7.3/10
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22 user 26 critic

Samurai Fiction (1998)

SF: Episode One (original title)
A noble young samurai searches for a thief who has stolen a precious treasure and killed one of his clansmen and meets an older samurai who tries to deter him from the violence of revenge.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Morio Kazama ...
Hanbei Mizoguchi
Mitsuru Fukikoshi ...
Heishiro Inukai
Tomoyasu Hotei ...
Rannosuke Kazamatsuri
Tamaki Ogawa ...
Koharu Mizoguchi
Mari Natsuki ...
Okatsu
Taketoshi Naitô ...
Kanzen Inukai (as Taketoshi Naitoh)
Kei Tani ...
Kagemaru
Fumiya Fujii ...
Ryunosuke Kuzumi
Naoyuki Fujii ...
Shintarô Suzuki
Ken Ohsawa ...
Tadasuke Kurosawa (as Ken Osawa)
Hiroshi Kanbe ...
Gosuke
Ryôichi Yuki ...
Ninja Hayabusa
Akiko Monô ...
Ninja Akakage
Taro Maruse ...
Sakyounosuke Kajii
Ramo Nakajima ...
Denbei Kimura
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Storyline

Three centuries ago, a precious sword has been stolen by Kazamatsuri -- the sword, which historic and symbolic value is priceless for the clan (Shogun Tokugawa donated it to clan 80 years before that, at the same time that he established them as the local rulers). Lord's counselor's young son Heishiro goes to retrieve the sword himself to protect the clan from the shame or possible demise. He is accompanied with two friends, Shintaro and Tadasuke, and followed by the ninjas of the clan. After Kazamatsuri wounds Heishiro and kills one of his friends, the young aristocrat still wants revenge more than sword itself, but meanwhile have to recover from his wounds, in the small forest house of a lonely samurai and his daughter. At the same time, Kamazatsuri stays in nearby town in the entertainment center run by Okatsu and falls into her. The older samurai tries to dissuade Heishiro from fighting with Kamazatsuri, but is himself gradually drawn into the conflict. Written by zelvopyr

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

samurai | sword | revenge | thief | ninja | See All (17) »


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Details

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Release Date:

1 August 1998 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Samurai Fiction  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The sword that is stolen in this film was borrowed from the estate of 'Toshiro Mifune'. It was one of his personal swords. See more »

Quotes

Kanzen Inukai: Kagemaru!
[Kagemaru drops down from a hatch in the ceiling]
Kagemaru: Hai!
Kanzen Inukai: You don't have to enter through the ceiling, you know.
Kagemaru: I'm sorry, but as an old ninja, I don't really know how to enter from anywhere else.
See more »

Connections

Followed by Stereo Future (2001) See more »

Soundtracks

Swanee River
Written by Stephen Foster (as Foster)
Performed by Utaroku Miyakoya and Titi Matsumura
Taken from the album "Kyuukyoku No Nokogiri Ensou"
See more »

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User Reviews

"You have mastered fencing, but not the samurai spirit"
25 August 2008 | by (Greece) – See all my reviews

I think the title of this review sums up SAMURAI FICTION. It doesn't approach the heart of samurai cinema (and I doubt that was among its intentions) but it transforms the form in new and interesting ways.

Whether or not the title is a direct reference to PULP FICTION, the fact remains that SAMURAI FICTION tries to be the same hip, cool and stylish update of the classic chambara genre that Tarantino's movie was for the gangster genre. Whether or not it succeeds or that it's SF's intention for that matter is up for debate and down to personal taste I guess, but either way SF is every bit the fresh breath the stagnant genre is in desperate need of for years now.

As a big fan of both chambaras and jidai-gekis I find myself torn between my purist self that wants to dismiss SF as having only a cursory resemblance of the genre and being too cool and slick for its own good, and my escapist self that enjoys kicking back with an unashamedly entertaining movie. The truth of the matter is that chambara has always been a dynamic genre, one that evolves in cycles that begin with movies that venture outside the mold: movies like SF. YOJIMBO in the early 60's made the traditional period dramas of the 50's obsolete overnight. Ditto for Kenji Misumi's LONE WOLF AND CUB in the early 70's. Even if SF didn't have the same power to motivate change in the genre, I applaud it for trying.

SF is very open about what it is and what it's not from the credits sequence alone. Dark silhouettes practicing fencing in front of red-lit screens. I wouldn't be surprised if Tarantino lifted the sequence verbatim for KILL BILL vol. 1, he has that "homage" tendency after all. It is with this heavy stylization that SF opens and our genre expectations are instantly shifted to this conscious capsule where the samurai style meets a western form.

The rest of the movie plays on this same motif. A traditionally eastern genre delivered with a very western approach. Whole sequences and all the swordfights are edited like a music video, from the tight editing to the music to the frequent use of wide angle lenses and effect shots to the actual music that is as far removed from Toru Takemitsu and his scores for Kobayashi and Shinoda as one could imagine.

SF is content to take risks but they don't always pay off. The misuse of music is enough to give Dario Argento's choice of Motorhead for the soundtrack of PHENOMENA (a horror movie) a run for his money. Techno beats, heavy metal guitars and double-bass drumming are all mixed in a hodge podge of western sounds adding to the anachronism SF aims for. It's not out of purism that I didn't like them, they just didn't feel appropriate for the mood and scene although the music video-ish editing did its best to accommodate them. However the black and white photography is solid good work, the acting is nice and the comedic timing spot on. SF balances neatly on both the serious and comic with an emphasis on the latter but it works quite well on both fronts. Add to that the good swordfighting and the fact it manages to pull off the "hip" style relatively well without feeling phony and you've got a quite good neo-chambara that deserves major points for at least trying to push the envelope of a stagnant genre in different ways.

Ever since the late 70's samurai cinema has hit a dead end and various attempts at cross-genre mixes tried to revitalize it to no avail. Maybe the halcyon days of the 60's are over and the chambara genre is a thing of the past as much as the American western, with the only option left being revisionism (which has also been done to death – I guess re-revisionism is due next). Maybe it will take another YOJIMBO to pull it off its legs and usher it in a new direction. SF is not quite the genre messiah and frankly I can see fans of Tarantino and Guy Ritchie enjoying it more than Mizoguchi loyalists but it's perhaps the best entry point to the genre for modern audiences with no prior experience (especially for young people who usually gravitate to the "cool" and "hip") . That's a success in itself.


5 of 7 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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