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Recently in jidaigeki / historical Category

Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan
[The Ghost of Yotsuya]

Genre: Traditional Kaidan

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Unscrupulous ronin Tamiya Iemon lies and kills to obtain the woman and future he desires, all the while feigning to be an upright and noble samurai. But when he causes the painful and sorrowful death of his once beloved wife Oiwa, her ghost vows justice and vengeance. This is a retelling of Japan's most classic horror tale brought to you by one of SaruDama's favorite directors, Nobuo Nakagawa.



Drunken Angel [Yoidore Tenshi]

Genre: Quasi-historical Yakuza Drama [Post-war Japan: 1948]

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Quote: "Will power can cure all human ailments."

Here is the first time Toshiro Mifune appears in a movie by Akira Kurosawa!

This very early post-war film is set in a squalor, yakuza-ridden slum of 1948 Tokyo. In the heart of this neighborhood is a large, bubbling cess pool into which residents have heaped garbage and waste. This cess pool, as our main character, Dr Sanada, warns, is brimming with typhus. The pool is intended by Director Akira Kurosawa as a symbol for the moral decay and corruption permeating post-war Tokyo. In this new world, traditional social values and honor have not survived the war. In their stead have emerged selfish opportunism, greed, and the yakuza, flamboyantly embodied in Matsunaga (Mifune), the suave yet unruly young and upcoming mob leader. While his boss Okada has sat in prison for four years due to a brutal knifing, Matsunaga has risen in power and control. Now, however, with Okada's release from prison, Matsunaga finds himself in a desperate and violent power struggle. And yet Matsunaga's ultimate opponent is not Okada, but the tuberculosis which has gradually eaten away at him through years of unrestrained living.




Sword of Doom
[Dai-bosatsu toge]

Genre: Evil Mind, Evil Sword Samurai Tale
Director: Okamoto Kihachi (1966)

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The principles of samurai bushido are in sharp focus here, demonstrating the zen-like connection between the swordsman's mind and his use of the blade. Sword of Doom examines an unruly samurai with ruthless sword skills whose ego and moral deficiencies lead him down a path of ultimate destruction. This is truly a classic samurai film in that it is wholly about the bushido mentality and how one's moral character and discipline ultimately decide one's fate.



Incident at Blood Pass [Machibuse]

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Genre: Yojimbo Samurai Tale
Director: Inagaki Hiroshi (1970)

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A rogue ronin samurai is hired by a mysterious man to travel to a snowy mountain pass and wait for further instructions. Along the way he rescues an abused maiden who asks to accompany him until he reaches his destination. Once there, the samurai encounters a hodge-podge of seemingly innocuous local characters who unbeknownst to him are plotting a major ambush of an official caravan soon to pass their way. This is the last of Toshiro Mifune's "Yojimbo" films.



Ugetsu Monogatari
[Tales of Moonlight and Rain]

Genre: Classic Japanese Ghost Tale

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This classic supernatural morality tale follows the path of two men who prioritize their ambitions above all else and inadvertently set aside their families and responsibilities. This 1953 ghost tale is arguably the FIRST truly Japanese horror film and is thus required viewing for anyone seriously interested in the whole of J-Horror.



They Who Step on Tiger's Tail
[Tora no O wo Fumu Otokotachi]

Genre: Historical Samurai Tale (Kamakura Era 1185-1392 AD)

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This very early Kurosawa film retells the historical tale of Yoshitsune's perilous and skillful escape from the hands of his warring brother. It is a legendary tale, well-beloved in Japanese history, here brought to the screen in a highly entertaining and effective way. This is truly one to check out.



The Hidden Blade
[Kakushi-ken: oni no tsume]

Genre: Existential Samurai Drama

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Faced with declining social status in a quickly changing world, the samurai Katagiri gradually realizes that his personal purpose and meaning are slipping away. Although he tries to create for himself a situation of happiness, social expectations regarding the samurai class force him to abandon even that. Then, when Katagiri's contemplations are at their deepest, his superiors call on him to assassinate a political rebel, his closest friend.



