Minimal almost abstract story of a "Beautiful and Tragic Wandering"
The same year he directed the first of the Zatoichi series, Kenji Misumi directed this tale based on a famous novel by Renzaboro Shibata. With an eye for composition, Misumi created an amazing bit of visual cinema.
The story follows the adult life of Shingo, a humble orphan raised by a low ranking samurai. He decides to to wander Japan for three years and returns with an unexpected new skill; he can bring swordsmen to their knees quaking in fear just with a sword pose. This technique, unfortunately brings tragedy to Shingo's family and he ends up wandering in misery after they are killed by jealous samurai.
There are marked similarities with Misumi's later film, "Ken Ki" which is also based on a book by Renzaboro Shibata. Unfortunately in this film, unlike "Ken Ki" and like many other films based on a famous novel, much of the story seems to be told in short hand as if the audience is expected to be familiar with the story and characters already. It's a testament to Misumi's talent that the movie works so well visually, we can forgive the odd jumps in time and the sparse character development. Curious since the movie is unusually short for a Japanese film. By 40 minutes in the movie settles down and everything works much better dramatically. Some of the shots are amazing masterpieces of composition. The action is well done.
If you are looking for more rounded entertainment, I recommend "Ken Ki" over this. That is not to say that this film isn't with rewards of it's own but it's a demanding work to watch.
The DVD I saw had an original trailer for "Kiru". It strangely contains a scene that wasn't in the film. This scene is very interesting as it ends in an extreme bit of action that foretells Misumi's later work with the Lone Wolf series.
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