The film begins when the legendary swordsman Miyamoto Musashi is still named Shinmen Takezo. After being on the losing side of the Battle of Sekigahara, Takezo and his friend manage to escape and come across a young woman and her mother.
I felt that this was the best one in the series. After seeing the three-part "Samurai" series with Mifune Toshiro I was disappointed that its second installment, Duel at Ichijoji Temple, missed a lot of elements and side-stories that Yoshikawa Eiji covered. This version, however, covers a lot of these elements. In fact, I was surprised by all the elements that were there. So much that it takes three installments to cover what Yoshikawa has in Books II, III, and IV; whereas Inagaki covers those books in one installment and thus misses a lot of character development, which is, of course, necessary to seeing the development of Musashi.
The movie continues from where the first one set out with Takezo, soon to be Miyamoto Musashi, leaving Himeji Castle and starting on his epic quest to complete his skill in the Way. The story of the Yoshioka school is developed (which leads to the two duels and finally, at the fourth installment, the duel at Ichijoji - which does have Musashi fight the 12-13 year old Yoshioka figurehead - an element left out of the Inagaki trilogy).
I was really happy with the way they did this second installment. The introduction of Sasaki Kojiro, Osugi and Gon's pursuit of Musashi, Akemi and Otsu's desire for Musashi, and the fight with priests of Hozoin - including the duel at Hannyazaka are all the action this installment has to offer, coupled with excellent acting, cinematography, music, and screen writing.
All the movies in the series are very well-done. I cannot recommend seeing this series enough; you will not be disappointed. See also the 2003 miniseries by NHK, called "Musashi" for a forty-nine hour alternative. Overall, 8.5 out of 10.
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