamoto) who infects him with a Buddhist Lama’s ‘sacred bloodworms’ (kessen-chu) which help his body to regenerate after being wounded.

Hana Sugisaki as Rin and Takuya Kimura as Manji

Takuya Kimura as Manji (left) and Hana Sugisaki as Rin (right)

Fifty years later he meets Rin Asano (Hana Sugisaki, who also plays Manji’s sister) who has witnessed her father being brutally murdered, her mother raped and kidnapped and their sword training dōjō destroyed by members of the ‘Ittō-ryū’ (one sword) school led by Kagehitsa Anotsu (Sota Fukushi) who is trying to take over the leadership of all the sword school dōjōs in Edo (today’s Tōkyō). In her search for revenge Rin asks Manji to act as her bodyguard as they go in pursuit of the ‘Ittō-ryū’ and its leadership. Manji, who is initially stunned by Rin’s resemblance to his sister, is at first reluctant to act as her bodyguard but is eventually won over by her persistence and the need to satisfy his own reckless behaviour and blood lust, and potentially his redemption and rescue from immortality.

sota fukushi as kagehitsa anotsu

Sota Fukushi as Kagehitsa Anotsu, head of the Ittō-ryū school

Surprisingly, or perhaps not, the film also features the Kabuki actor Ichikawa Ebizō XI, who previously starred in Takashi Miike’s ‘Hara-kiri: Death of a Samurai’, who in ‘Blade of the Immortal’ plays another immortal Eiku Shimuza who manages to partially ruin Manji’s regeneration abilities by tainting him with a bloodworm killer potion (kessen-satsu). Manji however manages to turn the tables and kills Eiku Shimuza.

ebizo as eiku shizuma

Takuya Kimura, formerly a member of the boyband SMAP, plays the tortured Manji to the hilt, his on screen persona seemingly relishing and abandoning himself to the on screen butchery. The numerous fights involving different types of weaponry leave nothing to the imagination with the resulting, cartoon style, gore occasionally verging so much on being ludicrous that it becomes seemingly intentionally comedic. The weapons used in the fight scenes are largely a product of the imagination of the original manga author so should not be taken seriously as some sort of esoteric school of hidden Japanese weaponry. That said the on screen butchery that is unleashed by their use is not for the faint hearted or those who might be gore-phobic.

The inclusion of the Kabuki actor Ichikawa Ebizō XI is something of an enigma. Was he included because of the draw of his good looks and glamorous popularity, especially amongst younger female Japanese fans or for his acting ability? His on screen character in this movie is played as a one dimensional individual with a mind numbingly dull edge but given that his character, Eiku Shizuma, is 200 years old and longing for death the viewer could be forgiven for considering this an integral element of a character whose existence is akin to a living death.

Numerous crazy punk style opponents are thrown in at various intervals for good measure, one very unusual one early on who carries two heads one on each shoulder, and another bonkers character who makes a great deal of on screen impact is Shira (Hayato Ichihara) who reveals an important part of the plot clarifying the back story to what happened fifty years earlier and who abandons himself to his sadistic nature with great relish and is finally confronted by Manji with predictable results.

Mnji confronts the Bangashira

Manji confronts the forces of the Shōgun’s Banshu samurai, the Bangashira

Whilst not a classic style old fashioned samurai jidaigeki movie ‘Blade of the Immortal’ is perhaps what passes these days for a modern take on the genre. It has both violence and humour in equal measure with the reaction of the audience for this sold out event, cheering, clapping and laughing in turns, giving credence to the popularity of this genre. The punk-ish feel, à la samurai version of the Crazy 88, of many of the characters, the constant energy and inventiveness make this film a really enjoyable romp, a zippy and novel attempt at a really good adaptation of the original cult classic manga. Fizzing! or ‘Shuwa! Shuwa!’ (シュワッ!シュワッ!) as they say in Japan. Classic Takashi Miike at his best!

Whilst Takashi Miike’s following in the West might be considered part of a sub culture it’s obviously a large enough sub culture to make a big difference to the popularity of his films here, the proportion of the audience who stayed behind late on a Sunday evening for the Q&A with the Director evidence of his popularity.

Details:

‘Blade of the Immortal’ (無限の住Mugen no Jūnin)

Directed by Takashi Miike

140 minutes

Released 29th April 2017

Screenplay Tetsuya Oishi

Based on the manga by Hiroaki Samura

Warner Bros adaptation

Distributor Arrow Films

Premier screening of ‘Blade of the Immortal’ – Q&A with the Director Takashi Miike:

Takashi Miike Q&A

Director Takashi Miike Q&A

Q&A

Q – This was your 100th film. In this film there are 100 warriors – was that a coincidence or was it deliberate?

A – It wasn’t deliberate. I don’t count my films. It was only when someone else came up to me and told me that I was made aware of it.

Q – You are so prolific. How do you keep up your energy levels?

A – (laughs) I have a twin brother and we’ve made 50 films each.

Q – What influence have Westerns had on you?

A – Not a conscious influence – I may have picked up a few bits and pieces but without being consciously aware of it. I was mostly influenced by the old Japanese jidaigeki samurai epics.

Q – Why did you mess up Takuya Kimura’s face?

A – (laughs) …the scars on his face and chest were a reflection of the character’s inner struggles. He actually had an eye patch that he couldn’t see through. A lot of the time the eye patches actors wear are see through but he insisted on wearing one that wasn’t.

Q – There were two different fighting styles on display – could you say something about that? The scenes have a lot of energy. What do you do to keep the pace and energy up between takes?

A – I don’t discuss with the actors what they are going to do in the fight scenes. They already know what they need to do and did it to their utmost ability. The actors just went for it. When I film I only use one camera and do it in one take. They were really pushed to the limits. Luckily there were no injuries other than mine – I broke my ankle. Do you recall the fight scene on the steep slope? I was just admiring the view when I put my foot down the wrong way and broke my ankle. Be careful out there folks…

Q – Do what degree do you change or adapt the original source when making your films?

A – A book or story may be very long and may need to be adapted to become a film. Even so any adaptation will try to remain true to the story’s characters. It’s you guys who come and see the films who make them a success – at least this time you didn’t get up and walk out (referring to his earlier comments before the screening of ‘Blade of the Immortal’ about the first time he attended the film festival with his film ‘Audition’ when a third of the audience got up and walked out). Thank you very much for your continued support!

Trailer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Pc5ikveEjA

Asian Wiki

http://asianwiki.com/Blade_of_the_Immortal

Reviewer/Interviewer Profile:

Reviewer Profile:

Trevor Skingle was born and lives in London where he works in the field of Humanitarian Disaster Relief. He is a Japanophile and his hobbies are Kabuki, painting and drawing and learning Japanese.

Related Posts:

Blu-ray Review: Yatterman – A Film By Takashi Miike

DVD Review: The Great Yokai War (Yokai Daisenso) – A Film By Takashi Miike

DVD Review: Crows Zero II – A Sequel By Takashi Miike

DVD Review: Hara-kiri: Death Of A Samurai – A Film By Takashi Miike

DVD Review: Crows Zero – A Film By Takashi Miike

 

 

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