Okami yo Rakujitsu o Kire (The Last Samurai) (1974)
Director: Kenji Misumi.
Starring: Hideki Takahashi (Sugi Toranosuke), Ken Ogata (Nakamura Hanjiro), Masaomi Kondo (Iba Hachiro), Teruhiko Saigo (Okita Soji).
the Bakumatsu and the involvement of men on different sides in the fighting
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
Edo ("Tokugawa") period (1603ľ1868). Power is centralized in the hands of a hereditary shogunate.
Shinsengumi was a special police force of the late shogunate period.
Shinsengumi Raid Choshu Insurgents at the Ikedaya Inn in Kyoto. July 8, 1864. This came to be known as The Ikedaya Incident (aka the Ikedaya Affair). It pitted the anti-shogunate and pro-emperor group, Shishi, a group of Japanese political activists of the late Edo period, against the pro-shogunate group, Shinsengumi.
Kondo Isami -- Commander of the Shinsengumi.
Okita Somi -- Commander of the 1st Troop.
Hijikata Toshizo -- vice-commander of the Shinsengumi.
There are men from both sides trying to kill each other. After awhile, the fight is over. A little later the victors, Shinsengumi, emerge from the Inn. A fellow says that both the Shoshidai and the Shugoshoku Groups will change their opinion of us.
It's the day of the Gion Festival. Okita Somi asks Yamanami to accompany him. [The Gion district was one of the most exclusive and well-known geisha districts in Japan. The Gion Festival is an annual festival and one of the most famous. It takes its name from Kyoto's Gion district and spans the entire month of July.]
Part One: The Passionate Storm.
Edo (today's Tokyo). In the rain, two men with umbrellas pass each other on a bridge. The men seem to know each other, but both men keeps their eyes straight and they pass by each other.
Three men run into two men and the umbrella of the trio is broken by the umbrella of the duo. The trio demands an apology, but the lead man of the duo refuses to apologize. A fight begins and the trio are winning. Just than the single man on the bridge pushes the trio out of the way. But now all five men start going after the man by himself. This single man easily defeats the quintet.
The single master now smiles and bows his head to the lone samurai. The single fellow now gives the older man a piggy back ride. A man with the lone samurai says they should notify the magistrate because at least three samurai were killed. The samurai says nobody died because the single fellow only struck them with the back of his sword.
The single fellow piggybacks the older man to his home. His wife receives her husband there. Now the single guy says hello to his aunt and uncle. He says his name is Toranosuke. It takes the elder pair awhile, but they finally realize that this is their nephew. It's been eight years since aunt and uncle have seen Toranosuke. The nephew says his sensei took him all over Japan. The sensei is the man who saved Toranosuke when he was a child.
Uncle tells Toranosuke that he's a bit late because his half-brother, Genjiro, got the whole Sugi estate. There's an insistent knock on the door. A man shouts: "The Master of Shamisen-Bori had just died!" Toranosuke is amazed because he had just seen the man recently. The messenger asks uncle to come right away.
Toranosuke says: "My father saw my face but passed without acknowledging me." Uncle interprets this as his father wanting to see Toranosuke one more time before dying.
Flashback.Dad asks where is Toranosuke? The second wife with a new baby says she doesn't know, but she asks her husband to please make Genjiro his successor! Toranosuke hears this and jumps in the river, probably to commit suicide.
Back to the present.Toranosuke has placed the grave sign for Sugi Heiemon. Father is not buried here, but Toranosuke says that for him this is his father's tomb.
Flashback.Dad has rescued his son from the river. He says that his son has died and been reborn and now he is a new person. But whatever happens, he is not to try to commit suicide again. Toranosuke later sees a fantastic demonstration of sword fighting from a sensei. He gets down on all fours and says: "Sensei, please teach me!"
