|The Hidden Blade|
|Directed by||Yōji Yamada|
|Produced by||Hiroshi Fukazawa|
|Written by|| Yoshitaka Asama |
Shūhei Fujisawa (story)
|Starring|| Masatoshi Nagase |
|Music by||Isao Tomita|
|Edited by||Iwao Ishii|
The Hidden Blade (隠し剣 鬼の爪, Kakushi ken: Oni no tsume, literally "Hidden Blade: Oni's Claw") is a 2004 film set in 1860s Japan, directed by Yoji Yamada. The plot revolves around several samurai during a time of change in the ruling and class structures of Japan. The film was written by Yamada with Yoshitaka Asama and, like its predecessor The Twilight Samurai , based on a short story by Shūhei Fujisawa. The soundtrack is an original composition by Isao Tomita.
The story takes place in Japan in the 1860s, a time of cultural assimilation. Two samurai, Munezo Katagiri (Masatoshi Nagase) and Samon Shimada (Hidetaka Yoshioka), bid farewell to their friend Yaichiro Hazama (Yukiyoshi Ozawa), who is to serve in Edo (present-day Tokyo) under the shogunate of that region. Though the position is desirable, Katagiri voices his concern that a man of Yaichiro’s character is likely to get into trouble. His doubts are confirmed when the married Yaichiro expresses an intention to indulge in Edo’s sensual pleasures while stationed there.
During dinner that evening, Katagiri’s mother reminds Samon of the financial hardships the family has endured since the death of her husband (who committed ritual suicide after financial improprieties were discovered on a construction project). She desires a match between Samon and Shino (Tomoko Tabata), Katagiri’s sister. Also present is Kie (Takako Matsu), the Katagiri’s housekeeper, who is literate and schooled in etiquette. In a voiceover, Katagiri hints at his affection for Kie, but then relates that around the same time Shino married Samon, Kie married a man of the merchant class and left the Katagiri household.
Three years pass, during which Katagiri's mother passes away. While walking through town, he sees Kie in a kimono shop where she assures him that she is well. Months later, however, Shino tells Katagiri that from the start of her marriage, Kie has been forced to perform all manner of duties to the point that she is little more than a slave to her new family, and that she is gravely ill. Concerned, Katagiri visits Mrs. Iseya (Sachiko Mitsumoto), Kie’s mother-in-law, and finds Kie incoherent with illness. Outraged, he demands that Kie’s husband file divorce papers, and then carries her to his own house to recover.
The changing times have forced Katagiri and his fellow samurai to learn the techniques of Western weaponry, which the elder members of the clan disdain. Word arrives from Edo that government officials thwarted an uprising against the shogun and that Yaichiro, Katagiri’s friend, was involved. After being brought back to the village in a prisoner's cage, Yaichiro is denied the honor of ritual suicide and must live out the remainder of his days in a cell. Believing that Yaichiro’s friends are complicit, Hori (Ken Ogata), the clan’s chief retainer, demands that Katagiri identify them, but he refuses, citing his honor as a samurai, and he is dismissed.
Meanwhile, Kie has since recovered and is once again Katagiri’s housekeeper. Though their fondness for one other is evident, Kie and Katagiri are keenly aware of the difference in their social class and act accordingly. Nonetheless, gossip prompts Katagiri to send Kie back to the countryside to live with her father. Shortly after, Yaichiro breaks out of prison and takes a family hostage. Hori demands that Katagiri dispatch him.
Knowing that Yaichiro is the better swordsman, Katagiri visits their former teacher (Min Tanaka), who is now a farmer, and learns a dangerous maneuver that involves turning one's back on the enemy. The next day, Katagiri arrives on the outskirts of the village and attempts to persuade Yaichiro to surrender. When the latter refuses (accusing Hori and the other leaders of incompetence), the two engage in one-to-one combat during which Katagiri uses the new technique to deliver a severe wound. Yaichiro attempts the same maneuver, but is gunned down by foot soldiers hiding in the woods. Knowing that this manner of death is a dishonor to a samurai, Katagiri is dismayed. Upon returning to the village, he encounters Yaichiro’s wife (Reiko Takashima), who reveals that she paid a visit to Hori the night before and exchanged sexual favors for his promise to keep Yaichiro alive (a promise that was never fulfilled). Bound by an oath to commit suicide should Yaichiro die, she takes her own life.
Unsure of his fealty, Katagiri approaches Hori with his treachery, to which he crudely admits. Realizing that the Hazamas were victims of a corrupt system, Katagiri avenges them by stabbing Hori in the heart with a thin blade (the technique known as “the hidden blade”, which leaves almost no trace of blood—in the original Japanese version the technique is actually called "the demon's claw/scratch" as the entry wound it leaves is so small that it appears to be caused by a nonhuman perpetrator). Katagiri buries the blade at the Hazama’s grave as a form of atonement and relinquishes his samurai status. Resolved to become a tradesman, he leaves the village for the island of Ezo (modern-day Hokkaido), but not before visiting Kie. With difference of social status no longer an obstacle, Katagiri proposes marriage and Kie accepts. The film ends as they hold hands sitting on a hilltop, envisioning their future together.
The Hidden Blade has an 84% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with the critical consensus on it stated as, "A slow and steady samurai flick a la John Ford that brings emotions and psychology to an epic-scale adventure."The film also holds a 76/100 on Metacritic based on 11 reviews.
