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Recently in Tokugawa / Edo Era Category

Legends of the Poisonous Seductress: Okatsu the Fugitive
[Yoen Dokufuden: Okatsu Kyojo Tabi]

Genre: Early Pinky Violence

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Poor, beautiful Okatsu! It seems no matter what film she is in, violent men are after her HOT BODY and are willing to do anything to get it! Here (again) her noble father is murdered by a libidinous scoundrel who just happens to be a top local politician. In order to exact her violent revenge, Okatsu is going to have to dig deep into her bag of feminine wiles and WHOOP-ASS. This is the third film in the early Pinky Violence trilogy "Legends of the Poisonous Seductress" and is directed by Nobuo Nakagawa.

Legends of the Poisonous Seductress: Quick draw Okatsu
[Yoen Dokufuden: Hitokiri Okatsu]

Genre: Early Pinky Violence

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Beautiful Okatsu must summon her inner killer to avenge an attack upon herself and the brutal murder of her father. This will involve being sold into prostitution, hunted by a huge mob, and leaving a trail of dead bodies behind her. Good thing she's a kick-ass sword master! This is the second film in the "Legends of the Poisonous Seductress" trilogy, directed by early j-horror maestro Nobuo Nakagawa.

Legends of the Poisonous Seductress: Female Demon Ohyaku
[Yoen Dokufuden: Hannya no Ohyaku]

Genre: Early Pinky Violence

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The beautiful performer Ohyaku has had a rough life, but when she encounters the young thief Shinkuro it seems her fortunes have finally changed. However, things quickly turn from elated to horrified when a local magistrate uses a botched robbery as an excuse to brutally kill her lover and imprison her within Japan's most notorious jail. Only through her stunning beauty and fixation on vengeance will Ohyaku possibly be able to escape her shackles and exact a revenge worthy of coming from a Female Demon!

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.

Zatoichi - The Blind Swordsman

Genre: Samurai par Excellence

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"Even those who are not blind fail to see many things."

I assume we all know and love the Zatoichi character starring in a huge number of samurai films ranging from Zatoichi 1 (1962) to Zatoichi 26 (1989) (!). Fortunately, director Kitano Takeshi (aka Beat Takeshi) didn't title his rendition "Zatoichi 27", but instead brings a rather fresh, contemporary approach to this otherwise classic character.

Chushingura Gaiden: Yotsuya Kaidan
[Crest of Betrayal]

Genre: Historical Supernatural Samurai [Tokugawa/Edo Era: 1603-1867 AD]

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Directed and written by Fukasaku Kinji, Chushingura Gaiden: Yotsuya Kaidan presents a classic tale combining two very well known Japanese traditions. The Chushingura Gaiden is an actual historical episode, better known in the West as the story of the 47 Ronin, and constitutes one of Japan's most beloved samurai stories. It involves an extensive plot of revenge enacted by 47 samurai whose leader was ordered to commit seppuku after attempting to kill an oppressive rival. (A "ronin" is a leaderless samurai.)

Twilight Samurai
[Tasogare Seibei]

Genre: Historical Samurai Drama

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Japanese actor Sanada Hiroyuki is becoming widely recognized as Japan's most prominent contemporary action hero. Though given a moderately visible role as Uijo in the lamentably caucasian-centric Last Samurai (2003) (he's the angry samurai who gives Tom Cruise a well-deserved thrashing), Sanada has appeared in numerous leading roles throughout a great number of popular Japanese films. Readers of my reviews will be most familiar with his role as Ryuichi in Ringu (and thereby also Rasen and Ringu 2).


Genre: Loyalty Drama [Edo Era: 1603-1867 AD]

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Sabu is directed by Miike Takashi and is based on the classic novel by Yamamoto Shugoro. It provides an impressive exploration of the depths and complexities of friendship and loyalty between two childhood friends who mature into harsher realities. Director Miike Takashi is undoubtedly notorious for a certain genre of film, but his direction of the much more traditional Sabu is flawless. The film was intended as a commemorative broadcast for the 40th anniversary of Nagoya Television. The project pulled in significant talent for both the production and cast, and the final result is nothing short of a compelling film which in no way resembles a made-for-television production.

