Oh man, don't you dare cross Toshiro Mifune. The veteran actor has amassed quite a body count during his cinematic reign in which he ruled for an astounding 170 feature-length films, and here he adds a few more notches to his blood-soaked belt.
While it can be quite depressing to think of all the poor Japanese folks that Mifune has dispatched over his career, director Masaka Kobayashi goes to painstaking lengths to make sure the viewer knows that at least in this film, he is doing it for good reason. Not only is he giving the finger to the almighty creator by doing away with his creation with his unparalleled swordsmanship, but he is also rebelling against the daimyo of the Aisu clan of which he is a vassal, a crime of which there can be no forgiveness.
Although not as impressive visually or thematically intriguing as his 1962 masterpiece Harakiri, Kobayashi once again proves that he is a capable storyteller. All the while examining social order and the price that it imposes on the body of people that it claims to protect.
Despite the fact that the material was in the hands of Shinobu Hashimoto, the writer responsible for Harakiri, it is unfortunately lacking the urgency and vitality that made the prior film so special. Yet, not all is lost as Kobayashi delicately sheds light not on the overt violence that this society cultivated, but rather the quiet disruption of the family for the sake of the lord.
Though Kobayashi's revisionist tale isn't as gripping as his previous work, it is still a very exciting piece of cinema and further proof that Kurosawa & Ozu aren't the only Japanese directors worthy of our respect.