Sugata Sanshiro (Judo Saga) (Judo Story) - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Sugata Sanshiro (Judo Saga) (Judo Story) Reviews

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September 4, 2015
Kurosawa's first is a minor work compared to his later masterpieces. Repeat viewings however reveal a likeable and endearing film about a country bumpkin who realizes his strength and spiritual growth through Judo. At first he's all strength, so much so, his instructor detests him to the point of calling him a useless bully. He's never a bully despite a scene in which he appears to be randomly fighting strangers on the streets. When his instructor says he lacks the spirituality to continue with judo, he all of a sudden jumps into a pond determined to die there if necessary. He stays there over a day until a blossoming lotus flower gives him sudden insight. He jumps out a changed man, with newfound humility. Eventually he excels so much at judo that children follow him around singing about him like a folk hero. But this notoriety attracts a nefarious character who is determined to humiliate him in a fight. Sanshiro however, never loses his cool or his humility. And if you've ever seen Kurosawa's masterpiece Ran, you know clouds feature prominently in that film. Clouds are important to Sanshiro Sugata as well.
May 14, 2009
Simple and effective, Judo Saga is Akira Kurosawa's debut film. Its about a young man who learns judo but hasn't mastered what it means to be humble and see the meaning of life. His great judo skills pit him against rivals in the martial arts world, as well as a love interest and a love triangle subplot. You can see some of the simple imagery, from the reeds in the wind whipping about outside as a letter of challenge is sent to the protagonist. Its brief and short, but the music and quiet moments are beautifully shot and acted, for a great debut from a great filmmaker.
½ March 3, 2015
Akira Kurosawa's debut film in 1943. The trials and tribulation of a young martial artist. The ultimate question, the argument that has spanned centuries in Martial Arts culture since its first incarnation, which style is better. American-Chinese martial art legend Bruce Lee in his later years of his life would depart himself from having a style, (using the term "No Way as Way" with his way of fighting Jeet-Kune-Do) because
of the criticism and opposing styles of fighting loyalty and live or die dedication to a style of system that is so strict in an actual fight its movements are rendered useless.



Black and white Japaneses film from highly respected director Akira Kurosawa who has inspired, George Lucas's Star Wars series and films by Steven Spielberg and Ford Coppola. Sanshiro Sugata is the first installment in The Judo Saga; this film centers around a young man traveling to a small town to learn Jujitsu but soon finds a new style that, in the film is more superior. He soon learns the style but has not conquered the mental state of mind. During the film while having a test of deadly dedication to his new style of fighting he confines himself in a muddy swamp were he get his first enlightenment by a beautiful flower growing near by him, teaching the beauty of life itself and that to push himself to death because he cant conquer Judo spirituality is not the answer, he has more trials for his art with love and at last the final battle; will he have what it takes to become the best? Still enjoyable considering it is a partially losted film and was made quite a long time ago any new fans to Kurosawa's film need to watch his first film, with noticeable limits on his production but his filmmaker talent fights through with ease, a good-old-classic.
December 19, 2014
It's Kurosawa's first movie and still really good.
January 24, 2014
The first act or so is a little shaky, and the cuts make the plot kinda confusing, but once you get the hang of what's happening it's quite enjoyable. You can see Kurosawa already has a pretty firm handle of how he wants to make movies. He makes the very un-cinematic martial art of jujitsu compelling to watch: the slowly-paced fight against the old man is lovely and sad, and the final fight in the grass is shockingly beautiful.
December 1, 2013
As the directorial debut, this film is great. Then consider that that Kurosawa-san made this during WWII (all media was propaganda) and it seems astounding. The story makes the point that there is a difference between bullying strength and benevolent strength; sage wisdom in a time when the Japanese military expected to conquer and retain much of the Pacific rim.
sanjurosamurai
Super Reviewer
May 25, 2008
thank the criterion collection for putting together a coherent translation of this film. such a great precedent for other fight films to come. this film hits an emotional chord too many other martial arts films fail to hit, and the sequences only improve as they go on. the climax is fantastic, and the heart behind sugata's struggle reveals a depth to the plot seldom seen in this genre. a wonderful film.
May 30, 2013
Some scenes demonstrate Kurosawa's nascent cinematic brilliance, but overall the film was horrendously cut by film censors at the time and the result is confusing.
May 18, 2013
Kurosawa's first film is a first-rate drama of when human emotion clashes with traditional Japanese values. Unfortunately, Japan's wartime government decided to censor 17 minutes out of this film. Those scenes are truly missed.
½ January 29, 2013
Interesting mostly because it was Kurosawa's first film and because of the historical value of a Japanese wartime film. It's not so much that it's a bad movie as it is a bland movie. Man wants to become judo champion, beats rivals, becomes the best. Fairly unmemorable, yet it was a major hit in WW2 and spawned a sequel. You can recognize the villain because he dresses like a Westerner. Also he has an evil villain goatee, complete with maniacally twistable mustache. About the only thing I will say in its favor is that it features some of the best examples of Kurosawa's large-scale cinematography. Most of his movies tend to be pretty intimate and small scale in range, but this one features an ending in vast fields of grain with wind and the shadows of clouds roaring across. It's too bad he didn't do more shots like these in his later movies. Perhaps the sheer amount of waiting that he must have had to do to get the weather exactly right dissuaded him from this in future. Either way, it's a fairly conventional film with some interesting shots and techniques in it. Really only worth seeing for Kurosawa fans.
December 26, 2012
Though the story presented in Sugata Sanshiro might not be the most appealing one, it's still a considerably enjoyable tale about the beginnings of Judo and its most prominent representative, the titular Sugata (played by Susumu Fujita, in a role that earned him a notable spot in the Japanese cinematic history). It's a simple and modest, but a truly elaborate and serious tale of one man's difficult journey to martial arts stardom. In order to find peace in life and achieve perfection in the craft that he's been practicing for some time, Sanshiro needs to come to terms with his own emotions and find a right path, which might eventually lead him to the desired golden mean.

