My first introduction to Takashi Miike was in 1999 with his film, Audition, a story about a widower who sets up a phony audition for a TV show to find the perfect mate. Audition was a slow-burn horror film with an ending torture scene that made my eyes widen in astonishment. Immediately, I was hooked on Miike and eagerly went searching for more of his library. He is one of the few directors today that I get giddy when I hear he’s working on a new project. I couldn’t catch the theatrical release of Blade of the Immortal, but it’s out this week on Blu-Ray, DVD, and digital, and it even got the Steelbook treatment!
Blade of the Immortal is an adaption of Hiroaki Samura’s “Blade of the Immortal” and is also Miike’s 100th film. His career has been stellar and wildly entertaining — from the over-the-top violence in Ichi the Killer, to the absurd perverseness of Visitor Q, Miike has never shied away from experimenting in his films. His technique is always top notch and while I do believe he has slowed down in a sense, his films are still ultra-violent and so damn fun to watch.
The film opens with a prologue, shot in black and white. We are introduced to Manji (Takuya Kimura), a samurai, and his younger sister Machi (Hana Sugisaki). A bounty hunter and his army murder Machi, and a vengeful Manji faces off against the hundred plus armed warriors. In true Miike fashion, the action is fast-paced and brutal. Dismembered body parts fly about and the blood rains down by the gallons.
After eliminating the entire army, Manji and the bounty hunter end the battle by running their respective swords through each other. The bounty hunter meets his demise, but life doesn’t cease for Manji. An old woman who goes by Yaobikuni cuts open Manji’s chest and inserts sacred bloodworms inside his body, giving Manji immortality. The black and white transfers over to gorgeous color and Manji has a new lease on life. Fast forward 50 years and we meet Rin (also played by Sugisaki). Her family is killed by assassins who want to change the way of the samurai, and she wants her revenge. Manji sees her and she reminds him of his late sister Machi and agrees to help Rin with her quest for revenge.
Kagehisa Anotsu (Sota Fukushi) is the leader of the assassins who killed Rin’s father. Anotsu comes from a different discipline of swordplay and plans to spread his style across the land, killing anyone who stands in his way. Manji carves up the opposition with swift swords and it’s a good thing he is immortal, because he takes a fair amount of beatings as well. Manji even crosses paths with another warrior who is also immortal thanks to bloodworms. He has a different tale; there is no glory. He has lost many loved ones along the way, including five wives. Immortality has its consequences. The climax of the film is nothing short of what you expect of Miike: a killer battle sequence with an obscene amount of blood that is delicious to the last drop. Mmmmmmm…. delicious blood. Takashi Miike never disappoints!
Miike does an exceptional job with developing his characters. Each of them has experienced some form of tragedy and it physically shows on the faces of the characters. Miike continues to bring out the best in his actors — the greatest example is the relationship between Manji and Rin. They each have their own goals, but they evolve along the way of their journey. For action fans, if you haven’t guessed it by now, you will absolutely love the film. The action is fast-paced, bloody, and beautifully choreographed. Not many directors can pull off the large battles that are on display in the Blade of the Immortal. Takashi Miike is a treasure.
I thought Blade of the Immortal was amazing, but it isn’t perfect. There were moments that had me scratching my head. Like who the hell does the dry cleaning for Manji? He was involved in some hardcore bloody battles, but in the next scene his Kimono would be clean and pure. And I would have liked to have know more of the background of the old woman and her sacred bloodworms. Regardless of these quibbles, if you are a Takashi Miike fan, you will not be disappointed with his latest work. It’s classic Miike through and through. So pop some popcorn, sit back, relax, and check out Blade of the Immortal!