Blade of the Immortal

| February 12, 2018

Takashi Miike has managed to deliver one of the greatest manga adaptations ever crafted with Blade of the Immortal. With it listed as his 100th film credit as a director, the king of Japanese cult cinema imbues all of his sensibilities to deliver one of his strongest films to date. Based on the work of Hiroaki Samura, Blade of the Immortal follows Manji (Takuya Kimura) a samurai who has been infused with mystical bloodworms that render his body to be indestructible. He’s enlisted as a bodyguard to Rin Asano (Hana Sugisaki), a young girl on a quest for vengeance. After both her parents were slaughtered by Anotsu Kagehisa (Sota Fukushi), Rin vows to go after him and his gang, the Itto-Ryu. With the Itto-Ryu trying to unite all the sword schools in Japan by force, Rin and Manji try to stop Anotsu, before the Itto-Ryu becomes one of the strongest forces in the nation.

Having read the original work by Samura, I was both excited and also leery as to whether this would be pulled off by Miike and his crew. The script from Tetsuya Oishi manages to not only embody the spirit of the original manga but also weaves a multitude of story events that weren’t previously connected, to tell a comprehensive tale, as well as remain a faithful adaptation in spirit. The original work also embodied a sense of punk rock attitude, something that Miike deliberately imbues into most of his work already. From the body humor jokes to the violent action splattered throughout, Miike showcases what makes his films relevant, as well as entertaining.

Blade of the Immortal’s cast is beyond brilliant, which contains some major Japanese talent, as well as some classic players from Miike’s stable of actors. Takuya Kimura’s portrayal of Manji makes full use of the anti-hero’s attitude, as well utilize the elements that illustrate the internal struggle from Manji’s past deeds. Kimura’s typically cast as a pretty boy/heartthrob, so for him to do a character like Manji justice, illustrates how talented he truly is. Hana Sugisaki’s Rin Asano balances from the devoted daughter on a quest for vengeance to the young girl trying to find her place in this savage world. I believe the strongest performance comes from Ebizo Ichikawa’s portrayal of Eiku Shizuma. Ebizo’s performed in a few Miike films, like his remake of Hara-Kiri and Over Your Dead Body, but he portrays Eiku Shizuma as a tragic villain. Filled with the same bloodworms as Manji, the character of Eiku has lived a long life and Ichikawa manages to showcase that with the use of his voice, his posture and many other minor details that just make every one of his scenes powerful.

Magnolia Releasing and the Magnet label always do an incredible job with genre films that they release on Blu-Ray and Blade of the Immortal is another winner for them. The video on the disc comes in a 1080p, MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer, with an aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The video is crystal clear and highlights the colorful costumes from Yuya Maeda, as well as gorgeous cinematography of Nobuyasu Kita. Dark colors and shadows are really rich and show tons of range, whether its a scene outside or a nighttime interior. There’s tons of great contrast during daylight sequences and even some shifts from black and white to color that stand out immensely. The audio on the disc comes in the form of two DTS-HD Master Audio tracks, one in the original Japanese language and an English dub. I watched the original Japanese track and it was just as impressive as the video on the disc. The extreme clarity of dialog, total immersion with the surround mix and plenty of great moments of brilliant sound design that make the film a blast to listen to! The extras on the disc come in a form of interviews with all of the cast members, with various bits from Miike, as well as a poster gallery and trailers for the film. All of the interview portions take up over an hour and a half worth of material, as well as a few bits of the cast and crew during actual filming. The interviews are insightful, in the sense of how it was working on the film, as well as working with Miike.  

Much like 13 Assassins, Blade of the Immortal provides plenty of sword crossing spectacle throughout every frame. Not only does each subsequent battle up the ante and provide solid story development, but the film’s conclusion into an all-out battle royale with various characters on all sides will satisfy both Miike fans, as well as fans of the original manga. I’m unsure whether the cast and crew were fans of the original material, but the end result feels like it. The product of everyone’s efforts on Blade of the Immortal makes it a must have and another essential in Takashi Miike’s madcap filmography. Highly Recommended!    

About the Author:

is a graduate from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Audio for Visual Media. He works as a freelance location sound mixer, boom operator, sound designer, and writer in his native Chicago. He's an avid collector of films, comics, and anime.
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