Sensei tells Toranosuke that he should go back to Edo. It's been eight years of training and he's taught Toranosuke everything he knows. But Toranosucke says he still needs his teacher's instruction. To help Toranosuke go home, the sensei gives him some money. The sensei also tells him that he will follow Toranosuke to Edo. Toranosuke agrees to go to Edo first and wait for sensei to come.
There are scenes of some of the activities that Toranosuke was involved in with his sensei.
Back to the present.A geisha woman is being chased by five men. Toranosuke hears the ruckus and comes outside to rescue the woman. The five men run away. He asks what is this all about, but she first wants a cup of water.
She gets her water and says her name is Ohide. She says she had been gambling and losing badly. So she bet her own body, but still kept losing. Those men wanted to rape her.
Toranosuke is very good to her. He tends to her sword wound on her back, fixes her some rice porridge and offers to lend her 10 ryo. She says she needs the money to go to Kyoto. Where is she sleeping tonight? She says she would like to sleep here at his place.
Ohide wants to have sex with Toranosuke. He tells her she doesn't have to do that, but she wants to, so they do it.
A swordsman named Iba Hachiro meets with Toranosuke. He says that he wanted to meet Toranosuke ever since he saw his fancy swordsmanship the other night. He asks the new fellow what is his style? It's a variation of the Mugai Style. He adds that he has longed to see Edo's Shingyoto school, which is very renowned. Iba says his style is very impressive and nothing like it is taught in the dojos.
Iba wants to cancel his classes for today and they will sword fight until they are both satisfied. But there's a problem. Iba has his distant relative's daughter, Tsuya, with him and she says Iba promised to take her to the play she's been dying to see. So they will reschedule their sword fighting. Now Iba invites Toranosuke to go to the play with them.
Going up to the box seats Iba is attacked by student Aizawa Denshichiro, who Iba kicked out of his program. The student wants revenge. Iba invites the student to come outside with him to fight. On the way down the steps, Aizawa tries, but fails, to slash Iba in the back.
In the fight Iba's sword breaks. So he grabs a piece of wood from the decorations and slams it into Aizawa's back. Aizawa goes down and is hurt. His two friends pick him up and rush him out of the theater.
Iba now starts spitting up blood. Tsuya tells Tornosuke to please go home. She will see to Iba. She adds that recently her distant relative has been in poor health.
The next day Iba asks Tsuya to stay away from the dojo today. She says she will. He goes in to talk with Toranosuke. The sensei is going to teach his friend the secret techniques of the Shingyoto School. The two men fight with each other, but without going for the kill.
Uncle comes to the school and gets Toranosuke. He was going to take the young man to the Yoshiwara Pleasure Quarters, but he came to his house and found a priest all covered in blood. So the two men go into Toraosuke's place and find the priest laying on the floor.
Toranosuke asks who did this to the priest? The dying man gives Toranosuke a shogunate pass. He then adds "at Shinagawa Station". At the tea house a woman is waiting. And in Kyoto there is a Mr. Ikemoto Mohei. He asks Toranosuke to escort the woman.
Toranosuke arrives at the tea house. He looks around to see if anyone seems to be waiting. All of a sudden two swordsmen attack a woman. She has her own sword and uses it to fend them off. Soon Tornosuke gets involved and chases the two swordsmen away.
Toranosuke figures that this is the woman. He tells her that the priest she was waiting for is now dead. Before dying, the priest told him, Sugi Toranosuke, to escort the woman. The woman now says her name is Reiko.
As they walk Reiko tells him that the anti-shogunate Satsuma men are after her. They stay at an inn at night. Toranosuke goes to take a bath. When he returns she is sleeping. She awakens and he asks her why she is being chased? Reiko tells him to please ask Ikemoto-sama about that. Toranosuke says he will asks the sensei.
The couple turnd a bend and find about eight men there blocking their way. The leader tells Toranosuke to leave. Of course, Toranosuke and Reiko pull out their swords. Three assassins go after Reiko and five go after Toranosuke.
