25 February 2012 | sieigieutiuru
A Theme of Satan's Sword trilogy
The movie Satan's Sword is adopted from Kaizan Nakazato's famous novel Daibosatu Touge(also known as The Great Bodhisattva Pass).It is Japan's one of the most famous novels and filmed 5 times. It has been said that Nakazato Kaizan wrote this to describe human karma based on Buddhism. The story in this trilogy is about 20% of the whole story in his novel. This is the first movie of the Satan's Sword trilogy. The story of Tsukue Ryunosuke, an amoral swordsman who slays other people with no apparent reason pursued by the brother of his fencing competition victim, he wanders through the country in the end of Edo period gradually deepening his insanity.
I'd like to skip repeating details of the movie since other users had already done it with their reviews. Instead, I am going to state my personal opinion about a theme (hidden message) of this movie, and Raizo Ichikawa's portrayal of Ryunosuke and how it was played out. "Satan's Sword" wasn't made to only show spectacular sword fights or to demonstrate bad guy verses good guy type of story. The theme of this movie is something that causes viewers to look at a dark side of reality in the life.
"Satan's Sword" was directed much closer to the original novel than Chiezo Kataoka (aka Souls in the Moonlight) and Tatsuya Nakadai ( Sword of Doom) versions. Ryunosuke's inner turmoil and detachment from the world around him were well played by Raizo Ichikawa. His play is subtle but there is some quiet intensity in Ichikawa himself that is worked to magnify Ryunosuke's inner turmoil. His expression of motion (force)within stillness, or motion in the still, is a characteristic of samurai and worked very well in portraying Ryunosuke. Because Ichikawa was young (29) the time he played, Ryunosuke's nihilism wasn't well portrayed but his deep voice and his unique kabuki style speaking created a distinctive Ryunosuke character.
When compared with Chiezo Kataoka and Tatsuya Nakadai versions of the same title movies, I liked Ichikawa version better because his Ryunosuke wasn't portrayed as nearly psychopath as in Nakadai version. I am almost certain that Ryunosuke in Nakazato's original novel wasn't psychopath or insane. Although Ryunosuke is an amoral lost soul, possessed by his sword, and has no sympathy to others, these do not necessarily make him insane or mentally ill. However, Kataoka version Ryunosuke is little too old and he doesn't seem all the way amoral.
An astonishing final scene in the third movie of the trilogy left me with some feelings of confusion and helplessness but it allowed me to think something more. Perhaps, within the lingering feelings with a room for thought, there is the message of the Satan's Sword trilogy.
All in all, the movie "Satan's sword" was filmed by the best technical stuff of the Daiei at that time. The visual effect in this movie is stunningly beautiful and every scene settings were masterfully done. It was a creation of Japanese movie golden era. This is a great movie in its message (theme), scale and artistic means that fully entertaining. I highly recommend people to watch all three movies of the Satan's Sword.