Totsunyu seyo! Asama sanso jiken
[The Choice of Hercules]

Genre: Fact-based Police Drama

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When student revolutionaries of the Red Army held a woman hostage in the remote and snowy mountains of Karuizawa, Nagano, the National Tokyo Police were called in to oversee the incident despite the objection of the local Nagano Police force. This film recounts the true events surrounding the 1972 Asama Sanso Incident and is based on the published memoirs of Sassa Atsuyuki, the Tokyo Police commander in charge of the hostage's rescue.



Edo Porn
[Hokusai Manga]

Genre: Dramatized Biography of Artist Hokusai Katsushika

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This is a biographical film which follows the struggles of Edo-era artist Hokusai from his poorest beginnings to his famed accomplishments, including his notorious libidinous drawings. Though risque in much of what is depicts, this comes across as a straight-forward jidai-geki exploring a well-known historical figure's life and obsessions.



Samurai Banners
[Furin kazan]

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Genre: HUGE (!!!) Ashikaga/Sengoku Era Samurai Epic

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This enormous historical epic directed by Inagaki Hiroshi and starring Mifune Toshiro explores the land-hungry expansion of Takeda Shingen of Kai province and his ultimate battle with Uesugi Kenshin of Echigo. Set during the transition between the Ashikaga and Sengoku Eras, this is an action-packed, panoramic tale of strategy, battle and allegiance.



Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance
[Shurayukihime : Urami Renga]

Genre: Sword Mistress Revenge Tale

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Kashima Yuki inevitably finds herself in prison following the vengeful murder spree making up this film's prequel. But at the very steps of the gallows, she is given an opportunity to take up her sword once again, this time to strike down an enemy of the government. However, the closer she comes to her target, the heavier her sword and task become. This is a decent follow-up to the exemplary prequel by the same director.



Azumi 2 [Azumi 2: Love or Death]

Genre: Samurai Ninja Action

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Azumi and Nagara, the last remaining assassins of Gessai's trained group, attempt to complete their mission against all odds. When old rebel alliances join with formidable ninja warriors, the demise of our noble-willed assassins seems assured. Unless...



Lady Snowblood
[Shurayukihime]

Genre: Excellent Sword Mistress Revenge Tale

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This well drawn tale of revenge follows the quest of Kashima Yuki as she tracks down and annihilates those responsible for the destruction of her family. Through years of training and single-minded intent, she has become a ferocious fountain of vengeance merely waiting to be unleashed upon those whose crimes against her parents and sibling have gone unpunished.



Gate of Flesh [Nikutai no Mon]

Genre: Extreme Post War Survival Tale

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Set immediately after WWII, this film explores the desperate lengths to which a squalid, burned out community must go to in order to survive. Originally intended as a gritty erotic tale starring Shishido Jo, director Suzuki Seijun turned this into an exceptional and immediate cinematic success. Suzuki's own experiences in the War come through clearly as he retells the depths to which post-war urban centers fell.



The Shogun's Samurai : Yagyu Clan Conspiracy
[Yagy� Ichizoku no Inb�]

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Genre: Quasi-historical Samurai Action/Thriller [Early Tokugawa Era]

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This intriguing history-based fiction explores the rivalry between the two sons of Tokugawa Hidetada over the succession to the Shogunate following the sudden death of their father. Following the rules of aristocratic propriety, the brothers must resort to strategically undermining one another rather than open warfare. And here the loyalty of the Yagyu family of swordmasters proves critical, eventually tipping the balance of the outcome.



Shinobi: Heart Under Blade
[Shinobi]

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Genre: War and Love Ninja-style

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This well-rendered tale covers the last days of the centuries old feud between Japan's two most formidable ninja clans, the Koga and the Iga. After bringing peace to a unified Japan, Tokugawa Ieyasu deems both clans of warrior ninjas a threat to his hard won stability, and commands that they face each other in a battle to the death. Trained since childhood as assassins, most gladly dash into battle and thus toward mutual annihilation. Only a secret relationship between the two clans' leaders provides any hope for their villages' survival.



Goyokin [Goyoukin]

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Genre: Classic Samurai Revenge Tale

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Years after being forced to participate in a bloody massacre of innocent townspeople, Wakizaka Magobei returns to the scene of the crime after hearing that the regional ruler intends to once again commit the same atrocity. Goyokin is a well-drawn and engaging traditional samurai tale starring the top talent of the era. This is definitely one to see.