Toranosuke rushes to protect Reiko. He tells her to take a side road. She runs away as he deals with the assassins by himself. While Toranosuke is busy with 7 of the assassins, another assassin slips away to run after Reiko. Toranosuke is able to down all 7.
Kyoto. A man kills another man. The killer looks like Hanjiro. The killer goes to an inn for something to eat. There's another diner there, Okita. When this man finishes his meal he sits in a booth next to the killer. He now tells killer that he looks like he has just killed a man. The killer just laughs.
Friends of Okita come into the room. They ask if Okita knows the man he is talking to? The four friends ask killer where did he come from? Killer says that's none of their business. They say Killer is from the Satsuma Clan. A Shogunate interpreter for England was just killed. They want to examine Killer's sword.
The killer says he is Nakamura Hanjiro, aka "Hanjiro the Slayer". He says: "If you can, take me." The men come after him and Hanjiro keeps them at bay with his swordsmanship. He starts leaving again and the commander tells his men to go get the fellow. Okita says to the commander that his men don't stand a chance. Why? Because Hanjiro has skill.
The men chase Hanjiro but he is so skillful that he manages to chase them all away with his swordsmanship. A nun in a house watched the entire match. She tells Hanjiro that she will mend his clothing for him. Hanjiro says they will have sex together. He picks her up and takes her into the house and turns off the lights. He left his sword by the still open door.
After sex the woman mends Hanjiro's clothing. She says she was once married to a samurai of the Yodo Clan. He died. Her name is Hoshuni. [Her real name is Ohide.] The killer has sex with her for a second time.
A man named Murata has captured a Shogunate spy. He is trying to beat information out of the spy. He asks where did Ikemoto Mohei escape to? Hanjiro speaks up and tells Murata that he should give the half-dead spy a rest for awhile. Murata says: "It's the 'Potato Head' " Hanjiro is not happy about his new nickname. He responds: "It's true Nakamura Hanjiro is a poor country samurai." He now calls Murata and his cohort "castle samurai" always kissing the asses of their superiors. In retaliation Murata kills the spy with his sword.
Toranosuke is staying at an inn in Kyoto waiting to hear from his sensei. He decides to go out for a walk. As soon as he comes onto the street a man dressed as a beggar gives him a Shogunate Pass and says: "Gyoshin Bridge . . . Amazake peddler."
Toranosuke tells the peddler on Gyoshin Bridge his name and the peddler says: "Shimogamo Shrine by Mitarashi River. Two tolls of the bell." Toranosuke runs to the shrine and hears two tolls of the bell. He passes a man who tells him: "Under Mikage Bridge . . . the beggar's hut." When he reaches the hut, men tells him to go inside the hut. Inside is the sensei.
The sensei has a wounded right leg. He says he's the one who asked Toranosuke to escort Reiko and thereby put the young man in danger. Toranosuke asks sensei why didn't he come to Edo? The sensei says he still has much to do in Kyoto for the city may soon turn into a battlefield. He wants Toranosuke to go back to Edo. Toranosuke says he can't abandon sensei now. Sensei says he is a supporter of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Toranosuke says he also supports the Shogunate.
Toranosuke says he wants to stay here in Kyoto. Sensei slaps him across the face saying that he didn't teach Toranosuke all that he knows just to die in vain fighting in a civil war. A man puts his head into the tent telling Sensei Ikemoto that he must leave the tent site for he is in danger here.
Walking over a bridge Toranosuke runs into Hachiro. They start talking with each other. Hachiro says the Tokugawa Shogunate has been losing its strength for a long time. Their samurai who were sent out to put down the Choshu Rebellion were routed.
[The Second Chōshū expedition started on June 7, 1866 with the bombardment of Suō-Ōshima, Yamaguchi by the Navy of the Bakufu. The expedition ended in military disaster for the Shogunate troops, as Chōshū forces were modernized troops. By contrast, the Shogunate army was composed of antiquated feudal forces.]
