A samurai watches his younger sister cut down in front of him and he proceeds to exacts his revenge. But they are legion and he is one. No matter, death is a small price to pay when vengeance is on the table. Except that death is not in the cards for this samurai, not today and not ever.
Based on the manga by Hiroaki Samura, Blade of the Immortal tells the tale of Manji (Takuya Kimura), a roaming samurai who has been cursed by a witch to forever walk between the winds. No matter what happens to Manji, no matter what injuries he sustains in battle, bloodworms will heal him. Heal his wounds but never his pain. Immortality doesn’t exactly make Manji a better fencer, just one willing to sacrifice his body in the process.
That makes Blade of the Immortal one of the bloodiest samurai movies around and the fights ultimately inconsequential. Playing by manga logic, Blade offers stylized heroes and villains, each one looking as cool as the one-liners they spit. The battles are bloody, the weapons nonsensical, and the carnage is total — it’s a wonder there’s even a samurai or two left in all of Japan following a few of these battles. But each character is defined, their motivations are clear, and they have an individual spark that manages to move the movie’s 140-minute runtime along nicely.
It also helps to have the energy and style of director Takashi Miike. Miike, who has been directing movies since 1991, chalks up Blade of the Immortal as his 100th work; a feat for any director, but at the young age of 57, the Japanese master shows no sign of slowing.
Nor does he show signs of laziness. Starting out in a black and white before moving to color, Miike’s direction is energetic and engaging, using a gliding camera to cover the action, long lenses to crowd the frame with warriors, and plenty of pauses to allow our heroes and villains a chance to pose. There’s nothing like a little flair to punch up a period piece and make a standard action movie feel fresh.
Blade of the Immortal is in limited release.