Review: When the Last Sword Is Drawn

Yoshinori Hiruma in When the Last Sword Is Drawn
Yoshinori Hiruma in When the Last Sword Is Drawn

 

 

Here’s a different type of samurai movie, the winner of the Japanese equivalent of the Oscars, following the strange, grudging friendship that develops between two warriors – one fierce, the other mild. It’s a massive sprawling affair that starts in 1899 in a doctor’s office where an old man and his grandson are seeking help. Then, a picture glimpsed on the wall prompts an alarmed look on the grandfather’s face and suddenly he’s diving back through a wibbly wobbly dissolve to a former time, when the Emperor and the Shoguns were facing off for one of their periodic powerplays, and the mercenary samurai were girding themselves for the last heave. The story of the Shinsengumi is a well-known underdog tale in Japanese culture. For non-Japanese perhaps the best way to describe this distillation of the story into just over two hours of screen time is to imagine if Judith Krantz had decided to set her latest airport doorstopper of a novel in the last days of the sword. Mind-spinningly confusing it might be but these two parallel stories taking place in flashback are padded out with some mighty action sequences, and some moments of exquisite, dirt-eating melodrama. None of this helps orientate the newbie but those familiar with the story might fare better with this big beach melodrama that’s not without its guilty pleasures.
© Steve Morrissey 2004

When the Last Sword Is Drawn – at Amazon

 

 

 

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  • When the Last Sword Is Drawn (2002) Drama | 2h 23min | 18 January 2003 (Japan) 7.5
    Director: Yôjirô TakitaWriters: Jirô Asada, Takehiro NakajimaStars: Kiichi Nakai, Kôichi Satô, Yui NatsukawaSummary: Kanichiro Yoshimura is a Samurai and Family man who can no longer support his wife and children on the the low pay he receives from his small town clan, he is forced by the love for his family to leave for the city in search of higher pay to support them. In his search he joins a notorious clan, known as the Shinsengumi where he does as much as possible to get money. Looked at as a money grubber,Yoshimura proves his strength physically and mentally by being loyal to his honor. During the dramatic period, with the rise of the Emperor and the fall of the Shogun. Yoshimura shows us the struggle of life in a personal way, by changing the lives of the people he meets and the way life is looked at. Written by C. Maginnis

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