Hachiro says the men with him are from the Mimawasri Group. They will fight well, but they probably can't win against the modernized Choshu forces. The two men go for a drink. As they walk, Ohide recognizes Toranosuke. She runs around the corner to see him again, but can't find him.
At night on the streets of Kyoto someone yells for everyone to run for the Shinsengumi is coming. Toranosuke and Hachiro run right smack into them. One of the fellows is a bit drunk and wants to start a fight with Toranosuke. At the last second Okita Soji intervenes saying that private disputes will not be tolerated among the Shinsengumi. He asks the two men to pardon them.
When Toranosuke gives his name, Hanjiro hears this and comes running. He confirms that the man he is talking to is Toranosuke and then gives him 10 ryo. He says Sister Hoshuni (Ohide) told him to give Tornosuke the money. Toranosuke is confuses, so Hajiro says that in Edo the woman was known as Ohide.
Now the four men go together to have a drink at a geisha place. Hanjiro says that Hoshuni is now his mistress. He now asks Toranosuke what was the nature of his relationship to Hoshuni? Toranosuke just says it was nothing.
Later at night Hanjiro tells Hoshuni that Toranosuke spend all of the 10 ryo at the geisha place. Hoshuni has a good laugh. They talk about Saigo-san who Hjiro says is Japan's hero. Hanjiro wants to have sex, but Hoshuni asks him to please go home tonight because today is the anniversary of her husband's death. She says she took a vow to always honor her husband on the anniversary of his death. At first Hanjiro acts like a selfish child, but he quickly says he will go home tonight. He gives her a kiss and leaves.
When Hanjiro reaches the dojo, a man comes out to tell him that Saigo-san is back. The castle samurai tells him to go away because a big man such as Saigo-san will not receive a potato samurai. Hanjiro won't give up. He says to himself that everyone has to urinate, so he will lay in wait for the great man.
When the big man comes out Hanjiro runs to him saying hello. Saigo remembers his name after a little while of thinking. He tells Hanjiro that he talked to his mother recently and she is very worried about her son. He told his mother that he wants to have Hanjiro as his right hand man. He adds: "I'm counting on you." Hanjiro cries over the good news.
Reiko dressed as a geisha comes to tell sensei that Toranosuke is still in Kyoto and living with the Mimawari Group. He hangs out with Iba Hachiro and idles his days away. Ikemoto tells the woman that she is putting herself in danger by coming here to tell him this latest information. He starts laughing saying he thinks that Reiko is the one so very concerned about Toranosuke. This makes the woman blush and she says it's not like that.
Ikemoto tells Reiko he will write a letter telling Toranosuke to go back to Edo. And he wants Reiko herself to give it directly to Toranosuke.
Reiko gives the letter personally to Toranosuke. The samurai reads the letter which says that in order to make sure that Toranosuke and Ikemoto are remembered through time, he must marry, have children and live for the modern age soon to come.
Reiko and Toranosuke now realize that Ikemoto wants the both of them to go to Edo. Toranosuke learns from Reiko that sensei is in danger. So the samurai virtually begs her to tell him er where he is now. Reiko says she is not supposed to tell him. Toranosuke says he will not go back to Edo until he sees sensei one last time.
Murata now sends out a decoy with a message. He tells the messenger not to worry because they will be right behind him.
The decoy is surrounded and his message is taken from him by force. Back at the dojo, they read the note: "The Satsuma Clan will not ally itself with Choshu." It is signed by Saigo. Ikemoto says that this letter may be . . . . but he is cut off by the arrival of an enemy group. There is fighting everywhere. Ikemoto gets away from his enemy, but when he goes down an alley he is laid low. Reiko and Toranosuke find Ikemoto. The sensei tells them that they must go to Edo and Toranosuke should not seek to avenge the death of Ikemoto.
Toranosuke hears some samurai celebrating because that they got the sensei. He runs to the group and soon cuts all of them down. He then returns to Reiko and sensei. The dying man reiterates for them to go to Edo. He then dies. Both younger people cry over his death.
