Directed by: Kenji Misumi
Starring: Tomisaburo Wakayama, Raizo Ichikawa
“If one were to say in a word what the condition of being a samurai is, its basis lies first in seriously devoting one’s body and soul to his master.”
The Way of the Samurai
Is there anything better than finding a DVD in your mailbox of a samurai film that you haven’t seen? And it stars Tomisaburo Wakayama (Lone Wolf and Cub)? I quickly opened this one and gave it a try.
Susumu Yamakazi (Raizo Ichikawa) dreams of becoming a samurai and join Shinsengumi. However, a lot of townspeople refer to them in a derogatory manner, using the slang term “Miburu”, which means ronin from Mibu.
That doesn’t change the stars in Susumu eyes. One day, Susumu witness the imperialists killing a member of the Shinsengumi. As the man is dying, he asks Susumu to take message for him to his commander. He does so. However, when he reports the man’s death, he says that he committed seppuku and died an honorable death. In case you are unfamiliar with term seppuku, it is a form of Japanese ritual suicide by disembowelment. Seppuku was originally reserved only for samurai. As part of the samurai bushido honor code, seppuku was used voluntarily by samurai to die with honor rather than fall into the hands of their enemies. However, in the case of the dying man, Susumu isn’t telling the truth, but the second in command Kondo (Tomisaburo Wakayama) appreciates the fact that Susumu protected a man’s honor.
Kondo takes an interest in Susumu and appreciates his ideals and his admiration of the true way of the samurai. He helps Susumu join the Shinsengumi so that he may abandon the life of a ronin and join the ranks of the samurai. Susumu’s girlfriend Shima knows that this will separate them, but she knows that Susumu must follow his heart and his dreams.
It isn’t long before Susumu is doing the tasks and errands that the commander of the Shinsengumi requires of them. However, they are not as honorable as Susumu thought they would be. They have to “extort” money from the townspeople for the benefit of the commander.
Susumu also catches the commander raping a female merchant. Susumu quickly becomes disillusioned. Another samurai named Niimi is accused of extortion as is forced to commit seppuku by the orders of the commander. Susumu tells Kondo that the commander himself is the most dishonorable man in the Shinsengumi and they set forth a plan to reveal the commander for the monster that he is and offer him a chance to commit seppuku to protect what little of his honor is left.
Will Kondo and Susumu be able to complete their plan? And, how are the changes to Susumu personality affecting his relationship with Shima?
Shinsengumi Chronicles: I Want to Die a Samurai is a solid chambara film that features fantastic performances by Tomisaburo Wakayama ( Lone Wolf and Cub series) and Raizo Ichikawa ( Sleepy Eyes of Death series).
There are also some impressively gory fights amongst the melancholy story of a bright eyed samurai becoming cynical at the less than ethical samurai that he is surrounded by.
So, all things considered, this is another good addition to the collection of samurai films in the home library.
The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen. The transfer is respectable with vibrant colors and decent black levels. I did not notice any instances of grain or artifacts. This is another solid release from Animeigo
Presented in Dolby Digital Stereo in the original Japanese language with English subtitles, the audio is solid throughout. The dialogue is crystal clear and mixed well with the minimal soundtrack.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The film is presented in a standard amaray case with a kick ass image as Raizo Ichikawa as Susumu on the cover.
There a program notes offered as a bonus feature. Also offered are trailers for other Animeigo releases.
Rounding out the bonus features are an image gallery and bios.
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10
The Film 8/10
The Audio 7/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features4/10
Overall ( Not an Average) 7/10