The Hidden Blade was the choice of Edward Douglas in IndieWire's 2018 list of the best Japanese films of the 21st century. He called it "one of the best non-Kurosawa samurai films."
In addition to 16 nominations,the film received the following awards:
Takako Matsu also known as Takako Fujima is a Japanese actress and pop singer.
Tetsurō Tamba was a Japanese actor with a career spanning five decades. He is best known in the West for his role in the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice as Tiger Tanaka.
Aoni Production Co. Ltd. is a Japanese talent agency representing a fair number of voice actors and other Japanese entertainers.
Tomoko Tabata is a Japanese actress. She won the best supporting actress award from the Mainichi in 2004 for The Hidden Blade and Blood and Bones, and the best actress award at the Mainichi Film Awards for The Cowards Who Looked to the Sky in 2012.
Jinbē (じんべえ) is a romance manga by Mitsuru Adachi. It appeared irregularly in the manga magazine Big Comic Original from 1992 through 1997, and was collected in one tankōbon volume in May 1997. In 1998, it was adapted as an 11-episode television drama series by Fuji TV.
The Yagyū were a family of daimyōs with lands just outside Nara, who became the heads of one of Japan's greatest schools of swordsmanship, Yagyū Shinkage-ryū. The Yagyū were also Kenjutsu teachers to the Tokugawa shōguns and descendant of the famous Taira clan, hailing from prestigious Imperial Lineage with the Kabane rank of Ason.
Yotsuya Kaidan (四谷怪談), the story of Oiwa and Tamiya Iemon, is a tale of betrayal, murder and ghostly revenge. Arguably the most famous Japanese ghost story of all time, it has been adapted for film over 30 times and continues to be an influence on Japanese horror today. Written in 1825 by Tsuruya Nanboku IV as a kabuki play, the original title was Tōkaidō Yotsuya Kaidan. It is now generally shortened, and loosely translates as Ghost Story of Yotsuya.
Intrigue in the Bakumatsu – Irohanihoheto is a Japanese original net animation series, created by Ryōsuke Takahashi and Sunrise. It was broadcast between October 6, 2006, and April 6, 2007, on the Japanese Internet streaming channel, GyaO. The anime is licensed by Sentai Filmworks in North America, and they released the series to Blu-ray and DVD on September 4, 2012, for episodes 1-13 and November 27, 2012, for episodes 14–26. The series follows Yojiro Akizuki, the bearer of the legendary Moon Tear Sword, who is on a mission to seal a supernatural object known as the Head of the Conqueror, which has now appeared during the Boshin War. Yojiro will not rest until his mission is fulfilled, no matter what or who gets in his way.
Chushingura 1/47 (忠臣蔵1/47) is a 2001 Japanese historical film based on the kabuki tale of the Forty-seven Ronin. The film was made for the Fuji TV Network and was directed by Shunsaku Kawamo.
Hidetaka Yoshioka is a Japanese actor known for his performance in several movies as a child and lately the award-winning TV drama Dr. Kotō Shinryōjo. He notably played the part of Tora-san's little nephew in the "Otoko wa Tsurai yo" film series, and he appeared in Akira Kurosawa's "Rhapsody in August" and "Madadayo". He won the Japan Academy Award Best Actor in 2006 for "Always - Sunset on Third Street".
Love and Honor is a 2006 film set in Japan of the Edo period. It is the final film in Yoji Yamada's acclaimed Samurai Trilogy, following Twilight Samurai (2002) and The Hidden Blade (2004).
Dragon Zakura is a Japanese live action television series based on the manga of the same name.
Railways is a Japanese film released on 29 May 2010. The film was produced by Shūji Abe, directed by Yoshinari Nishikōri, and stars Kiichi Nakai and Reiko Takashima.
Goyokin is a 1969 jidaigeki film directed by Hideo Gosha. Set during the late Tokugawa period, the story follows a reclusive rōnin who is trying to atone for past transgressions.
Keiji Sada is the stage name for a Japanese cinema actor active from the late-1940s to the early 1960s. His real name was Kanichi Nakai. He won the award for best actor at the 7th Blue Ribbon Awards for Anata Kaimasu and Taifū Sōdōki. He was the father of the actor Kiichi Nakai and actress Kie Nakai.
The Little House is a 2014 Japanese drama film directed by Yoji Yamada and based on a novel by Kyoko Nakajima. It was released in Japan on 25 January 2014.
The Japanese Movie Critics Awards are presented annually since 1991.
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable Chapter I is a Japanese film directed by Takashi Miike and based on the Diamond Is Unbreakable story arc of the manga series JoJo's Bizarre Adventure written and illustrated by Hirohiko Araki. Covering the first seventeen chapters, the film stars Kento Yamazaki, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Nana Komatsu, Masaki Okada, Mackenyu, Takayuki Yamada and Yusuke Iseya. It was released in Japan by Toho and Warner Bros. on August 4, 2017. It was licensed for North American release by Viz Media.
Dreams for Sale is a 2012 Japanese comedy film, directed and written by Miwa Nishikawa. The film stars Sadao Abe, Takako Matsu as the husband and wife, with Teruyuki Kagawa Tamae Ando, Sawa Suzuki, Kana Kurashina, Tae Kimura, Yusuke Iseya, Katsuya Kobayashi, Rena Tanaka, Kyôsuke Yabe, Shōfukutei Tsurube II, Teruyuki Kagawa and Takako Matsu.