Shogunate forces defeated at the Battle of Toba-Fushimi, January 30, 1868. The Shogunate forces have to retreat.
After the battle Reiko and Toranosuke start walking to Edo.
Prince Arisugawa leads the Imperial forces to Edo.
Also going to Edo are: Kondo Isami, commander of the Shinsengumi; Arai Tadashi, Shinsengumi Lieutenant; and Soji, commander of the 1st Troop.
As Reiko and Toranosuke head into Edo, masses of refugees are leaving Edo. The couple goes to Toranosuke's place. They hug each other.
Part Two: The Surging Waves
Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu surrenders Edo Castle and is exiled to Mito. April 11, 1868. Reiko and Toranosuke puts flowers on the graves of Ikemoto Mohei and Sugi Heiemon.
Nachiro comes to their house and complains that if he wants to see Toranosuke this is where here has to come to see him. He complains that Toranosuke never goes out any more.
They sit down to talk. The visitor says he is going to join the Shogitai. [Hitotsubashi branch retainer Shibusawa Seiichir˘, Hatamoto Amano Hachir˘ and 67 pro-Bakufu comrades gathered in Z˘shigaya and formed a military unit called the Sh˘gitai. They were first stationed at a temple in Asakusa, then moved to Kan'ei-ji as the guards of Tokugawa Yoshinobu.]
Tomorrow the Tokugawa loyalists are gathering in Ueno. So Nachiro has come to say good-bye to the two people. Toranosuke asks his friend to think this matter over because the Tokugawa is finished.
Nachiro says the Aizu Clan and others in the Tohoku area are wanting to fight the Imperial forces. "We are not willing to lose yet." Toranosuke says that Nachiro is a fool! They should not be fighting, but thinking about living in the next age. Nachiro says he would like to live like Toranosuke, but as a Tokugawa samuria it's his duty to fight until the very end.
Ohide confronts some Imperial soldiers and demands that they return her husband. The soldiers think the woman is crazy and walk away from her. Nachiro runs into her asking where is her husband?
Soji chases after a black cat with his sword. Four cops stop to question Okita because the oldest policeman thinks he knows who this fellow is. After some time, he remembers seeing him in Kyoto. So Okita starts fighting immediately. He kills all four policemen.
At night a neighbor comes over to see Okita saying that he saw the head of Kondo-Sensei on display at Koshin-zuka in Itabashi. Okita chokes a bit upon hearing this sad news.
Shogitai defeated at the Battle of Ueno, July 4, 1868. Nachiro is in the fight. He fights Hanjiro until he is wounded by a gun shot to the upper left arm.
Uncle comes over to see Toranosuke and tells him that at the battle the Shogitai were betrayed and many deserted.
Saigo tells Hanjiro that he will now be made a staff officer. He wants Hanjiro to go to headquarters. Furthermore, he wants Murata to be Hanjiro's subordinate. Murata objects to this but Saido says: "Enemy survivors have escaped into Edo." He wants Hanjiro to be in command of finding these enemy survivors in Edo.
Both Tsuya and Toranosuke are on the battlefield looking over the dead bodies. Toranosuke says that Hachiro would have escaped from the battlefield. He also says the wounded are rumored to have been taken to Yanaka Cemetery. He invites Tsuya to go there with him.
Murata and his group start following Reiko. They follow her to her home. Murata goes inside the house and asks Reiko to make him a cup of tea. When she goes to get the tea the smiling jackal tries to jump her. She is able to toss him to the floor.
Now they all go after Reiko. She gets a short blade from a drawer and stabs one of the policemen. They soon wound her across the chest and then wound her again. Murata now tells his men to run for it. They run right into Toranosuke. They stop, hesitate, turn around and run for their lives.
Toranosuke finds Reiko still alive. The doctor comes to treat her wounds. Toranosuke blames himself for this since he left her alone. She says that it was she who was careless. Reiko has slept for three straight days.
