Blade of the Immortal (2017) is based on a Japanese comic which ran from 1993 to 2012. Whilst shitting on comic book movies in general is a great pleasure of mine, Japanese comics are a different kettle of fish, especially old school, ultra violent manga like Blade of the Immortal and, whilst expecting the worst (see for example, Fist of the North Star with Gary Daniels) I do hope they turn out at least watchable. So when I heard that Blade of the Immortal (which has previously been made into a disappointing animated series back in 2008) was being adapted for the big screen by none other than Takashi Miike, I was interested. And I’m pleased to say that this adaptation of Hiroaki Samura’s award winning and bloodthirsty masterpiece doesn’t disappoint at all, in fact it’s really rather good.
I’m not a huge follower of Taskashi Miike, I’ve found numerous of his films hard to watch for different reasons. Doubtless he’s made some excellent films (this has widely been touted as his 100th film) I approached it more as a fan of the manga and of asian action cinema in general.
Takuya Kimura does a great job as the central character, Manji, a wandering samurai, cursed with immortality (he’s practically indestructible thanks to parasitic ‘blood worms’ that repair damage inflicted on his body, from closing up stab wounds to reattaching severed limbs). Manji is haunted by the death of his sister and seeks redemption for his past sins, which he believes he can attain by slaying 1000 evil men. And in the movie he probably does kill about 1000 people, believe me. He was a good choice of actor and gives a gritty, but not humourless performance, which is central to the film.
Hana Sugisaki manages not to be irritating as Rin, the young girl who Manji reluctantly agrees to help in her revenge mission for the slaughter of her parents by Anotsu Kagehisa (Sota Fukushi) and his gang of butchering swordsmen, the Itto Ryu, who seek to unify all of the sword schools in Japan, invading one dojo after another and issuing them with an ultimatum – join the Ittu Ryu, or perish.
A lot of characters from the manga put in appearances and the film does a good job packing in the not entirely uncomplicated storylines from the first several volumes of the comic. That said, there’s more than enough story left for a sequel, or even to make it into a trilogy. Hell, the best way to approach it might have been to make it into a TV series, but whatever they do next, I hope they do something. Although Manji and Rin’s story isn’t really over when the credit’s role, an epic battle where a handful of the main characters take on 100+ swordsmen does provide for a satisfying finale as far as the film in concerned.
The direction is great, as you’d expect from an old hand like Miike, the film looks fantastic. This shits on a lot of the movies I’ve seen recently. Lovely cinematography and a great looking period piece in terms of costumes and sets. The action is the main attraction of course, and the film delivers in that respect too. There’s a lot of battles with some inventive weapons and fighting styles, but it’s generally pretty well rooted in reality, none of the heroes can fly for example. Men and women bleed, severed limbs abound and people spit blood through clenched teeth whilst uttering profanities in Japanese. This is my kind of entertainment and should be what fans of the manga expect, whilst also having plenty to offer anyone who’s never heard of the manga but likes a good slice of asian action.
Blade of the Immortal has the look and feel of an old school samurai movie and whilst it’s not perfect, it could also have been a hell of a lot worse. I was going to give this 7, but having rewatched the trailer I’ve realised I want to see the film again, so I’m going to give it 8 instead.