Tasogare Seibei (The Twilight Samurai) (2002)

 

 

 

Director:    Y˘ji Yamada.

Starring:     Hiroyuki Sanada (Seibei Iguchi), Rie Miyazawa (Tomoe Iinuma), Nenji Kobayashi (Choubei Kusaka), Ren Osugi (Toyotarou Kouda), Mitsuru Fukikoshi (Michinojo Iinuma), Kanako Fukaura, Hiroshi Kanbe (Naota), Miki It˘ (Kayano Iguchi), Erina Hashiguchi (Ito Iguchi), Reiko Kusamura (Iguchi's Mother).     

lower samurai helped by the merchants, end the Tokugawa and make way for the Mejii government

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

After a long illness of consumption, the mother of Ito, a little girl of 5, dies.  Her family is from Unasaka, in the northeast, in today's Yamagata Prefecture.  Before 1868 it was the castle town of the Unasaka clan, a small fief.  Her father, Iguchi, is a member of the class of petty samurai.  He works in an office with a small group of older men keeping up on the storage of goods in case the castle is besieged.  His co-workers would often ask him to go for a drink with them at a bar, but he always says "no".  With a sick wife, two daughters and an old senile mother, he always had to hurry home after work.  His co-workers gave him the cruel nickname of "Twilight" as in "the twilight samurai". 

After his wife's death, at the bar his co-workers say they would like to find Iguchi a wife.  But they are afraid that few women would want to marry a man with two children and a senile mother.  Not to mention that Iguchi is heavily in debt. 

At home Iguchi learns that his older daughter, ten-year old  Kayano, is learning about the teachings of Confucius.  This is something new for girls in Japan.  Ito says that her father was unkempt and grimy because he was always working at doing something else.  His Lordship comes to inspect the stores of good and notices that Iguchi smells and has a ripped shirt.  He scolds Iguchi saying that he must keep himself clean because he must serve as an example for the common folk.  After this incident, dad became a laughing stock.  Great Uncle came to visit to scold him saying that he went to Senior Retainer Terauchi and apologized for him.  If the ruler had been the father of the present lordship, what he did could have meant an order to commit ritual suicide.  Great Uncle leaves angry.  The girls tell their father that they don't like great-uncle and dad says:  "I hate him." 

The times were one of famine.  The girls see a dead boy floating in the river. 

Iguchi visits with his friend Linuma.  He has just come back from Kyoto .  Linuma tells Iguchi that there are a lot of filthy ronin (i.e., unemployed samurai) in Kyoto.  He also says that the Choshu clan was beaten once, but they'll be back with Satsuma.  Linuma then asks his friend if he would like to go to Kyoto as a palace guard.  Iguchi says that he is probably going to give up trying to be a full samurai and become a farmer.  Linuma's comment is:  "No ambition at all!"   Iguchi then asks Linuma about his sister, Tomoe.  She married the son of Captain Koda Toyotaro.  The man is a mean drunk and often beat Tomoe.  Therefore, Linuma got the castle to order the couple divorced.  She is now back at his house. 

Once again, Iguchi refuses to go to the bar after work and heads home.  But the girls are not home.  He is surprised when a woman in the house starts to speak to him.  And she is surprised that he does not recognize her.  She is Tomoe, with whom Iguchi always played when they were children.  Iguchi is shocked but also pleased.  The girls take a liking to Tomoe almost from the first.  At night Iguchi walks Tomoe home.  At the house of her brother, she hears her drunken ex-husband's voice.  He is causing a scene.  He wants to know where Tomoe is and he is mad at Linuma.  He says that his former brother-in-law made a joke of him and now demands satisfaction.  At this point Tomoe intervenes only to be slapped hard by her abusive ex-husband.  Iguchi wrestles the man to the ground and tells him that he will answer for his friend.  The drunk says:  "We fight tomorrow."  The ex-husband leaves.  Linuma asks Iguchi:  "What if you kill him? The clan forbids dueling."  Iguchi answers:  "I'll think of something."