Based on a best-selling novel, Sugata Sanshiro established the reputation of Kurosawa, and made him a prominent figure in the filmmaking business. Though it's far from being a genuine masterpiece, the film still shows the director's steady hand and is the admirable proof of his awe-inspiring versatility.

To become the master of martial arts is an uneasy task, and Sanshiro learns the lesson in the first minutes of the picture. Trying to join a clan of Jujitsu fanatics, he quickly realizes that they're just a bunch of up to no good coxcombs. Seeing how easily Yano (Denjir├┤ ├"k├┤chi), the originator and master of Judo, defeated the group, Sanshiro decides to become his student. To become a proficient Judo technician the young, strong-willed, yet somehow reckless Sugata must overcome many of his weaknesses and find out the meaning of a warrior's way, thus learning the true meaning of life. The student, struggling to accustom himself to the situation, is constantly tested by his master, in many more or less laborious ways. And when the time comes, Sanshiro is finally able to take part in tournaments, in order to prove his indisputable technique and unrestrained power. On his way Sanshiro meets a mysterious, elegant, devilish man by the name of Hagaki (Ry├╗nosuke Tsukigata), who's like a shadow that's been following Sugata everywhere that he goes. Ironically so, the man - with his familiar look and specifically evil attitude - comes as a typical dark character, taken straight out of a superhero movie. In the film's most climatic and disquieting sequence, the two rivals participate in a duel that will determine who's the strongest living martial artist.

For all the lovers of Japanese culture, and for all the adepts of Asian martial arts, Sugata Sanshiro will definitely be a worthy film experience. For the rest it might be an insightful, valuable, and well-crafted period drama that's not only full of perfectly choreographed action scenes, but also full of humane qualities that prove to have an authentic meaning even in the modern times.
August 26, 2012
Kurosawa's first. An okay film. Interesting as a curiosity to see where it all started from. The story is simple, presentation quite conventional but nevertheless enjoyable to watch.

The original cut was destroyed due the Japanese wartime entertainment policies. The copy that remains is 17 minutes short from the original and as such one is left to wonder what was cut by the censors.
½ December 15, 2010
Wednesday, December 15, 2010

(1943) Sugata Sanshiro
(In Japanese with English subtitles)

JAPANESE WESTERN

It's common knowledge that director Akira Kurosawa generally makes films that'd be extremely popular, if they were 'remade' by other directors such as Sergio Leone's "A Fistful of Dollars" from "Yojimbo", George Lucas's "Star Wars" from "The Hidden Fortress" and Preston Sturges of "The Magnificent Seven" from "Seven Samurai". These films and more can always be enjoyed more-so overseas and perhaps make more money than the original ones Kurosawa made within his own region of Japan or anywhere else for that matter! And upon watching this film 20 minutes in for the first time, I barely couldn't keep my eyes open and as the movie progressed, I suddenly realized why that is! By first looking at the story and then the year this film was made which was in 1943 made me wonder whether or not this was even the "first" conventional chop socky movie ever made since the storyline delves into 'very' familiar territory, about man entering a village for the intentions of becoming a high ranking martial artist until a judo instructor takes him under his wing, proving that his judo was the more superior martial art than other dojo's teaching Jiu- Jitsu- the Japanese Jiu Jitsu which involves grabbing or grappling and not the Bruce Lee kind which involves alot of kicking and punching! And if you've seen alot of so-called chop- socky movies as much as I have such as "The Chinese Connection", "The Fearless Hyena", "Drunken Master" or the "Master Killer" then you'll know that their is somewhat a pattern and this film called "Sugata Sanshiro" made in 1943 may have started it, also included as well are the wind scenes blowing on the background upon the final fight which Kurosawa reused again on "Yojimbo" mimiced again on other martial art films that came out after this one either by Chinese films or anywhere else!
Also notable about this film if "ones" seen enough Kurosawa oldies are the familiarity of the characters he resuses from other films such as the the old guy starting the samurai group to defend against the bandits in "Seven Samurai", he plays one of the stars Jiu Jitsu's main opponents!