The doctor tells Toranosuke that his wife is in bad shape. She may even die today.
His wife asks for water. She says they were married only for a little time, but she feels as if the time was 30 or 40 years. She asks him to sit her up and then to open the screen door so she can see the garden. She says they were so happy here. She dies in the arms of her husband.
Murata is in charge of capturing the escaped enemy survivors. He has a man taken from his house. He starts walking down the street and sees a man with a huge hat on hiding his features. Murata demands that he see the stranger's face. The strangers takes his hat off and now Murata sees that it's Toranosuke. Murata gets very frightened and takes off running. The two that helped kill Reiko also run away following Murata. The other policemen now run to catch Toranosuke.
It's a long chase with Toranosuke killing policemen to keep his pursuers from stopping him from catching up to Murata. He finally wounds or kills all the pursuing policemen. And now he catches up with Murata. He kills one of the policemen and then chops off the head of the other. Now only Murata is left. Toranosuke now splits Murata's body in half and the halves fall to the sides.
Now more police are after Toranosuke. Leading them is his old friend Hanjiro. Toranosuke runs into an abandoned house to hide from the police. Inside he finds his other friend Hachiro. He finds that Hachiro has been wounded in the left arm and the wound will soon be spreading gangrene throughout his body. So he warns Hachiro that drastic measures are to be taken. He pulls out his sword and lops off the left arm.
Hanjiro and his men go house to house looking for the offender. They find in one house a black cat with its head chopped off and the dead body of Okita next to it. So now Hanjiro blames the killing of Murata and the policemen with him on Okita. And now the house searching is stopped.
Toranosuke and Hachiro have some cooked food to eat. The latter is all patched up and his friend believes that he will be back to normal in 2 or 3 days. Hachiro thanks his friend for saving his life. He says he wants to go back into battle, but Toranosuke says he won't allow that. He should go home to Tsuya.
Toranosuke goes to get some fresh water for Hachiro. He finds some, but so do lots of policemen. So he goes back to the abandoned house. He finds his friend gone. He runs out looking for Hachiro. His friend is nowhere to be found.
Tokugawa navy flees to Hakodate. Vice Admiral Enomoto Takeaki , second in command of Tokugawa navy.
After the defeat of the resistance at Hakodate a note was delivered to Tsuya to say that Hachiro was killed. He was killed by a stray bullet while bent over a basin washing his face. She adds that he only had one arm. She starts crying loudly.
Toranosuke says: "The age of killing is over. Such an age must not be repeated."
Tokyo,. 1873. (Edo renamed Tokyo in July 1868).
Major-General Kirino Toshiaki. (Formerly named Nakamura Hanjiro.) Riding on his horse down the streets of Tokyo, Hanjiro sees Tsuya. She sees him, but she doesn't recognize him. The general sends the police after the woman. They catch up with her and the general calls out that it's Hanjiro.
Later Hanjiro goes to a barbershop. The barber is none other than Toranosuke. They recognize each other and talk about the old days. Toranosuke says: "It's a wonder any of us survived those days." The general says he's sure that Toranosuke can rise in the social ranks, but Toranosuke says he isn't interested for: "Now, I can forget my samurai status and just become an equal among men."
Hanjiro has dinner with Ohide at a geisha place. He says that he doesn't think he's changed since the earlier days, but Ohide says yes he has changed because he is the most successful of any man from the Satsuma Clan. She's afraid he's going to be arrogant and make bad decisions in the future.
It's not mandatory for men to have their hair knots cut off, but it is growing close to that time. A man asks barber Toranosuke if he has to cut it off? Not yet. So the man gets out ot the chair and says he is going to check with his family about getting the haircut.
One day Ohide comes to see Toranosuke. She says she is so glad to see him. And she wants to say good-bye because she will be going to England soon. And she doesn't think she will be coming back to Japan.
Saigo Takamori resigns to protest the new government. This is the news of the day. October 26, 1873. Ohide wonders what this may mean for Hanjiro.
