Blade of the Immortal, directed by Takashi Miike, is a delightfully creative film that takes full advantage of being able to pull from the manga/anime that it’s based upon. With overly theatrical villains and non-stop dismemberment of anyone who gets in the way of the protagonist, the film is one that will have you smiling. Never taking itself too seriously and generally having fun with its concept, I found the film to be an effortlessly enjoyable time, but my concern is that the seeming lack of depth, might not make Blade of the Immortal a film that sticks in my mind for long. Let’s explore all that this crazy film has to offer and see if it’s worth your time and if I’m wrong in my feelings towards some of its less explored elements (which I’m pretty sure I am).
Manji – played by Takuya Kimura – a legendary Samurai, is cursed with immortality after he fails to protect his little sister from bandits. When he is sought out by Rin Asano – played by Hana Sugisaki – who asks him to help her avenge her parents who were brutally murdered by Anotsu Kagehisa – played by Sôta Fukushi – and his master swordsman, he sees this as a chance to regain his soul and right the wrongs of his past.
So before I go any further with my review, I want to state upfront that: I have never read the manga and I have never seen the anime in which this film is based upon. It wasn’t even until after I had seen the film, that I learned there was a manga/anime. So take that as you will, but my review will be from the perspective of someone who knows only of this film and nothing else. Forgive my ignorance.
This is the 100th film that Takashi Miike has directed… take a minute to let that crazy statistic sink in. This man has directed one hundred films, and for me personally, this is the first of his work that I’ve seen. I now very much look forward to exploring more of his work, as after one hundred films, Blade of the Immortal certainly shows the experience and attention to detail, that Takashi Miike has amassed over his many years of directing.
The aspect of the film that I enjoyed the most, was the overall handling and presentation of the characters; from their attributes, their outfits, the presence they had within a scene. It all fed into forming these really interesting individuals, who came across as well-established, weathered old warriors who had truly been fighting for years. That’s not an easy thing to do; have a character appear on-screen and immediately have them feel like they’ve been around for a long time; feel like they wear their past on their sleeve and give off an air of authenticity and history. It made every encounter that Manji had with other warriors, always feel like an event… something historical.
That presence that each of the characters had, went into making the gruesome, bloody fights they had, all the more satisfying. And add to that, the uniqueness to each of the warriors; with their elaborate outfits, or their particular choice of weaponry and fighting style. With a film that has fight scene upon fight scene, it was surprising how each one felt so very different from the last. Going from one warrior who keeps decapitated heads on his shoulders, and also have them somehow speak, to a warrior with similar abilities as Manji; meaning two immortal men inflict an insane amount of stabbing/slicing punishment upon one another. It never got stale or repetitive, as I was always intrigued to see who would confront Manji next and what particular quirks they might bring to the fight.
But while I was always gleefully enjoying the one-on-one battles, the larger ones, where Manji would take on hordes of enemies, did get a little difficult to follow. Much of the action in these fights felt cluttered and it was really difficult to follow what was happening. During these moments I would stop trying to get a proper handle on what specifically was happening and instead just let the madness of it all take over. I did feel my attention drifting in these moments, but thankfully the film didn’t let that last for long.
When there aren’t volcanoes of blood and clinking of weaponry, the film does a pretty good job of engaging you with its two storylines – which do of course end up con-joining later on. You have the very simply revenge plotline, which is the primary driving force of the film and gets us to the action scenes. This delivered on what I was pretty much expecting: nothing too deep or fleshed out, simply a little girl’s want for revenge and a bodyguard who will see that want fulfilled.
It was in the other plotline that I found the most stimulating story content. What starts off as a seemingly straightforward story involving the films main antagonist, Anotsu Kagehisa, evolved into a story with much more depth. Kagehisa’s want to avenge the wrong doings committed against his father and grandfather by gaining legitimacy for his way and the people who follow it. This all unfurled a plot filled with backstabbing, vengeance and intentions that aren’t all that different from our protagonists. The film really does blur the lines of who is good and evil, the more it went on, which of course made it all the more interesting.
However, the aspect to the film that surprisingly didn’t fully grab me, was the handling of the two main characters. I never felt a connection to them. I never really felt a bond between them that was real. It also doesn’t help that Manji’s immortality takes consequence away from the film. I never feared for his well-being, because I knew he would be fine, and Rin ever only felt in true danger, once-or-twice, but other than that seemed pretty fine. I will say that I really liked that Manji wasn’t always an incredible swordsman who couldn’t be bested by anyone. Quite often he’s get is arse kicked, and it was only because of his immortality that he was able to overcome his enemy. It helped to bring him down a few levels and not make him feel like Superman.
Despite my lack of connection to the main characters, there performances were still great – as where everyone else’s in the film. I love the theatrical style of Japanese acting. With the big, bold delivery of dialogue, or over-the-top death scenes. There’s something so charming and fun about it. Which leads me to a great attribute of this film: it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Manji would quite often throw out some great one-liners during a fight, or very honestly and sarcastically boil a situation down to how ridiculous it is. There were of course moments of seriousness, and they are done really well, but I think the moments of levity that were sprinkled in-between all the blood and dismemberment, really helped balance out the intensity of the violence (which certainly got quite a few gasps from the audience around me).
Overall, I enjoyed my time with, Blade of the Immortal. With it’s delightfully violent, well-choreographed fights, it’s storyline that kept me engaged throughout, and the general sense of fun that was coursing through it; all resulted in an experience that I found to be really enjoyable.
I’m going to recommend, Blade of the Immortal. Now that I’ve seen this film, I’m quite eager to go check out more of director, Takashi Miike’s work. Perhaps watching this will inspire the same in you, so make sure to check this film out.
What did you think of the film, and my review of it? Let me know in the comments section down below. Feel free to follow both my blog and my Twitter – @GavinsRamblings. I’ll finish up by saying thank you for taking time out of your day to read my review and I hope you have a fantastic day.