A junior samurai with far less interest in battle than caring for his young daughters and senile mother is considered a source of amusement to his colleagues and an embarrassment to his extended family.
This is a very thoughtful period piece set during times of change towards the end of the feudal period of Japan’s history. Hiroyuki Sanada puts in a very sensitive performance as the unwilling swordsman who is humble and selfless in his ambitions, which forms the basis of the story rather than the glory and swordplay common to the genre. There is in fact very little action to speak of, although the final duel is brilliantly done. It is more an elegant period drama-cum-love story about a man’s struggle for dignity in adverse conditions and the nicely understated performances and direction make for a pleasingly artful experience. The absence of blood and guts may disappoint those looking for an action-packed hack and slasher, but those seeking something more cerebral will find plenty to enjoy.
A finely made and intelligent story very much in the tradition of Akira Kurosawa in general and Red Beard in particular.