Hanjiro comes knocking on the door of Toranosuke. He says that the army is going back with Saigo-san. Hanjiro comes into the barber shop saying that the government is too influenced by foreign ideas. And the government believes that Saigo-san is wrong. He says they're returning to their homeland. Hanjiro says he will return to being a farmer. The two men walk on the bridge until they have to go their own ways.
Uncle brings in a policeman to get a shave from the barber. While the fellow sits in the barber chair, Uncle tells him to tell them some stories of the roughest times for him. The policeman says he did kill a man. He killed the boss of the Tokugawa spies. Toranosuke realizes the policeman is talking about Ikemoto, his sensei. He tells the policeman there was no way in hell that the policeman could have killed Ikemoto in a sword fight. He was too skilled for the policeman.
The policeman now admits he came a little after the killing of Ikemoto. But Toranosuke could asks Kirino-san because he should know. He goes on to say that he met Kirino in the alley way. Kirino was wounded and the policeman helped him walk.
Now Toranosuke goes and gets his samurai sword.
Kagoshima (Satsuma renamed Kagoshima July 1871.) Hanjiro is hoeing a field. Suddenly he sees Toranosuke coming towards him. He takes a handkerchief and wipes his eyes of the sweat. Now he knows it's definitely Toranosuke.
When they greet each other Toranosuke right out asks Hanjiro if he killed Ikemoto Mohei? He answers that he can't remember because he killed so many men. It was in Kyoto around Shirakawa, the night of September 13. Hanjiro had attacked a group of Shogunate spies.
Now Hanjiro says he remembers the man dressed as a commoner. He says yes, he killed the man. He was very skillful. Toranosuke now gets ready to sword fight. He tells Hanjiro that he killed his father. They talk some more and then the fight is on. Toranosuke gets the better of his opponent and could have killed him. He decides not to kill him. Hanjiro asks why didn't Toranosuke kill him? Toranosuke says that when they started fighting, he suddenly remembered that sensei told him not "to avenge me".
Satsuma Rebellion begins, February 15, 1877. Hanjiro is killed is wounded in battle.
Satsuma Rebellion is over! September 24, 1877. Saigo Takamori commits suicide. Kirino Toshiaki is killed in action.
On the bridge Toranosuke reads the newspaper headlines and the names of the dead and then drops the paper from the bridge into the water.
"The age of the Samurai is finally at an end." [Taken from the supplements feature on the DVD.]
Good movie and especially so for the history fan. A lot of important history is gone over in the film. The Tokugawa Shogunate starts becoming weaker and weaker. Much of the resistance to the Shogunate comes from the Satsuma and Chohsu clans.
Many battles take place in Japan and the Imperial forces are winning most of the clashes with the Tokugawa Shogunate.
The film deals with four master swordsmen that are on different sides in the civil war. The four are Sugi Toranosuke, Nakamura Hanjiro, Iba Hachiro and Okita Soji. They become friends but are torn apart by the civil war.
The most time is spent on Sugi Tornosuke who likes a woman named Reiko. But the others are dealt with also: Nakamora Hanjiro who likes Ohide, Hachiro who likes Tsuya and Okita Soji.
There's a lot of action in the film with plenty of sword fighting. The action starts July 8, 1864 and goes to September 24, 1877.
I thought the acting was pretty good by almost everyone.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
Historical Background: (from the supplements feature on the DVD)
A BRIEF TIMELINE FOR THE SHOGUNATE:
The imperial family had ruled Japan since ancient times. The Samurai class, led by a Shogun" or "general" was a position appointed to by the Emperor. Over time, political power gradually shifted from the Emperor to the Shogun. Finally, in 1192, the Shoguns began ruling the country. The Emperor still retained the power to grant the title of "Shogun".
The Warring States Period begins. Japan was divided into numerous territories controlled by warlords. Essentially, Japan was plunged into a civil war that lasted for over 100 years.
