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Young assassins Azumi and Nagara continue their mission to prevent a civil war. In their hunt for Masayuki Sanada, who is protected by both an army and a dangerous clan, they meet Ginkaku, a person who shows a remarking resemblance with former friend Nachi. Written by
Azumi 2: crossing the thin line between death, love and dishonor
The day has finally come for me to witness the perpetuation of Azumi's fate as an assassin, fruition of her character and the ultimate attempt to draw me deeper into the world she rampaged through so mercilessly during the first saga.
That's as poetical as I'll get when talking about Azumi 2: Death or Love, because when I cringed over the heavy sentimentality of House of Flying Daggers and complained about the credibility of Aya Ueto portraying a blood-driven assassin, after watching Azumi 2 I started to appreciate the previously mentioned shortcomings more than ever before.
Not only does the determination of each assassin feels sluggish and uninspiring but also many important elements are omitted from the entire experience. In Azumi 1 we saw the assassins use various stealth tactics (which is their number one priority) as well as logic to make easy work of their marks with swift executions and quicker abilities to escape. But I won't hold that against this movie too much since the story is slightly tweaked this time around and many more obstacles are planted in Azumi's way to prevent her from reaching the warlord and displaying any signs of charisma. By the way, Chiaki is foolishly shelved for the most part of the film and is basically playing a toned down version of Go Go, minus the cool weapon and sense of menace.
This brings me to the final blow which is the action, simply disguised in the title as the 'Death' side of the epic. In the first half of the film we see the debut of many promising adversaries with flashy looks and even flashier weapons. To no one's surprise they meet their end one way or another but the film falls short when each of them start dying too fast and too easily. In Azumi 1, the young assassins were mostly overpowering the opposition with quick but somewhat satisfying battles and the final showdown between Azumi and Bijomaru in comparison to the fights in Azumi 2 was at least climaxed and worthwhile. Some interesting effects were introduced but they were unable to achieve innovation due to the shortness of each encounter. I am in no way knocking down the conventional style of samurai films with their quick and realistic battles but characters in both Azumi films were so imaginative and straight out of anime that the rules could have been broken and the action should have been further enriched.
The romance side of Azumi is there to fill in time between the fight scenes and unfortunately at the end it serves no purpose nor provides a much needed resolution.
As a fan with an open mind for wide variety of movies and animation, I won't lie and I'll admit to my neutrality and unimpressiveness towards the first Azumi film, but I'll step right up and say that after watching Azumi 2, the original was made to look like a flawless masterpiece. For what it's worth, Azumi 2: Death or Love could have gone straight to video, with its invisibly richer budget and a failed potential to add or even expand on the bumpy journey of desperate assassins, doing their best to restore the peace, with an unwavering courage to die trying.
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