The only thing that is preventing this film from receiving a perfect rating is that the martial arts isn't all that great considering that the time it was made of course, making much of that fighting kind of tame by today's standards, considering what people can get as of right now, but Kurosawa's artistic merit is still there, as well as the atmosphere which is still quite effective because it builds great tension!

3.5 out of 4 stars
Super Reviewer
June 9, 2011
"Sanshiro Sugata" is the first film from the legendary Akira Kurosawa who went on to make some of the finest films the world has ever witnessed. While this is not one of the top-tier Kurosawa films, it is saying something when a Director's lower films are better than a majority of other films out. The story is simple, a man who pursues a path in Judo grows as a person while doing so and also discovers humanity as well. The film portrays Sugata's progression as a martial artist as well as a man and finds purpose in doing so. The film while simple is still filled with great fight sequences, occasional comedy and some striking cinematography and shows the beginnings of the legendary Kurosawa and foreshadows what he would go on to achieve.
½ January 2, 2012
Good film reflecting the spirit of Japanese martial arts.
½ October 9, 2010
A pretty good template for master-pupil movies that would come after it, such as "The Karate Kid." Kurosawa shows right from the beginning that he has American sensibilities when it comes to film and other specific styles of his show in this, too.
GS
Super Reviewer
½ November 10, 2011
Kurosawa's original cut does not exist anymore, what is left of it is a very raw first film. It has cliched plot, but some memorable shots like the final battle scene which is very grainy and pessimistic in its presentation. It does not have much depth in terms of character and everything has a very contrived feel to it. That is of course because this is Kurosawa's first film and he wouldn't have had much artistic license with it. Despite it's short comings, Susumu Fujita gives a compelling performance, though wooden at times and it is entertaining and interesting. It is something that is worth watching if you're just into film in general and perhaps re-viewing if you're into Kurosawa.
June 27, 2011
Good, solid flick. It's Kurosawa's first outing, so it was an education, no doubt, but it's still remarkably lush and entertaining. Oh, and the final fight scene is absolutely gorgeous . . .
Harlequin68
Super Reviewer
½ June 25, 2011
In "Sanshiro Sugata," a group of jujitsu instructors get together to teach Yano(Denjiro Okochi) a lesson for having the gall to open a judo school of his own. Things do not go as planned as he takes on all comers with his back to a canal while hardly breaking a sweat. But it is not so easy with Sanshiro Sugata(Susumu Fujita), his star pupil, who keeps getting into fights outside of school. As Yano condemns him for his lack of humanity and contemplates kicking him out, Sanshiro dives into a pond in a fit of pique.

With his first film "Sanshiro Sugata," writer-director Akira Kurosawa already shows a great deal of promise in this compelling morality tale. As he proves, it is easy for somebody to be strong like Sanshiro but that does not mean he will make a great athlete.(Plus, I remember hearing somewhere that judo turns the opponent's strength back against himself.) That's not all as he also has to learn how to be humble and respect others. And I suppose it is also a mark of the times that the one seedy character is also the only one wearing western clothing.
May 23, 2011
Akira Kurosawa is widely known as one of the twentieth century's greatest directors, responsible for masterpieces like Rashoman, Ikiru, and The Seven Samurai. But every director must begin somewhere. John Ford got his start on B-westerns. Steven Spielberg began with Duel, the story of a man being chased down a desolate stretch of highway by a homicidal big-rig trucker. And Kurosawa started with that most Asian of genre films, the martial arts movie.
Sanshiro Sugata (subtitled Judo Saga) tells the story of a young man who seeks to learn jujitsu, but upon seeing his prospective sensei thwarted in an attack on a rival instructor chooses to follow this man and his new art of judo. Don't expect any nefarious plots by criminal syndicates with innocent lives hanging in the balance. Sanshiro Sugata is more like an American boxing film in that it focuses mainly on the hero's personal development and his rise to become a great fighter.
And rather than the flying kicks and fists of fury that characterize modern entries in the genre, this movie uses pure judo and jujitsu, which consists of the combatants struggling shoulder to shoulder seeking to throw the other, with only the occasional block or leg-sweep. The fighting here is simple but authentic, and fairly well staged. In between the fights, we see Sanshiro train, develop a budding romance, and learn that a warrior's spirit is as important as his skill. There is of course a villain, instantly recognizable as such because of his resemblance to Snidely Whiplash, and of course they fight before it's all over.
I must confess that the villain is never given much characterization, nor is his hatred for Sanshiro explained. More interesting is Murai, an aging jujitsu master who faces Sanshiro in the annual police tournament. He is fighting for the honor of his dojo, and to make his daughter proud. Their match, pitting Murai's skill and experience against Sanshiro's strength and agility was the movie's high point for me.
The film's low budget does show at times, mainly in the set pieces and the low quality of the night shooting. More seriously, the significance of some scenes isn't clear, and others felt like they should have been developed further, such as when the daughter of a fallen rival seeks vengeance on the hero. However, this may be due to the fact that wartime authorities cut a great deal of footage, most of which was never recovered.
Sanshiro Sugata is a long way from the kind of movies Kurosawa would be making just a few short years later, but it's not bad for a debut film, and there are signs of the greatness he would later achieve.
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