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Blade of the Immortal (Japanese: 無限の住人 Hepburn: Mugen no jūnin) is a 2017 samurai film starring Takuya Kimura and Hana Sugisaki and directed by Takashi Miike. It is based on the eponymous manga series by Hiroaki Samura, covering the first two arcs of the series. The film premiered out of competition at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, and was released theatrically in Japan by Warner Bros. Pictures on April 29, 2017. The theme song of the film, "Live to Die Another Day", is performed by Miyavi.

Plot

Manji is a samurai on the run after killing his corrupt lord and his bodyguards, which included the husband of his sister Machi. As a result of her husband's death at the hands of her brother, Machi lost her mind from grief. Rather than commit ritual suicide as honor dictates, Manji chose to care for his now insane sister. While on the run, Manji encounters an 800-year-old nun named Yaobikuni who questions him about his decisions distracting him from his sister who runs off. Machi is found being held hostage by a group of rōnin out for the bounty on Manji's head. The rōnin's leader demands Manji disarm himself, implying that he would kill Machi if he did not. When Manji does comply with the rōnin's demands, the rōnin proceeds to kill Machi anyway. In retaliation Manji kills every member of the group, but is mortally wounded. As there was nothing left to live for, he accepts his death, but Yaobikuni implants "sacred bloodworms" into his body, which heal him.

Fifty-two years later, now an ageless immortal, Manji is approached by Rin Asano who requests his aid as a bodyguard to help avenge the death of her father, Kurose, at the hands of Kagehisa Anotsu and the Ittō-ryū. While Manji initially refuses, he reconsiders when Rin is attacked by the Ittō-ryū member Sabato Kuroi who had the severed head of Rin's mother mounted on his left shoulder. Word of Sabato's death reaches Kagehisa after setting up the Ittō-ryū's contract with Kagimura Habaki for a place in the shogunate, sending Taito Magatsu to deal with Rin and her bodyguard. Magatsu is defeated, but is spared as he reveals Manji's immortality to the other Ittō-ryū members. Manji later encounters the Ittō-ryū member Eiku Shizuma, who reveals to have also had bloodworms placed in his body by Yaobikuni while nearly killing Manji with a rare poison that disrupts the bloodworms. However, after 200 years of immortality, he is tired of being alive, so he lets Manji kill him with a poisoned sword without fighting back.

Manji and Rin later arrive in Fukagawa where they encounter Kagehisa's loyal follower Makie Otono-Tachibana. While Makie had the upper hand, she could not bring herself to kill Manji. She reveals that she has been wondering if she is fighting for the right cause and that she has thought of leaving the group. Rin intervenes, telling her that she seeks revenge because of the death of his parents whom she loved and Makie leaves them quietly. The duo later encounter the Mugai-ryū, learning that Kagehisa is going to Mt. Takeo to recruit a dojo master. But things go south when the Mugai-ryū's sadist member Shira attacks Rin after she intervened in his attempt to rape a prostitute that the Ittō-ryū hired to pose as Kagehisa. Just as he is about to kill her, Manji chops his hand, but lets him run away. Following Rin's encounter with the real Kagehisa, learning that Kagehisa's actions were influenced by the history between their grandfathers Takayoshi Asano and Saburō Anotsu, Rin leaves Manji to continue her hunt alone while he tries to find her.

But when Kagehisa arrives to Mt. Takao, learning later that his followers were murdered in his absence, he learns too late that Habaki set him up as he runs into Rin before they are surrounded by Habaki's men. Manji and Makie arrive soon after, resulting in an epic all-out battle as Makie sacrifices herself to protect Kagehisa. Meanwhile, after killing hundreds, Manji runs off after Shira as he abducts Rin to make the swordsman suffer for chopping his hand. Shira demands he disarm himself, but Manji learns from his previous mistakes, keeping a small dart, which he uses to cut the rope with which Rin is tied. They engage in a fist fight and Manji sends Shira falling to his death. After Kagehisa kills Habaki, he encounters Manji who defeats him. Rin is offered to deliver the killing blow, while Kagehisa warns Manji that his sons will come after him. Heavily wounded and full of blood, Manji collapses on the ground. As Rin starts to cry over him, he reveals that he is still alive.

Cast

  • Takuya Kimura as Manji
  • Hana Sugisaki as Rin Asano
  • Sota Fukushi as Kagehisa Anotsu
  • Hayato Ichihara as Shira
  • Erika Toda as Makie Otono-Tachibana
  • Kazuki Kitamura as Sabato Kuroi
  • Chiaki Kuriyama as Hyakurin
  • Shinnosuke Mitsushima as Taito Magatsu
  • Ichikawa Ebizō XI as Eiku Shizuma
  • Min Tanaka as Kagimura Habaki
  • Tsutomu Yamazaki as Kensui Ibane

Release

Blade of the Immortal was released theatrically in Japan by Warner Bros. Pictures on April 29, 2017. Variety stated the film earned $6.73 million domestically which they described as "disappointing". The writer suggested that the film's box office performance may have been due to the disbanding of the music group SMAP which actor Takuya Kimura was part of.

Reception

The review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an 85% approval rating, based on reviews from 82 critics with an average rating of 7 out of 10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Blade of the Immortal highlights Takashi Miike's flair for balletic violence, making up what it lacks in strict originality with rich characterizations and kinetic thrills." The film has a score of 72 out of 100 on Metacritic (based on 26 critics), indicating "generally favorable reviews".

Jordan Hoffman of The Guardian gave the film four stars out of five, noting that "the fun really shines when the film revels in the outlandish weapons: enormous double-pronged swords, an axe that looks more like a sharp anvil, blades attached to staffs, blades attached to chains, shurikens for all occasions, etc." "if you are going to see one outlandish and occasionally nauseating bloodbath samurai pic this year, this is the one" Harry Windsor of The Hollywood Reporter found the film to be "less memorable" than 13 Assassins, but that "there are still pleasures to be had, particularly for those fond of long but expertly choreographed sword fights with regular, and bloody, dismemberments."

Accolades

  • 12th Asian Film Awards
    • Best Supporting Actress: Hana Sugisaki (Nominated)

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