Toyotomi Hideyoshi successfully unifies the territories of Japan into a feudal system. Each territory is divided into a "han" or fiefdom and is governed by a Lord who serves as the head of his clan.
The west is defeated at the Battle of Sekigahara. The Satsuma and the Choshu clans elect to not take sides in the battle. The Satsuma clan is one of the few clans strong enough to challenge the Shogunate. This will lead to centuries of tension between the ruling Tokugawa and the Satsuma. The weaker Choshu Clan is forced to relocate. Much of their land is redistributed. Viewed as a betrayal, many in Choshu will harbor a grudge towards the Tokugawa for centuries.
Japanese are forbidden to travel abroad. All, save a few ports, are closed to trade. Japan will remain effectively isolated from the rest of the world for more than 200 years.
Commodore Perry arrives in Japan with a fleet of war ships and forces the Tokugawa Shogunate to increase trading. Clans begin to lose faith in the Tokugwa's ability to rule.
Namamugi Incident. Four British subjects are attacked as they pass a large procession of Samurai from Satsuma. This is only one of several incidents that served to increase tensions.
In retaliation, British warships launch a bombardment on Satsuma. Tensions rise. The Shinsengumi, a squad of special police, are tasked with ridding Kyoto of insurgents.
1864, July 8
Acting on intelligence that insurgents based at the Ikedaya Inn are planning to burn down Kyoto, the Shinsengumi proceed to the Inn and arrest or kill all of the insurgents.
1864, August 20
As tensions continue to rise, a group of rebel samurai, principally from Choshu, unsuccessfully attempt to storm the Imperial Palace and forcibly restore the Emperor.
The Shogunate holds the Choshu clan responsible for the attack on the palace. The Satsuma clan is ordered to make a punitive attack on the Choshu. However, Saido Takamori resolves the matter by having the leaders of the attack commit "seppuku" (ritual suicide).
Disturbed by the increasingly defiant Choshu Clan, the Shogunate launched a second attack. The Tokugawa are soundly defeated by a force well trained in western tactics.
Realizing the Shogunate is no longer an effective military force, more and more clans begin to challenge the authority of the Shogunate. Hard liners from Satsuma and Choshu storm the palace and convince the Emperor to restore himself to power.
1868, January 27
Tokugawa forces march on Kyoto, which results in the Battle of Toba-Fushimi. Among the Tokugawa forces are notable samurai such as former Shinsengumi member and Iba Hachiro who headed one of the top four dojos in Edo. The Tokugawa are soundly defeated. Many previously loyal clans rapidly switch allegiances to the Emperor.
1868, May 3
Saigo Takamori leads the Imperial forces to Edo and accepts the surrender of Edo Castle. The Shogun goes into exile.
1868, July 4
The Shogitai, a group comprised of samurai that remained loyal to the Tokugawa, come together and make one last attempt to mount an offensive but are defeated by Imperial forces led by Saigo Takamlori. Iba Hachiro is seriously wounded and loses his left arm.
1868, July 19
Okita Soji, former Commander of the Shinsengumi's 1st Troop, dies of tuberculosis.
1868, August 20
Admiral Enomoto Takeaki retreats to Hakodate with the Tokugawa navy and attempts to create a sovereign state to resist the new Meji government.
1868, May 17
The resistance at Hakodate is defeated. Iba Hachiro is killed in action.
1873, October 26
Increasingly dissatisfied with the new Meji government Saigo Takamori resigns his post. After this resignation, Saigo Takaori returns to Kagoshima (formerly Satsuma).
1877, February 15
Over time, Kagoshima becomes a hotbed for ronin displaced by the new government's policy. Fearing a rebellion the government moves to remove arms from the province. This sparks open conflict. The Satsuma Rebellion begins.
1877, September 24
Using modern weaponry, the Meji government puts down the Satsuma Rebellion. Saigo Takamori commits suicide. The age of the Samurai is finally at an end.
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