Takashi Miike is back (did he ever really go away?)
Blade of the Immortal follows a Manji, a warrior, who, after a breathtaking opening sequence where he takes on multiple combatants, is mortally wounded. His death is postponed by the strange and mystical Yaobikuni and her life-giving bloodworms. Now that he is seemingly immortal, Manji has a new task that presents itself in the shape of a young girl, Rin, who is seeking revenge for the death of her father by the hands of the Ittō-ryū and what begins as an attempt for his retribution for past wrongs leads to something more.
As Manji progresses towards his, and Rin’s, ultimate goal it starts to feel like it might just be a linear progression; defeating 10 opponents of progressively greater skill as it goes. Thankfully this is turned on its head after a couple of, really impressive, battles and the story takes a less predictable route. Yes, at times it can be a bit preposterous but if you can remove yourself from that for a little while and take in the stunning scenery and downright amazing fighting you are in for a treat. Even with an immortal protagonist this film still manages to bring some tension and excitement as it approaches its climax.
Takashi Miike has been a fantastic exponent/proponent of Japanese cinema through the years. Films such as Ichi The Killer really opened my eyes to a whole other world of films out there. In my experience (and it might be clouded slightly by rose-tinted, bloody-spray-splattered spectacles) he was and, as can be seen from this, still is at the forefront of extreme cinema. Harking back to the excellent 13 Assassins in style, this is a far more traditional samurai piece but still manages to maintain the elements of gang/rivals that pervade his yakuza style films. Never shy to show things as they should be, Blade frequently shows the full impact of the killing blows, the aftermath of the strikes and, most tellingly, the sound (over the top it might be, but it certainly makes it that much more exciting and powerful) of the blows/strikes.
Stylish, authentic and thankfully maintains enough pace and plot to keep you entertained throughout the 2 hours 20 minute runtime. It does try to over complicate things a little towards the end but that finale was something special.
Slice and dice your way through this one, you won’t be sorry.