meta: Samurai


2020


Nisioisin's 'Katanagatari': Adventures Beyond The Language Barrier 
Nisioisin's twelve-novel cycle of a 'swordless swordsman' and 'strategemist' on a weapons hunt is, in its English edition, a gold standard for how to translate cutting-edge cultural properties
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'Gojoe': The Demons On The Bridge 
Twenty years later, Gakuryū Ishii's revisionist samurai legend still dazzles and jolts like few other movies of its kind
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2019


'Izo': Takashi Miike's Death (And Resurrection) Mantra 
Even longtime Takashi Miike fans were alienated by this mix of Miike's fetishes, 'Slaughterhouse-Five', and William S. Burroughs's space-age shamanism, but it deserves fresh eyes and open minds
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'Rashōmon': The Post-Truth Condition 
Ryūnosuke Akutagawa's story, and Akira Kurosawa's movie, have endured to tell us something about the nature of truth in a time when we can hardly trust the words we hear in our own heads
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'Unforgiven'/'Yurusarezarumono': From The Wild West To The Deep North 
Sang-Il Lee's Meiji-era remake of Clint Eastwood's now-classic Western doesn't quite eclipse its predecessor, but it doesn't need to; it stands very nicely on its own
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'Samurai Champloo': The Mix 
At the Venn intersection of '47 Ronin' and 'Cash Rules Everything Around Me' is this glorious jumble of period samurai adventure, road movie, anti-romantic triangle, comedy, drama, and stone cold classic
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'Punk Samurai Slash Down': Pulp Fiction 
Kō Machida's cult novel about a ronin grifter whose latest grift goes horribly wrong is one strange mash-up of conceits, even for those who like strange mash-ups
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'Katanagatari': The Amazing Adventures Of Sword(less) Boy And Strategy Girl 
From the pen of Nisioisin came this genre-bending and -busting samurai-era fantasy, adapted into a festive eyeful of an anime where there's as much wordplay as swordplay
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'Dororo': Take (Back) Another Little Piece Of My Heart 
Osamu Tezuka's feudal-era supernatural epic manga gives us two antiheroes, mutilated in body and spirit alike, both seeking wholeness
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'Kamui Gaiden': Uncanny Valley Of The Ninja 
Get past the often terrible CGI, and you'll find a reasonably faithful movie adaptation of Sanpei Shirato's manga masterpiece
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2018


'The Legend Of Kamui': A Nearly Lost Ninja Scroll 
With only two volumes in English, and those out of print, Sanpei Shirato's ragged and earthy ninja epic needs as much of a reissue in full as can be had
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'Bakumatsu Taiyōden'/'Sun In The Last Days Of The Shogunate': Grifter's Paradise 
All but unseen by Western audiences, this breezy, bracing 1957 comedy cross-sections Japanese society at a turning point, for both fast laughs and wise insights
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'An Actor's Revenge': Improvised, And Served Cold 
It's normally bad to call a movie 'stagy', but Kon Ichikawa's kabuki tragedy revels in it to great effect
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'Blade Of The Immortal': Die Another Day 
A great manga-to-screen adaptation, a good-to-great Takashi Miike picture, and a slightly overlong and ragged samurai flick, in roughly that order
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2017


The 'Silence' Of Shusaku Endō, Masahiro Shinoda, And Martin Scorsese 
On two film adaptations, entirely dissimilar but equally fascinating, of a Japanese novel about the persecution of Christians in Tokugawa-era Japan
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Victor Santos's 'Rashōmon': Edo Noir 
A clever and inventive retelling of three classic Japanese samurai-era tales, channeled through detective-noir sensibilities
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'Carried by the Wind: Tsukikage Ran': Crouching Tigress, Nitwit Dragon 
It looks at first to be a mere genderswapped spoof of the samurai genre, but underneath it's actually a loving and observant homage to all the great things about those stories of lone wolves vs. corrupt power
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'Blade Of The Immortal': But That's The Way I Like It, Baby, I Don't Want To Live Forever 
With the first of the three-in-one reissues of Hiroaki Samura's epic fantasy about a nigh-unkillable assassin, there's never been a better time to rediscover one of manga's high points
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2016


'Lone Wolf And Cub': The Boy And The Beast 
Kazuo Koike's perennial manga classic was adapted for the big screen in this cycle of six pop-pulp masterpieces, where father and son slash, stab, shoot, and slice their way through hell
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Let's Animate This: 'Musui's Story' 
This riotous 19th-century memoir of a ne'er-do-well samurai's life and times, available in English, would lend itself wonderfully to an anime treatment
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See more Samurai posts from 2016