Is immortality a blessing or a curse? The Blade of the Immortal is a Japanese film that explores this question. Directed by Takashi Miike and based on a manga by Hiroaki Samura; the film follows cursed samurai, Manji, and tragedy stricken young girl, Rin. Manji has been cursed to live forever with the guilt of all the blood on his hands. While Rin has lost her family to a ruthless group of warriors led by the ever so dramatic Anotsu. Rin convinces Manji to be her bodyguard in her pursuit of revenge, the film takes place around the adventure that ensues.
Throughout the movie Takashi’s fondness for a slow simmering build is boldly seen. And although the first hour of the film is filled with gore, villains, and fight scenes, it is a slow beginning. Matter of fact I took a break from the film because of the slow build, only to come back later to realize it was all worth it. The film climbs slowly to the final fight scene where the main villain, Anotsu, fights side by side with Manji and Rin. This, along side the fact that the slow buildup really gives time for characters to develop, makes the plot quite a success.
Villainous or Villainotus
The main villain of the film, Anotsu, is the ambitious leader of a ruthless group of men. Kagehisa Anotsu struck me as possibly the prettiest character I have ever seen. Furthermore, It’s obvious that his flair for the dramatic is not lacking. From the first moment he shows up on screen to kill Rin’s father, he seems to strut with a certain style. Although he might be the villain, Anotsu has an underdog backstory, making him hard to hate.
Uniquely, Anotsu is such a flamboyant character that he reminds me of Jakotsu. The very gay cross-dressing villain from the anime Inuyasha. Kagehisa Anotsu manages to steal your heart in spite of himself. In the end, you find yourself even rooting for him to win the battle against the army of samurai.
Although there is quite the rotation of lesser villains, heroes, and anti-heroes, the film truly revolves around three people. Manji, Rin, and Anotsu. Manji is a man burdened with all the lives he has taken and is destined to be burdened with many more. Rin is a determined girl who is not one to step away from any challenge. Anotsu is an ambitous leader with a hope to unify all dojo under his rule.
All three of these characters bring something special to the table. Acting as both the hero and the protector in this story, Manji has the tragic backstory to attract anyone. Perhaps this is why he and tragedy stricken Rin are destined to become the team they are.
All this being said, my favorite character has to be Rin. There is a slow development of her and her skill. So in the end, when she stands up for herself it’s extremely gratifying.
Weaponry and Gore
Finally, I couldn’t talk about The Blade of the Immortal, (or any Takashi Miike movie for that matter), without talking about all the epic fight scenes. From the very first scene the audience is met with all the juicy gore Takashi Miike is known for. Some of my favorite weaponry moments from the movie include Rin’s finger knives. The film makes a point to mention that these knives are not traditional to her family’s fighting style.
Another classic moment is Shira’s “arm blades”. These are in fact, literal arm blades. Shira is villain that doesn’t show up till towards the end of the film, then doesn’t cause the most trouble until the very end. After losing his hand in a fight with Manji, Shira shaves off skin and flesh to sharpen his bone into two sharp blades. This is a concept that both shocked and fascinated me. It was one of my favorite concepts from the film.
Overall The Blade of the Immortal is a very good film that follows different ideals about immortality. Although I found the first hour of the movie rather boring, the payoff in the end was well worth the wait. If you can survive the first forty-five minutes, you won’t regret it. The characterization of this movie combined with the traditional Takashi gore creates a film well worth watch.