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Samurai Reincarnation (1981)
"Makai tenshô" (original title)

 -  Action | Fantasy | Horror  -  6 June 1981 (Japan)
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Ratings: 6.6/10 from 526 users  
Reviews: 13 user | 10 critic

The villain is called Amakusa SHIRO Tokaisada. He is actually based on a real christian samurai. The movie was one of the inspirations for the game called 'Samurai Shodown' (actual spelling)


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Title: Samurai Reincarnation (1981)

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Credited cast:
Jubei Yagyu (as Sonny Chiba)
Kenji Sawada ...
Akiko Kana ...
Ken Ogata ...
Kirimaru Iga
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Yûko Asuka ...
Koga Kunoichi
Koga Ninja
Jun Hamamura ...
Hiroshi Inuzuka ...
Masataka Iwao ...
Yasui Tobei
Ai Kanzaki ...
Naoko Kubo ...
Noboru Matsuhashi ...
Noboru Mitani ...
Hideo Murota ...


After surviving the slaughter of many Christians 350 years ago, a samurai denounces God for ignoring the pleas of believers. He sells his soul to Satan and receives the power to resurrect the dead to join him in a murderous rampage. He is Shito: he brings to life a woman who was abused by her husband, two swordsmen who want to prove their skill, and a young man yearning for love. Shito leads them in attacks on people powerless in the face of such spirits. It's up to Jubei, the son of one of the resurrected swordsmen, to seek out a maker of swords who can fashion him with a weapon that will kill the undead. Showdowns loom. Written by <>

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Plot Keywords:

samurai | showdown | sword | undead | ronin | See All (81) »


Action | Fantasy | Horror


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Release Date:

6 June 1981 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Samurai Reincarnation  »

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Shiro Amakusa: The Tokugawa Shogunate is now about to end.
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Remade as Makai tenshô (2003) See more »

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User Reviews

Compelling samurai/dark-fantasy epic by one of Japan's most revered filmmakers
25 April 2007 | by (Bulgaria) – See all my reviews

When you blend historical figures with fictional stories that go way beyond realism, you often get mixed results. Well to be honest you really don't get good results. Suffice to say it's a dangerous line to tread. Luckily when you have an experienced director like Kinji Fukasaku and a great cast of actors like Sonny Chiba and Tomisaburo Wakayama you can't expect anything less then good. And "Makai Tenshu" is good, really really good. Flawlessly using legendary figures from Japanese history such as Jubei Yagyu and Myamoto Musashi in a thick supernatural plot about vengeance, along with some of the most stylish action sequences I've seen in chambara movies.

"Makai Tenshu" is an adaptation of the book bearing the same name. A pseudo-historical variation of the story about the Christian rebellions during the opening years of the Tokugawa Shogunate. And their subsequent, brutal conclusion. That event seals the fate of thousands upon thousands of Christians. It is here where our tale begins, amidst the bloodied aftermath of the massacre. After a mysterious ritual is performed, the leader of the Christians Shiro Amakusa returns from the dead to exact his revenge on the Shogunate. He vows the destruction of Japan and it's rulers. But before that can happen he must gather his retinue. Tortured, wretched souls whose life has been incomplete, unfinished. He offers them a second chance. Reincarnation, as demons like himself. This leaves the Yagyu clan with Jubei Yagyu (Sonny Chiba) and his father Tajima Yagyu (Tomisaburo Wakayama) as the only ones capable of confronting them.

I enjoyed very much how this story was handled. Divided into two parts the movie spends it's first hour on establishing the villains and their present motivations. Everything is written so that it makes sense, Amakusa's chosen for minions is not random and each has a role to fulfill. For example he uses the female he's risen, under a different name and background to seduce the Shogun and cloud his mind. While the ninja is used to used to eliminate anyone who has been curious about her "past". This level of detail is certainly satisfying when it comes to nitpicking every single detail. And it's not just the villains that are developed well. The relationship between Jubei and his father is also explored and plays an interesting part in the story. Fukusaku directs this first part of the film accordingly, while keeping his trademark kinetic action direction for the expositional second portion of the movie. There, the entire build up from firts part explodes into a series of stylishly directed action sequences. Fukasaku demonstrates his skill once again, using the sets and landscapes as an effective tool that enhances the experience of watching samurai duels. Skillful swordplay is not absent with the likes of Chiba and Wakayama both chambara veterans. This is not a movie that depends on strong acting ability to express itself, but even so performances are still commendable and at a higher ladder than most movies in the genre.

Visually speaking "Makai Tenshu" is a feast for 80s cinema fanatics. If you love old-school special effects as I do, then you've come at the right place. There is some lovely use of montages and the classic lighting effect does add up to the whole experience of watching a movie about demons and sorcery. But what really takes the cake in terms of visual goodness is the awesome set design. A tremendous amount of work has been put in the creation of these sets and it all pays out. Looking at that great opening shot of the massacred Christians was a chilling, beautiful moment as a twisted horroresque picture was laid upon my eyes. Bodies piled up, heads stabbed on pikes, crosses everywhere and the scorched sky, mesmerizing shot.

Kinju Fukasaku once again delivers a truly visceral experience. A story so carefully written and so visually stunning that it makes me long for the time when there was no CGI or Digital Cameras, when directing a movie was not just a question of budget but of skill and creativity.

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