Japanese Journals - Jidaigeki

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Japanese Journals - Jidaigeki

Postby trevor826 » Thu Jun 16, 2005 11:14 pm

Jidaigeki is a genre of film and television in Japan. The name translates as period drama, in most cases, the Edo period of Japanese history. Set during the time span from 1600 to 1868 A.D., jidaigeki show the lives of the samurai, farmers, craftsmen and merchants of medieval Japan. Jidaigeki films are sometimes referred to as chambara movies, which derives from onomatopoeia for the slow, drum-heavy, march-like scores typical of the genre. (Dictionary definition)

Some of the films commented on in this section are classics, some are cheesy but have influenced the likes of Tarantino et al. Some are dire and I will be honest with my opinions, good, bad or just plain ugly! So from the almost super hero like Zatoichi through the blood spurting Babycart films to the ultra realism of the Twilight Samurai, let's take a trip through the world of Jidaigeki.

Because they?ll be covered in their appropriate sections, I won?t be including films directed by Kurosawa, Mizoguchi or Kitano here.

The Zatoichi films already have their own thread, please use the following link:

Zatoichi, the Blind Swordsman comments

Please feel free to add your own comments, reviews, criticisms to this thread.

INDEX - In alphabetical order.

Gohatto - 1999

Hana yori mo naho - 2006 review by Howard Schumann

Kill - 1968 comments by wpqx.

Lady Snowblood - 1973

Lone Wolf and Cub series 1972-74

Love and Honor - 2006 Thread started by hengcs.

Samurai Banners - 1968 comments by A.

Samurai Rebellion - 1967 comments by wpqx.

The Shogun's Samurai - 1978

Sword of Doom - 1965 comments started by A.

Sword of the Beast - 1965 comments by wpqx.

To be continued

For other sections of Japanese Journals, please use the links


2. Kurosawa, Ozu & Mizoguchi - The Classics

3. Kitano, Tsukamoto & Miike - The Modern Cult Directors

4. Anime

5. Horror & Ghost Stories

6. Jidaigeki (Chambara)

Cheers Trev.

Re: Japanese Journals - Jidaigeki

Postby trevor826 » Thu Jun 16, 2005 11:19 pm

Gohatto (1999) Taboo

Directed by Nagisa Oshima

Starring Takeshi Kitano, Tadanobu Asano, Shinji Takeda, Ryuhei Matsuda

Gohatto comes across as a samurai film where very little happens but dig beneath the surface and on top of the political upheaval and formality you have a seething pit of desire with a difference.

Set in 1860s Kyoto, Sozaburo Kano and Hyozo Tashiro are enlisted to the Shinshigumi, a form of militia. Because of Kanos girlish looks Tashiro is drawn to him, unfortunately so are a few other samurai including those of higher rank. While they become lovers, several of the others try it on with Kano, some even succeeding in bedding him. Scheming and passions arise as others try to separate the lovers so they can attempt to seduce Kano.

Kano though has his own obsessions though unluckily for him the people he seems to fall for arent gay, for all his effeminate beauty, Kano is cruel and will use, betray and kill anyone who stands in his way. As the film rolls along the plots thicken, at times its difficult to work out who is gay, who is straight and who is plotting against whom but its worth sticking with it.

The film has no scenes of an explicit nature unlike Oshimas own In the Realm of the Senses and it works well without them, what it does have is depth, fine acting a strong cast and enough twists to tie you in knots.

If I had to find anything wrong, I'd have to say everything is too pristine, a srange complaint maybe but even the streets and the peasant children looked too clean!

Recommended viewing as an alternative samurai film with good re-watch value.

Cheers Trev.

BBFC rated 15

Re: Japanese Journals - Jidaigeki

Postby trevor826 » Thu Jun 16, 2005 11:31 pm

For When the last sword is drawn

Re: Japanese Journals - Jidaigeki

Postby trevor826 » Thu Jun 16, 2005 11:33 pm

For Twilight Samurai

Re: Japanese Journals - Jidaigeki

Postby trevor826 » Thu Jun 16, 2005 11:34 pm

The Shogun's Samurai (1978) Yagy ichizoku no inb

Directed by Kinji Fukasaku

Starring Sonny Chiba, Toshir Mifune

A historically inaccurate tale using real characters from 17th Century feudal Japan, a tale of twisted politics, deceit, murder, tragedy and honour, all the ingredients for a really good story.