The next morning Iguchi shows up at the place of the duel. He see Linuma already there and preparing to start dueling.  Iguchi pushes him out of the way and tells the ex-husband that he will be fighting him.  Iguchi has decided to fight only with a short stick so he cannot kill his opponent.   The duel starts and Iguchi almost immediately takes charge.  At one point he holds the stick to his opponent's neck and says:  "With a real sword, you'd be dead."  He so dominates the duel that the ex-husband drops his sword and falls into the river.  Iguchi asks him if he will now apologize to Linuma.  But the abusive man runs to his sword to kill Iguchi.  But once again, Iguchi gets the better of him and cracks him on the head with the stick.  The fellow collapses in a heap.  Later at his work, the master of the watch, Zenemon Yogo, comes to see him.  He says that the defeated man wants him to avenge him against Iguchi.  He asks Iguchi about his training.  He was trained under Toda-sensei Jinsai Toda.  The master of the watch asks if Iguchi would like to have a match with him, but Iguchi only says that he is not good enough to fight Yogo. 

The news of the duel reaches Iguchi's office and now the co-workers worry.  Maybe they shouldn't have called him Mister Twilight.   

At home, Iguchi reads a letter from Tomoe.  She thanks him for what he did for her brother and wants to let him know that she will be helping him with his household duties.  Ito mentions that Miss Tomoe started coming about every other day.  Both the girls love her.  Tomoe takes them to the festival in kimonos she made for them herself.   The higher samurai are not allowed at the festival, but Tomoe came anyway.  She told the children that the samurai would not have their position if it were not for the peasants.

Iguchi and Linuma go fishing together.  Linuma uses the opportunity to tells his friend that Tomoe has receive a few marriage proposals.  He adds that he asked his sister if she would want to marry Iguchi.  Iguchi is shocked.  Linuma says that Tomoe said that she wouldn't mind it.  But Iguchi rejects the idea.  Tomoe is from a higher social class and he does not want her to have to settle for something less than that to which she is entitled.  His late wife was from a higher social class and she hated the lower life style.  She was always asking him to move up the social ladder. 

The other thing the two friends talked about was that a month ago the Lordship died.  (The matter was deliberately kept a secret.)  The castle warden, Lord Hori, asked the Shogun for permission to adopt the Lordships' third son, Tadaatsu.  This way Lord Hori could seize control himself.  And, of course, the danger might be one of civil war.

Ito says that after the fishing expedition, Tomoe stopped coming to their home. 

The alarm is sounded.  The drums are beaten.  The warden has returned!  Iguchi's boss breaks the news of the death of the Lordship to his workers.  This might possibly mean civil war of the reformers versus Lord Hori.  Ito comments that the petty samurai like her father were not affected by the political developments.  He continued to work his farm.  The girls did not ask their father about what happened to Miss Tomoe; they knew something bad had happened between them. 

Iguchi goes to see Linuma.  He is away so his wife talks to Iguchi.  He wants to know the latest news.  Iguchi says he has heard that there are dispositions;  some people have been ordered to commit suicide.  Iguchi then starts for home.  Tomoe wants to run and catch Iguchi, but her sister-in-law stops her.  She tells Tomoe that it is unseemly for her, a divorced woman discussing the possibility of remarriage, to be chasing after a samurai and talking to him on the street.  Tomoe disagrees with her and this scandalizes the older woman:  "Are you questioning me?"  The end result is that Tomoe just goes into the house. 

Commissioner Kusaka stops at Iguchi's house to tell him that Lord Hori has asked that Iguchi come to see him.  Representatives of Lord Hori tell Iguchi that there was a revolt among their retainers in Edo.  At least the shogun does not know about it.  His Lordship ordered Sima-Hasegawa and his faction to commit ritual suicide.  But one of Lord Hasegawa's men, Zenemon Yogo, master of the watch, has refused to commit suicide.  He says that he was only following orders and did nothing wrong.  Yogo has already killed one man sent against him.  Since Iguchi is a short-sword master, and a short sword will be an advantage fighting inside Yogo's house, they want Iguchi to kill Yogo by twilight tomorrow.  Iguchi asks them for an entire month to prepare for the match.  They tell him in no uncertain terms that this is an order.  Refusal of the honor would be an offense to the clan.  Essentially he has no choice, so Iguchi says:  "I obey . . . accept the commission to kill Zenemon Yogo."   

