28 February 2009 | chaos-rampant
The Sword that Saved Edo
Scripted by longtime veteran director Daisuke Itô based on a story by Shibata and directed by regular Daiei collaborator Kenji Misumi, this eighth entry in the popular serialized chambara series Sleepy Eyes of Death is considerably less dark and nihilistic compared to previous entries but it boasts one of the most mindbogglingly convoluted plots churned out in Japanese genre cinema. Nemuri Kyoshiro discovers a conspiracy centering around a band of disgruntled samurai wanting to avenge the death of their sensei, a political reformer that pushed for better provisions for the lower classes until he was assassinated by Shogunate agents. Their plot, to set fire to the oil refineries of two rich merchants and unleash a raging inferno that will hopefully burn down the Edo Castle.
Kenji Misumi's presence guarantees a capable direction. Whereas some of the lesser directors that worked for the Sleepy Eyes series might've been lost with the complex plotting, Misumi pulls it off admirably. The continually shifting narration POV of the opening that is at last revealed to belong to a hairdresser relating the events to Nemuri as he reclines on the floor of an inn is a dizzying display of narrative inventiveness. The final swordfight on the rooftops while fires rage in the background is suitably energetic and Nemuri staring to an orange moon through billows of smoke is a typical Sleepy Eyes stylistic mark. All in all another unsurprising, a bit hard to follow, but enjoyable chambara b-movie with a simplified social message (Nemuri coming to the aid of the poor) and decent swordfighting.