After the suspicious death of the Shogun, his two sons go to war with each other to decide who will succeed to power. Each allies himself with various clans and skilled swordsmen in a war that could tear the very fabric of Japan apart.

Meanwhile the Emperor and his courtiers are plotting and playing both sides in the hope that they will cause the ruination of each other leaving him as the major power. Apart from the major players, there is a lot of deception carrying through to the individual clans; some are used for their strength but also with the hope that they will be severely weakened in the forthcoming struggle for power

Legendary ronins, (masterless samurai) ninjas and warriors of every type play their part in this tale of assassination, mass murder and political intrigue. The historical inaccuracies include the use of rifles, there may well have been firearms during that period but the guns used looked 19th or even 20th century, a lot of the central characters are based on real people but the story is more or less total fiction.

The acting is a sore point, some of it is off putting in its hamminess, it would be fine for a kabuki performance but is completely out of place within the structure of a film. There are far too many characters appearing and disappearing and despite having all the elements of a good story, its pretty boring and seems far too drawn out.

This may have made a good TV series but it failed to keep my attention as a two-hour plus film.

Only recommended for die-hard Jidaigeki fans.

Cheers Trev.

BBFC rated 15

R2 Pal dvd available from Eureka, not their Masters of Cinema series.

Re: Japanese Journals - Jidaigeki

Postby trevor826 » Thu Jun 16, 2005 11:35 pm

For Azumi

Re: Japanese Journals - Jidaigeki

Postby trevor826 » Thu Jun 16, 2005 11:36 pm

The Lone Wolf and Cub series.

Kozure kami: Kowokashi udekashi tsukamatsuru (1972) Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance

Directed by Kenji Misumi

Starring Tomisaburo Wakayama

Based on a manga from 1970 this Jidaigeki series tells the story of Ogami Itto and his baby son as he hacks his way across Japan.

Volume 1: Sword of Vengeance shows how he was the official executioner to the Shogunate but was set up and accused of treason by the treachorous Yagyu clan. Instead of taking the noble way out and commiting seppuku, he takes his son and hits the road as an assassin for hire vowing revenge on the Yagyu.

This is definitely not Kurosawa, the fights are inventive but its not long before limbs are being severed and streams of blood are spurting everywhere. Because it is adapted from a manga, the weaponry and blood spillage can be more than a little over the top but it does have a fairly strong storyline as well.

Kozure kami: Sanzu no kawa no ubaguruma (1972) Lone Wolf and Cub: Perambulator of the River of Sanzu aka Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx

Volume 2. Ogami Itto and his son clash with two ninja clans, one of which, the Akashi is an all female clan, both have been ordered by the head of the Yagyu to destroy Itto. Neither clan is successful and within a short space of time only the leader of the Akashi is left alive.

Also Ogami Itto has taken a contract as an assassin but his intended hit will be protected by the Bentenrai brothers, each a highly skilled close quarters fighter employed by the Shogunate, the two parties have great respect for each other but know they will inevitably clash. When it eventually happens its a bloody affair and the brothers and the hit are left for dead. Itto and son continue on their journey and their quest for vengeance.

The River of Sanzu - Japanese Buddhists believe the dead will cross it to pass into the afterlife. The change in title to the River Styx was obviously for a Western audience to relate to.

Kozure kami: Shinikazeni mukau ubaguruma (1972) Lone Wolf and Cub: Perambulator Against the Winds of Death aka Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades

Volume 3. There are three strands to this episode:

1. Itto saves a woman who has been sold from a life of prostitution.
2. A samurai who seems to have lost his way seeks a duel and advice from him.
3. As part of the payment for saving the womans life, Itto accepts an assassination job.

Although Itto generally just slaughters his somewhat lacklustre opposition, when he has a duel with a skilled Samurai it adds a touch of class to the proceedings and there is a real show of skill and of the way of the warrior (Bushido).