At home Iguchi sends his servant with a message to Miss Tomoe. He wants Tomoe to come to see him.  The servant delivers the message and Tomoe comes to see Iguchi.  He tells her that he has to fight and he needs help with preparing his hair properly.  While she works on his hair, he tells her that at one time her brother asked him to take her as his wife.  Now he asks her would she accept if he asked her to marry him.  She hesitantly tells him that she recently accepted an offer for marriage from a retainer from Aizu.  Stunned, Iguchi has to start back pedaling.  He says:  "I've been very rude. . . I've been a fool.  . . . Forget what I've said."  Tomoe adds that she will not be able to wait for him at his house for his return, but she will pray that he comes back home safe.  His two escorts arrive and Iguchi goes with them.  Tomoe is sad when he leaves.

At the house of Yogo, a man tells Iguchi that Yogo is "no longer human.  He is a beast."  Iguchi enters the house.  Yogo asks if it is "Sir Twilight" who comes.  He adds:  "So they sent you."  He then asks Iguchi to sit down.  Yogo tells Iguchi that he is going to run away, to get out of the clan area.  But Iguchi has to tell him that he cannot let him escape.  Yogo says that the day of the samurai is done.  He adds that "You're the clan's errand boy, out to claim a reward."  He then tells Iguchi that he is not the only samurai who has suffered.  He himself spent seven years as a ronin.  He lost his wife to consumption and then his daughter from the same disease.  Yogo asks Iguchi about his stipend and says that living on 50 koku must be very hard.  Iguchi agrees.  He explains that he had to borrow a lot of money over the years.  And he had to sell his sword to pay for the funeral of the higher social class family of his late wife.  Now his sword is mad of bamboo.  This news seems to embolden Yogo.  He treats this fact as an insult to him personally.  And he suddenly attacks Yogo.  Iguchi is able to knock him through the thin wall out into the back yard.  Yogo gets up, goes back into the house and the fight begins again.  Suddenly Yogo stops and says:  "You've cut me, Twilight."  After a short respite, Yogo raises his sword up high and starts to bring it down on Ilguchi.  But the sword hits the upper beam of the house and sticks there.  Iguchi takes advantage of the opportunity to sink his short sword into Yogo's gut.  Yogo is now slowly dying.  Iguchi is also wounded, but not fatally.  Iguchi tells him that he was going to let him go until Yogo attacked him.  Yogo falls to the floor and dies.  Iguchi comes out of the house and tells the waiting men:  "He's all yours."   Iguchi than walks home. 

Dad returns home.  Ito backs up from him when she sees the blood on his left arm and hand. His older daughter runs into the house shouting:  "Miss Tomoe!  Dad's home!"  Iguchi can't believe it and says:  "You're still here . . ."  Tomoe says "Thank heaven!" for his survival.  She says to him:  "I was sure you were dead!" and she starts to cry. 

Ito says:  "Finally, Miss Tomoe became our mother.  Father was very happy."  But their peace lasted for only three years.  With the coming of the Meiji Restoration came the Civil War. Their clan supported the former shogun and they fought as rebels against the emperor's government.   During this "Boshin War" Iguchi was shot and killed.  Tomoe took his daughters to Edo and supported them until they were both married.  When Tomoe died, they buried her with their father. 

Ito says that her father had no desire to rise in the world.  Some people say heiwas unlucky, but although his life was short, it was a full one.  She says:  "I am proud to have had such a father." 

 

Good movie.  In the extra portion of the DVD director Y˘ji Yamada says that he wanted to make a movie about the petty samurai without any lies.  He says that killing a man with one blow of a sword was the exception.  Most of the dueling swordsman would be cut all over.  The one who lost the most blood was the one who would win.  The movie is also a very good love story between our hero Iguchi and his childhood playmate Tomoe.  

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background:

1868-1869  --  the Boshin War ("War of the Year of the Dragon).  It was a civil war fought between the forces of the ruling Tokugawa shogunate and the forces supporting the return to political power of the imperial court. 

The nobles and young samurai were unhappy with the Tokugawa shogunate.  Also unhappy was an alliance of southern samurai and court officials. 

Emperor Mejii declared the abolition of the two-hundred-year-old shogunate. His imperial forces were more modernized and thus had the advantage.  After a number of battles, Shogun Yoshinobu personally surrendered.

About 3,500 men were killed during the civil war.

 

 

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