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‘Blade of the Immortal’ balances fantasy and gruesome reality

Takashi Miike has directed a long list of films ranging from action dramas to comedy musicals. One of his newest films, “Blade of the Immortal,” adds to Miike’s list of violent action dramas as it depicts the gruesome and emotional tale of Manji (Takuya Kimura), an immortal swordsman, and Rin Asano (Hana Sugisaki), a girl who was forced to watch her father’s murder and mother’s rape. She seeks out Manji to help her take revenge on a group of murderous swordsmen. Takashi Miike has succeeded before and succeeds again at creating a blend between a pure fantasy samurai film and an intense, emotional and realistic story.

“Blade of the Immortal” is a long, but well-paced, devastating story of Manji defending Rin and helping her get her revenge on Anotsu Kagehisa (Sota Fukushi) and his band of rebel swordsmen. The film begins in black and white with Manji defending his sister Machi (Hana Sugisaki) against a massive army. After being stabbed, dismembered and cut, a mysterious person grants Manji his immortality, right when he has nothing else to live for after his sister’s death. The story switches quickly to Rin watching Anotsu kill her father and letting his group rape her mother. After vowing vengeance, she searches for a bodyguard who can kill Anotsu, which leads her to Manji. The plot then follows the immortal Manji and Rin’s confrontations with members of the group of evil swordsmen and how he is able to defeat them all.

The most successful parts of “Blade of the Immortal” are the fight scenes. This is the main focus of the film and easily the most well-done. Takashi Miike uses longer takes and does not cover poor choreography with annoying and fast cuts. Instead, Miike obviously trained and worked with the actors to develop incredible moments of action, blending unreal skill and fantasy together with serious, gruesome moments. Takuya Kimura and all the members of the cast are incredibly skilled at using swords and must have practiced extensively to be able to develop such real moments of action.

The writing and acting, however, is rather mediocre throughout the story, with some great scenes among many disappointing ones. The acting from Kimura is very strong as well as the writing for his character, but the acting from Hana Sugisaki and Sota Fukushi is somewhat lacking. Sugisaki plays a stereotypical lost girl, constantly on the verge of tears and trying to scream and make herself larger than she seems. Even though Rin starts out in a sword class and initially talks like she is training to be a great swordfighter, the plot line is nearly forgotten about. There is no character arc coming from her, while Manji is a deeply complex and conflicted character who goes through multiple pivotal moments.

A movie like “Blade of the Immortal” is not for everybody, since it requires a degree of seriousness but also a degree of suspension of disbelief. You need to want to watch a mindless action movie while also being engrossed and emotionally invested in the plot and characters. There have been many mindless action-fantasy films, but few have been able to bring in the emotional pain of the main characters as well as this movie. “Blade of the Immortal” is by no means a perfect movie. The writing of the general plot and specific characters could definitely be improved upon, but the emotional reaction one gets from Manji and his story makes “Blade of the Immortal” a success.

Rating: B+

"Blade of the Immortal" was released in the U.S. Nov. 3. 

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