This is a bloody yet hugely enjoyable epic, with nods to Kurosawa and his regular lead Toshiro Mifune. Tarantino would rightly love it.
After his ton up, Miike sure knows how to start a movie off by now – we’re straight into the action here, with Menji the handsome warrior polishing off an entire army but losing his arm – and his young sister – in the process. Luckily, a magical old crone puts “bloodworms” in him and they repair all wounds, rendering him now immortal, save for the scars across his face.
When a little girl seeks to avenge the death of her family, she hires the lonely, wandering immortal as a bodyguard. His reputation all over Edo province soon sees him sought by warlords and robbers and vengeful dojo (fighting school) leaders.
You’ll soon have a favourite death, a favourite weapon, a favourite fight sequence, and a favourite outfit, I’m sure. For there’s not much else to it – and it’s well over two hours – but it whizzes by in a blur of flying limbs and imaginative choreography.
I’ve usually room for about one of these types of movie a year, and this has come at just the right moment. Not as beautiful as last year’s The Assassin or as cool as, say, The House of Flying Daggers, perhaps, but it has a real sense of brio and a sureness of tone which allows all the gore to be played for laughs on occasion, even as heads and torsos are impaled and sliced. As one admiring village blacksmith says: “In 50 years of sharpening swords, I’ve never had blade that smells so strongly of innards as this one…”