Red Shadow

Genre: Ninja Drama (Comedic)

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Here is a light-hearted ninja adventure filled with techno music, strobe lights and acrobatics. The title Akakage refers to the name of the lead character who, along with his childhood companions Aokage and Asuka, fight myriad evil forces threatening Japan. Our dynamic ninja trio consists of two often goofy guys and one always sexy gal. The name Akakage means Red Shadow and Aokage means "Blue Shadow". Asuka, the name of the ninjess means, well, nothing. From a very early age, all three have been strictly trained in the Kage (Shadow) School of Ninja-ry under the auspices of the Master Ninja Shirokage ("White Shadow"). Now as young adults, both their friendship and skills are strong but (both) will soon be tested.

Reborn from Hell 2: Jubei's Revenge
[Makai Tensho: mado-hen]

Genre: Quasi-historical Supernatural Samurai [Tokugawa/Edo Era: 1603-1867 AD]

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"Can Jubei rescue the Princess Ohiro and stop the Demon Warriors in time to save the ENTIRE WORLD???!!"

Alright! Our one-eyed hunk of samurai, Jubei Yagyu, is back to kick some demon derri�re, and this time he means business! By the end of the prequel Reborn from Hell: Samurai Armageddon we had no doubt that Jubei rocked! By the end of this movie, we will be utterly awash in Jubei manhood and the shameful puniness of our own pectorals!

Reborn from Hell: Samurai Armageddon
[Makai tensho: The Armageddon]

Genre: Quasi-historical Supernatural Samurai [Tokugawa/Edo Era: 1603-1867 AD]

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Here is a bizarre tale that mixes apocalypticism, classic goth horror, one-eyed samurais, and nekked virgins!

Makai Tensho
[Samurai Resurrection / Reborn From Hell]

Genre: Quasi-historical Supernatural Samurai [Tokugawa/Edo Era: 1603-1867 AD]

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Makai Tensho, Makai Tensho, Makai Tensho (Makai Tensho).

Only a mere five movies share this same title, attesting to the fact that this is a very popular traditional tale. Each retelling is undoubtedly different in both seriousness and content. The story itself does not seem to be fixed and can take on several forms, as long as most of the main characters are present. (For a very over-the-top rendition of this tale, be sure to check out the (hilarious) two-part Reborn From Hell: Samurai Armageddon .)

Ashura [The Eyes of Ashura Castle]

Ashura Jo no Hitomi

Genre: Edo-Era Supernatural Sword-Flailing

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The sudden rise in demonic activity can only mean one thing: the emergence of Ashura, Queen of the Underworld under whose reign the terrors of Hell will dominate the world of mortals. Although an elite squadron of priest-like warriors have been prepared in anticipation of the Ashura prophecies, their formidable skills prove no match for the demonic hordes once Ashura's rebirth begins. But also buried deep within the prophecy is the possibility that Ashura may perchance be overpowered by a mortal man, thereby saving the world as we know it.

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]


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.

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.

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.

Kunoichi: Lady Ninja [Kunoichi ninpocho Yagyu gaiden]

Genre: Mythical Schlock Ninja-ette Adventure [Late Edo/Tokugawa Era]

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Though the last 7 daughters of the Hori clan have hidden as nuns in a convent, the Evil Lord of Aizu soon comes knocking. When they discover that their father has been captured and killed by the Evil Lord, they swear amongst themselves to avenge their father's death by unleashing the hidden Ninja Magic within themselves. Under the tutelage of master samurai Yagyu Jubei, the 7 soon find themselves nipple-deep in disaster.

Kunoichi: Deadly Mirage [Genma Sappocho: Shensengumi Hishou]

Genre: Buxom Ninja-ette Monster Showdown
Director: Akiyama Yutaka (1997)

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When the Shinsen Clan learns of a plot to overthrow the Tokugawa government, they send out their five remaining ninjas, all women of the Shiryu bloodline. While battling numerous adversaries to intercept a secret letter outlining the details of the planned subversion, a bizarre evil is unleashed by a well-meaning monk attempting to resurrect a dead soldier. What ensues is a whole lotta naked writhing and a battle of semi-epic proportions with zombies intent on taking over the world or something.

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...

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


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


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]


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]


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.

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.

Ghosts of Kasane Swamp
[Kaidan Kasane ga Fuchi]

Genre: Classic Japanese Horror

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The blind Soetsu lives with a loving wife and their young daughter in an adequate home supported by Soetsu's skill as a masseuse. On a wintry eve, Soetsu decides to visit a neighboring nobleman to who he had lent money over a year ago in the hopes of having the sum returned to him. But upon hearing Soetsu's request, the arrogant and ill-tempered samurai murders Soetsu and has his body dumped in nearby Kasane Swamp. This sets off a chain of events which not only drive the samurai to madness but will also take from him and his entire household what they hold most dearly.

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.

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