Kozure kami: Oya no kokoro ko no kokoro (1972) Baby Cart in Peril

Directed by Buichi Saito

Volume4. Itto takes a contract on a highly trained and beautifully tatooed Besshikki-me (swordswoman) which is fulfllled but with honour to the hit.

We see some of the back story as to how Itto became the executioner for the Shogunate, this is because of a chance meeting with his opponent for the job, because of this there is a duel and Itto cuts of his opponents left arm but leaves him alive.
A point thats good, we get to see a lot of the ceremony and normal life from that period in Japans history.

Kozure kami: Meifumando (1973) Baby Cart in the Land of Demons

Volume 5. Quite complex assassination plot in this one, 5 clan vassals test Ittos abilities and once beaten give him part of the details of the hit, the Yagyu clan are again involved as they are obviously trying to become the most powerful clan in Japan.

Daigoro again gets his own little adventure, ending in him getting a public beating because he has made a promise and wont go back on it.

Kozure kami: Jigoku e ikuzo! Daigoro (1974) Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell aka Baby Cart 6: Go to Hell, Daigoro!

Directed by Yoshiyuki Kuroda

Volume 6. The clan leader of the Yagyu has already seen three of his sons die at the hands of Ogami Itto so he sends his last heir to kill him, unfortunately she (yes his daughter!) doesnt last very long.

More innocent people die in this episode than all the others put together and this is down to three bizarre characters on the hunt for Itto, they know the only way they can hurt him is by killing every innocent person he comes into contact with. Annoyingly theres no resolution to the series.

Cheers Trev.

BBFC rated 18.

Interesting points:

The films were produced by Katsu Production Co. Ltd who produced all the later Zatoichi films as well.

Katsu Production Co. Ltd were owned by Shintar Katsu who of coarse played the role of Zatoichi in 26 films and a TV series.

Tomisaburo Wakayama and Shintar Katsu were brothers, I wonder if it ever crossed their minds to make a Zatoichi meets Lone Wolf & Cub film?

Re: Japanese Journals - Jidaigeki

Postby trevor826 » Mon Jul 11, 2005 3:49 pm

Shurayukihime (1973) Lady Snowblood

Directed by Toshiya Fujita

Starring Meiko Kaji, Toshio Kurosawa

Without doubt this film was the biggest influence and inspiration for Quentin Tarantinos Kill Bill, A revenge drama where a number of targets are tracked down one by one.

Set in the Meiji period Yuki was born in a prison, her mother died shortly after giving birth but not before asking another inmate to raise her daughter and train her as an instrument of revenge!

Revenge for what? Well Im certainly not going to put any spoilers except to say that she suffered heavy family losses and was roughly treated by a gang of three men and a woman. The mother had already dealt revenge to one of the gang before being imprisoned leaving three for her newborn child.

The comparisons with Kill Bill are multitudinous although Lady Snowblood doesnt have the black humour. It does have blood, unbelievable amounts of gushing/spurting liquid of the strangest hues and viscosities. The story is split into chapters, one for the build up and one for each of the intended victims, it also has a section of narration with each chapter relaying events and the thoughts of Yuki (Lady Snowblood) and some pretty dire 70s style film music as well.

So is it worth seeing? Id say its an above average film of its type, certainly far better than its sequel or Princess Blade. If you want to see the inspiration for Kill Bill, this is without a doubt the film.

Cheers Trev.

BBFC rated 18

Re: Japanese Journals - Jidaigeki

Postby A » Wed Jul 13, 2005 12:01 pm

Fine seinng you mention Lady Snowblood. It's one of my favorite films, and imo also one of the best films of 1973. Very rich in exploring social and political issues. I'll probably watch it in Cinema next week

Re: Japanese Journals - Jidaigeki

Postby trevor826 » Wed Jul 13, 2005 1:00 pm

Your right A, the film covers quite a bit of ground in terms of social and political issues, the Meiji period was a huge turning point in Japans history with the adaptation (because for some reason they were seen as superior) of western ideals, dress, weaponry etc. I didn't bring up these issues because I was so bowled over with how much Kill Bill had used from the story, Very good and interesting point though.


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