Saturday, October 20, 2012

Samurai Nobility and The Sword of Desperation

In our last article commemorating the 4th Battle of Kawanakajima, we discussed the notion of Samurai Nobility. Such ideals written after the Sengoku Jidai or Warring States Period were not lost onto the peaceful Edo Period. Rather, the bar was somewhat raised in the matter best illustrated in the works such as the Hagakure and Yojokun and that of the actions of the 47 Ako Ronin. It is often said by those of us who lived during the Cold War of the 20th Century that it was easier because you knew who your enemies were unlike today. Much like the Edo Period of Japan, peaceful times are only an illusion if not a luxury of those unconcerned about the world around them for there are always plots and planners of chaos to be told. One could only imagine such logic be it or real or perceived could have both existed and played out in the cruelest of terms behind the partitions and sliding doors of the Edo Period. As such, Treachery, and Samurai Nobility have made for our feature film we have chosen to present you the 2010 Toei Studios Samurai Drama: The Sword of Desperation. 
In the fictional fiefdom of the Unasaka Clan, the powerful Daimyo Tabu Ukyou ( played by Jun Murakami) lives an opulent lifestyle that one could say rivals that of the Shogun. Complete with an inner sanctum he is swayed into the manipulations of his consort Renko (played by Megumi Seki) whose capricious whims have driven the Unasaka Clan to near financial ruin. Having the Clan's best swordsman Obiya Hayatonosho (played by Kikkawa Koji ) failed mission to reason with the Daimyo, cruelty and oppression is levied against the farmers and those serving his lordship under the indignities and falsehoods of the evil Renko. As the last straw is drawn following the execution of farmers who threatened to report the Daimyo's excesses to Edo, it is up to the Captain of the Infantry Sanzaemon Kanemi (played by Toyokawa Etsushi) to take matters into his own hands and save his clan by assassinating Renko.
In a tale of treachery and great self sacrifice, Director of the Oba The Last Samurai Hirayama Hideyuki brings us Hisshiken Torisashi aka The Sword of Desperation. In the great tradition of Samurai films such as The Twilight Samurai and The Hidden Blade, The Sword of Desperation reveals the idealized Samurai nobility that emphasizes the nature of what it was to be of the Samurai Warrior Caste in the mid Edo Period of Japan which was to serve to one's Clan and to one's Lord. Such loyalty as seen in this film is not the sole domain to one's lordship but to that other Samurai virtue of being Just with Absolute Sincerity. As revealed, the story does not end with the assassination of the evil Renko but continues on to reveal the nature of Captain Sanzaemon Kanemi who had previously lost his wife Mutsue to illness and sought to look out for the future of Mutsue's niece Satoo (played by Ikewaki Chizuru) who has come to care for him during his period of house arrest. 
As such the device in recent Samurai classics, Sanzaemon is the holder of a secret invincible technique known as “Bird Spearing or the Sword of Desperation.” Without giving away the entire movie here we will just say that the treachery and manipulations do not end with Renko's death for situations and plots come to a crescendo complete with realistic sword fighting where the true manipulators are revealed whose betrayal is put to the test. As anyone who loves Bushido in action, we guarantee, you will not be disappointed.
We shall continue our series on Samurai Nobility and other topics on American Mishima that are featured in other films from Japan. We highly recommend The Sword of Desperation and feel it will compliment any Samurai Film Library. If you are unable to find this film for rent, you can acquire an inexpensive copy of The Sword of Desperation complete with English Subtitles and other great Samurai films through our friends over at Japanese Samurai DVD. Until then, please watch this trailer and enjoy!

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