Blade of the Immortal Dismembers the Fantasia Crowd!
BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL
Directed by: Takashi Miike
Written by: Tetsuya Oishi
Cast: Takuya Kimura, Hanna Sugisaki, Sota Fukushi, Ebizo Ichikawa, Erika Toda
Fantasia Fest-goers were extremely lucky to catch Takashi Miike’s BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL, one of this summer’s best, and bloodiest, comic book films that you’ve probably never heard of. Based on the Manga of the same name, BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL is about a swordsman, cursed with the inability to die, that helps a young girl avenge the death of her parents, whilst fighting thousands of samurai and other outlandish, yet highly skilled warriors.
While many filmmakers struggle by their third or fifth film, Takashi Miike manages to make his 100th film one of the most memorable. This action film has everything you’d want from Japan’s favourite modern day auteur: Gorgeous scenery, Stunning fights, trippy bizarre mystical stuff, memorable characters, and copious amounts of blood.
Let me stress the blood part… wow, is there ever a lot of blood in this film. Sure, that’s a given when swords, blades, and pointy things are involved, but that factor is raised tenfold when the main lead CANNOT die and/or regularly loses limbs, several times over. Yes, this film is not for the squeamish, but it’s definitely for every blood splatter and gore hound cine-geek.
At one point, after one of the many incredible battles, and yes, this film has a lot of incredible battles in it, I noticed a large gushing pool of blood in the background of a scene. It was just a tiny detail, but pretty soon, one of the characters nearly slipped and needed to regain balance.
It wasn’t a major moment, it wasn’t significant to the plot, and it wasn’t even a factor in the outcome of the fight. There wasn’t a whole lot of focus given to it, but it really added something to the whole ambiance of the red-soaked carnage. Tiny details like that that make me love Miike. These sword fights are bloody. You might slip.
Extremely bloody, yet beautiful, these fights are widely original and over the top, just as they should be. With the clanging of the swords, the slicing of the evil minions, and the sheer destruction of cold iron steel, this is the summer film that was made for the geeky samurai-flick nerd in us all.
It’s not all metal clashing, though. This movie also has your standard redemption arc, your classic revenge story, the obligatory twists and turns, and your creepy bits of dark magiks thrown in. Yes, you will cringe with delight when you learn about the Bloodworms and see them at work. I’m still cringing just typing it up.
If that was all, you’d have a spectacular film already, but I’m leaving out one of the most important factors, the adorable lead, Rin, played by Hanna Sugisaki. Rin wants to be a warrior when she grows up, but unfortunately was forced in the field early. She’s the heart and soul of this picture, and you want to see her succeed. The innocent that needs help, despite wanting to rush head first on her own. Manji (Takuya Kimura), the Immortal, with a tragic backstory of his own, reluctantly takes Rin under his wing, because she reminds him of his own loss. We’re lucky she does, because their big brother and little sister-like rapport is an utter joy and their banter is quite hilarious.
I can’t stress how wonderfully perfect this film is. It hits all the right marks and features villains that are far more charismatic than most comic book movies, and way more colourful… and not just personality-wise, I’m referring to the colour palette! it’s refreshing to see a comic book film that isn’t afraid to stray from the usual grays and monotone drab… which is even more notable when you consider the original source material was in black and white. The fact this film can outdo the colour swatches of a typical American capes & spandex comic book flick, says it all.
It’s an epic blood-drenched adventure with a lot of heart. It hits all the right marks, from characters, to motive, to story the beats. There’s a reason the classic cinematic tropes work so well in this context… because Miike effortlessly brings it all together for a very engaging and fun picture, that could have otherwise been bogged down with a lot of pathos and tragedy. Dark subject matter can still be fun, and this film is proof of that.
You’ll walk away from this experience wanting more, and that’s a hell of a feat for a 140 minute running time. If Miike ends up making a second part, I’ll definitely need to track it down, because in a flawed world you sometimes need flawed heroes to shed some light in some dark times.