Colin Le Sueur

Colin Le Sueur
Colin Le Sueur

Samurai Reincarnation (1981)

IMDB page for Samurai Reincarnation Samurai Reincarnation (aka Makai tenshô)
Japan 1981
Director: Kinji Fukasaku
With Sonny Chiba, Kenji Sawada, Akiko Kana
Language: Japanese
IMDb Link

Historically, in terms of Japanese film, there are generally two streams of popular cinema: the historical epic (as seen in the samurai films of Kurosawa Akira) and the cult film (Godzilla or the yakuza movies of Fukasaku Kinji). Samurai Reincarnation is a strange amalgam of the two streams, a cult samurai film. The story is based on real historical figures, including samurai legends Musashi Miyamoto and Yagyu Jubei, battling in a war for the souls of Japan and control of the country. This film is a crazy mix of fantasy, horror, action, and samurai epic.

The story is a little muddled. Essentially, a group of Christian revolutionaries are murdered and their leader makes a deal with the Devil to return to Earth and avenge his brothers. Along the way, he recruits and resurrects a group of master samurai and ninja, all looking to conclude their unfinished business. Standing against them is Yagyu Jubei, a one-eyed master samurai and legendary figure in Japanese history.

A cult film at the core, Samurai Reincarnation is full of sex and violence, including some amazing fight sequences. Sonny Chiba is a dynamic presence, as always, a true master of the Japanese genre film. Acting-wise, everyone else is strong as well, though many of the performances are over-the-top. The effects are good and bad, with strong practical effects but cheesy special effects. As well, the soundtrack is pure 1980s rock, not to everyone’s taste (to put it nicely) and more than a little distracting.

I get the feeling that the version of Samurai Reincarnation I saw was an edited version. Some of the sequences don’t flow together well and there are a few glaring plot holes. That said, it’s still an entertaining film filled with good action sequences and interesting effects.

Colin Le Sueur
Monday, October 16th, 2006
1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Orville Smith |

    In basing some ideas in the movie on actual facts from Japanese history, the most interesting to me was the Sword-making and the Sword, the Muramasa. In the movie, the Muramasa Sword that Jubei needs to fight demons is based on an actual Sword, the Muramasa, notorious for its “evil.” Apparently, its evil aura or vibrations originated from the feeling of envy and resentment harbored by Muramasa toward his teacher, Masamune. It was this resentment that was picked up by the blades as they were being made by Muramasa. The difference between the Swords of Muramasa and Masamune can be seen in the water & leaf test. If a Muramasa blade is put vertically in a stream, a nearby leaf will be instantly drawn to the blade, floating up to it to be cut in half. On the other hand, it will Not happen to the Masamune.

    What’s interesting in the movie is that Jubei needs to fight Evil by using a correspondingly-evil weapon, which is why he needs to use a Muramasa. Certainly an Unusual twist in that it’s not good fighing against evil but instead using evil to defeat evil.

    At this point, I deem it pertinent that I add information from Nemuri Kyoshiro, a television series starring KATAOKA TAKAO. The point is pertinent because Nemuri in that TV series uses a Sword called a Masamune. In the TV series, one of the best episodes was when Nemuri had to use his Masamune-blade against a villain who uses a Muramasa. Throughout the episode, the curse of that Sword could be seen when the Muramasa got different owners, owners who went berserk by simply unsheathing the Sword.

    While the Sword makes the user invincible, its curse also makes the user go berserk. At the climax, the main villain becomes seemingly invincible, so even Nemuri has a difficult time fighting it.

    It’s a tribute to Yagyu Jubei in the movie “Samurai Reincarnation” that he can use the Muramasa-Sword withOut becoming evil himself.

    (Footnote: the Nemuri Kyoshiro TV-series starring Kataoka Takao is now available on dvd.)


So, what do you think ?