Finally released in the US!!!
Ask an American samurai-film fan about legendary swordsman Miyamoto Musashi (The Lone Samurai: The Life of Miyamoto Musashi) on film, and they will probably think of Inagaki Hiroshi’s Samurai Trilogy staring Mifune Toshiro. Ask the same thing to a Japanese samurai-film fan, and they will most likely think of this series, the five-film series by Uchida Tomo and staring Nakamura Kinnosuke (Portrait of Hell). Both are adaptations of Yoshikawa Eiji’s famous novel Musashi, but in Japan the Uchida/Nakamura version is by far the more famous.
While I love the Mifune Toshiro, in Inagaki’s trilogy it is hard to separate the actor from the role, and it is much more “Mifune as Musashi” than Nakamura’s performance here. Over the five films, Nakamura develops the character of Musashi from the wild beast of his youth to the sage warrior who duels on Ganryu island. Nakamura was a kabuki actor who transferred over to film, and his acting style is more nuanced than Mifune’s energetic performance.
Uchida’s “Miyamoto Musashi” follows Yoshikawa’s novel faithfully, from Takezo and Matahachi’s survival at the Battle of Sekigahara, to Takezo returning alone to their home villiage and romance with Matahachi’s fiancé Otsu. After three years of study, the wild Takezo is transformed into the educated warrior Miyamoto Musashi and sets out to test himself against the great fighters of Japan. Lurking in the background is Sasaki Kojiro, who watches Musashi’s development as a sword fighter and who waits patiently for Musashi to refine his craft until the two face off at there famous duel at Ganryu Island.
This set contains all five films in Uchida’s Miyamoto Musashi
Miyamoto Musashi – The wild youth of Takezo, who would become Musashi, and his relationship with Otsu, the former fiancé of this best friend Matahatchi, and who would be the love of Musashi’s life
Duel at Hannya Hill – After devoting three years to study, Musashi’s first test of his new skills is against the swordsmen of the Yoshioka Dojo and the spearmen of Hozo’in Temple.
Birth of the Nito-ryu Style – Musashi’s next target is a duel with the famous sword master Yagyu Sekishusai, which leads to the creation of Musashi’s renowned two-sword technique.
Duel at Ichijyo-Temple – Musashi’s ongoing fued with the Yoshioka Dojo comes to a conclusion when he must face off against all seventy-three of its members.
Duel at Ganryu Island – Finally, the most famous duel in Japanese history plays out again on screen as Musashi stands against Sasaki Kojiro and his massive sword, the Drying Pole.
Animeigo has put out a beautiful collection of these five important films. (Although I have come to the conclusion that Animeigo can’t help but put out a beautiful collection, because their standards are so high!). The five films are packed in space-saving slim cases, and extras include commentary by Stuart Galbraith IV (The Emperor and the Wolf: The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune) on the first film, and program notes and trailers for all films.