Another installment of this feature. 5 movies that aren’t that popular or well known, but still very enjoyable. Have fun?

Okita Sôji (1974)

I refuse to call him Soshi, which sounds like a cross between a slushy and sushi.

Okita Sôji (1974)
Director: Deme Masanobu
Cast: Kusaraki Masao, Takahashi Yukihiro, Komatsu Hosei, Takahashi Koji, Oki Masanobu, etc

Summary:
Who doesn’t know Okita Soji? This story basically follows Soji from his humble beginnings as a country samurai all the way up to the Shinsengumi’s rise and fall. In only 90 minutes. So it’s sort of a visual history review for Okita Soji 101.

The Good Stuff:
– One of the funnier and more laid back version of the Shinsengumi story
– A decent summary of Okita Soji’s life, if you’re interested

The Best Stuff:
– For some reason, Kusakari looks like the most authentic Okita Soji I’ve seen.

Tange Sazen and the Pot Worth a Million Ryo / Ken fu! Hyakumanryo no tsubo (1982)

Nakadai's patented sleazy look, which he maybe should have used more often

Tange Sazen and the Pot Worth a Million Ryo / Ken fu! Hyakumanryo no tsubo (1982)
Director: Gosha Hideo
Cast: Nakadai Tatsuya, Natsuyagi Isao, Nishimura Ko, Matsuo Kayo, Masako Natsume, Sakurai Minoru, Ikkaku Kazano, Watabe Tsutomu

Summary:
Sazen is a retainer for the Yagyu clan. One day, his boss tells him he must get rid of a known spy, who turns out to be his best friend and rival for a girl’s love. He accepts the mission, but he hesitates though, and duly gets his arm chopped off. After dispatching of the traitor, the Yagyu appear to get rid of the only witness, Sazen himself. He is able to escape, losing an eye in the process, and disappears. Years later, the Yagyu are ordered by court officials hoping to seize their land to do repairs for a large temple which would effectively bankrupt them. Luckily, they have the Million Ryo pot. They set out to retrieve it, only to be discovered by rival ninjas. This leads to a battle in the forest where, lo and behold, they bump into a one armed, one eyed samurai living in the middle of the forest in a tent named Tange Sazen. He is able to get hold of the Pot, and, well, lots of fights, intrigue, and theft ensue.

The Good Stuff:
– Nakadai’s make up is hilarious
– Lots of fights!
– One of the darker portrayals of Tange Sazen, and Nakadai is soooo sleazy it’s hilarious

The Best Stuff:
– Nakadai’s stance, movement and sword style (it’s interesting to see how his sword styles always adapt to his character)
– Nakadai vs Natsuyagi (a favorite chambara regular of mine)

Amakusa shiro tokisada / The Rebel (1962)

The people in the back are carrying sticks and pitchforks. Not a spoiler (if you know your history): they obviously lose.

Amakusa shiro tokisada / The Rebel (1962)
Director: Oshima Nagisa
Cast: Okawa Hashizo, Otomo Ryutaro, Oka Satomu, Mikuni Rentaro, Chiaki Minoru, , Sato Kei, etc.

Summary:
1637, the Tokugawa bans Christianity and other outside religions as part of their “fuck off foreigners” policy. To ensure that no one dares accept this foreign influence, the shogunate and its underlings go all out to force Japanese Christians to give up their faith (or die, which seems to always be the solution). Shiro Tokisada (from Amakusa, duh) is a Christian leader in the Shimabara area, where a local lord is taxing farmers and peasants heavily, and openly persecutes the Christians. Some of the peasants are fed up with the local government, and look to Shiro for leadership. Conflicts of conscience, political maneuvering, infighting and espionage make the whole deal complicated, until finally, revolution.

The Good Stuff:
– A nice history lesson (I guess) about the Shimabara rebellion
– Not many sword fights, but there is a big battle
– An intelligent and down to earth portrayal of the man some considered a god
– It’s pretty arty, you know, coz it’s Oshima

The Best Stuff:
– The complicated conclusion
– Very well paced and with a plot that does justice to the real story

Ken ki / Sword Devil (1965)

Not shown: The large dog, aka Hanpei's dad???

Ken ki / Sword Devil (1965)
Director: Misumi Kenji
Cast: Ichikawa Raizo, Sugata Michiko, Sato Kei, Date Saburo, etc.

Summary:
Raizo stars as Hanpei, the child of one of the clans’ mistresses, and whose father is suspected to be a large dog. Seriously. Because of his mysterious and less than ideal origin, he is treated as an outcast and freak by everyone around him, except Osaki who finds his sincerity and humility refreshing. If there’s one thing Hanpei is good at though, it’s flowers (seriously, planting flowers), and he’s hired by the clan to make the castle look pretty, especially with the internal strife caused by their lord’s growing insanity. One day, he meets an expert Iaido swordsman, who teaches him his craft, and is soon hired by Kanbei to weed out traitors and assassins plotting against their clan.

The Good Stuff:
– Decent one-vs-many fight
– Raizo in his most uncool, loser-y and strange role
– A hilarious premise for the character?

The Best Stuff:
– Raizo really does look and act like a “dog child”
– Flash (DC Comics), but with a sword??

Moeyo ken / Blazing Sword (1966)

Either this is his Flying Attack or he's mad at the ceiling

Moeyo ken / Blazing Sword (1966)
Director: Ichimura Hirokazu
Cast: Kurizuka Asahi, Wazaki Shunya, Uchida Ryohei

Summary:
Another Shinsengumi movie. This time, we follow Hijikata. If you’re already at the level of watching these less known jidaigeki and chambara, I’m sure you’re already pretty aware of Hijikata’s life? No? Ok I suggest you do some research because I’m too lazy to give a history lesson. This is supposed to be one of the most accurate movies about the Shinsengumi. History lessons galore in this installment it seems.

The Good Stuff:
– One of the more human version of Hijikata, though not a goofball like Kitano’s in Gohatto
– For some reason, I really love Uchida Ryohei (one of my absolute favorite chambara regulars)

The Best Stuff:
– The brutality, which obviously is more realistic than other, shinier, more dramatic Shinsengumi movies.
– Hijikata likes slashing at legs, for some reason

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