I didn't take it seriously. I had to look it up, and it was Dustingood that reviewed the series and gave them high scores enough to convince me to queue them up. Despite his synopsis, I didn't know much/remember any details about it, and seeing that there were six movies I thought it might be a bit of a joke.
I loved it though. A ronin assassin pushes his baby cart around the countryside, pursuing the thread of a job presented and earned through proof of violent skill, one part zen philosophy and one part splatterfest.
I reflected that the movie took on a tone reminiscent of a Peckinpah western, dark characters and moody shadows providing a foreshadow to the sudden and brutal violence. I also thought of the more recent example of Kill Bill Part 2, Chapter 8 as being drawn directly from this.
The story takes you a few places you wouldn't expect. It also amuses me with its shot angles and original fight choreography.
I read later that it was drawn from Manga, and I can see the correlation.
Dustingood takes a huge jump in esteem. This nearly drew a hallowed 8, and I look forward to the rest of the series. This was the 5th installment, and now I will take care to get them in chronological order. The only drag is that Dustin claims this 5th was the best. I hope to find at least similar quality throughout.