Tajomaru: Avenging Blade
by Ruben R. Rosario
Now available on Blu-Ray and DVD from Funimation.
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Tajomaru: Avenging Blade is a hip and modern attempt at telling Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s short story In the Grove, made famous by Akria Kurasawa and his film, Rashomon. While Tajomaru: Avenging Blade takes it’s name from the famous bandit played by Toshiro Mifune, the film follows Naomitsu (Shun Oguri) that is wronged by a trusted retainer and must become assume Tajomaru’s identity in order set things right. The film’s revisionist take is due to the direction of Hiroyuki Nakano, the man behind Samurai Fiction, an absurd and wonderful take on the chambara genre or sword fight film. Funimation presents the film on a spectacular Blu-Ray that make this film worth checking out at least once.
Tajomaru’s video on Blu-Ray is presented in an AVC encoded 1080p transfer with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The film on Blu-Ray is full vibrant colors and displays the cinematography extremely well. From the brown and yellow autumn leaves, white cherry blossom trees and the lush greenery landscapes shot throughout the film make for some very impressive scenery. Nakano has always been a very visual director and this Blu-Ray proves this even more so than his previous released films in the U.S..
The audio on Tajomaru is presented in two Dolby TrueHD forms, an Japanese 5.1 and an English 5.1 track. While both audio choices do a tremendous job in terms of sound effects, the drama is somewhat lost on the English track. The actor’s do a good job at the performances, but the problem lies in the dialog not always syncing up properly with lip movements. The score can be a little odd at moments, complete with a rap with Tajomaru’s gang of thieves, but conveys most of the emotion through classical score and is a solid effort.
The only extras on Tajomaru are a making of which host a bunch of behind the scenes footage and random interviews with the cast as well as trailers for other live action films Funimation has in their catalog. The behind the scenes footage is cut with a very goofy voice over and some very silly quotes that totally make it worth watching. Since the film is so well made, one would wish that there would be a much better making of or some other supplementary footage to support it.
Overall, Tajomaru: Avenging Blade is good movie based on a great piece of Japanese literature. Whereas Kurosawa’s Rashomon uses the source material to pose moral and philosophical dilemmas about humanity, Tajomaru makes use of it for a mellow drama. While it’s a bit unfair to compare it to Kurosawa’s legendary film, it’s a little hard not to, even when it does enough to set itself apart. Not only this but Nakano did such a great job at turning another genre on it’s head, one would have hoped that he would have brought his visual and storytelling abilities to do the same for this classic tale. If there’s nothing else to watch and you’ve got two hours to kill, Tajomaru: Avenging Blade is a good way to pass some time.
Ruben R. Rosario 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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