Legend of the Devil
[Shuranosuke zanma-ken: Y�ma densetsu]

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Genre: Low Budget Devil-Lacking Samurai Adventure

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The brooding pretty-boy samurai Sasaki Shuranosuke finds himself embroiled in a complicated plot involving vanquished ninja clans, hidden treasure, and the mysterious power of a pair of ancient swords. And behind it all are some seemingly indestructible master minds poised to defeat him in order to bring about a diabolical revolution. Sometimes schlock, sometimes poseur, this remains a good rainy-day samurai flick if you need one.



Ronin Gai
[Samurai/Ronin Street]

Genre: Rough and Tumble Samurai Tale

Setting: Late Edo/Tokugawa Era

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Ronin Gai is an entertaining classic samurai tale pitting an odd assortment of unemployed samurai (ronin) against a formidable troop of Tokugawan samurai terrorizing the men and women of their small rural village. Filled to the brim with unkempt and morally questionable characters a new twist is added to this tale of honor from unlikely sources, where the underdogs here would in most other films constitute mere scoundrels.



Kagero-za
[Kagerouza]

Genre: Taisho Era Ghostly Surrealism

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Playwright Shungo becomes increasingly enchanted by a mysterious and beautiful woman he occasionally crosses paths with. His playboy friend Tamawaki jests that it is all an amorous fate, but Shungo's contemplative nature senses deeper realities at play. When he receives a written invitation for a remote rendevouz, his journey of vulnerability brings him face to face with both the cruelties of human nature and the terrifyingly haunting power of love's own justice. This is the second film in director Suzuki Seijun's critically acclaimed Taisho Trilogy.



Zigeunerweisen
[Tsigoineruwaizen]

Genre: Taisho Era Macabre Mystery

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When university professor Aochi runs into his former colleague and friend Nakasago, his otherwise placid life takes a sudden turn toward disequilibrium. The circumstances under which they meet and Aochi's quiet observations increasingly cause him to doubt the moral and mental stability of Nakasago. And yet the more certain he becomes of Nakasago's dark nature, the more disturbing and chaotic his own life and relations become. This is a highly memorable horror tale by famed director Suzuki Seijun.



Hikari no Ame [Rain of Light]

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Genre: Student Revolutionary Implosion - Based on a True Story

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This documentary-style film recreates the infamous Asama Sanso Incident of 1972 wherein an extreme faction of the Students Allied Red Army holed themselves up in a mountainous cabin in the dead of winter. By the time the police finally caught up with them, it was discovered that they had murderously turned upon themselves in a bizarre extension of their radical philosophy. This event virtually marked the end of the Student Revolution.



The Ceiling at Utsunomiya
[Kaii Utsunomiya Tsuritenjo]

Genre: Tokugawa-Era Power Politics and Ghosts

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While Tokugawa Iemitsu prepares to travel from the Edo capitol to the Toshogu Shrine in Nikko, one of his astute spies discovers a possible assassination plot scheduled to take place during the Shogun's stop at Utsunomiya Castle. This is a wonderfully quaint historical piece and director Nakagawa Nobuo's first ghost tale.



Mansion of the Ghost Cat (aka Black Cat Mansion)
[Borei Kaibyo Yashiki]

Genre: Classic Japanese Horror

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When Dr. Kuzumi moves his practice to the countryside in order to allow his wife to regain her health, little does he realize that the old mansion they have rented "possesses" a notorious history of its own. When a mysterious old woman repeatedly appears, apparently with the intent of killing his wife, what he initially believes to be hallucinations soon leads him to the local Buddhist priest who recollects for him the notorious history of the the house. This is a creepy classic horror tale which conjures up both a whirlwind of Japanese superstition and history.



Onibaba

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Genre: Human Survival, Passion and Superstition in the Face Existential Difficulty

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In the war-torn chaos of medieval Japan morality and civility give way to the baser necessities of survival. This is a stark and vivid exploration of the heights and depths of the human animal set against the wider tragedies of war and poverty. Truly a remarkable and memorable tale of life, passion and death.



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