Takashi Miike is known for trying his hand at any film genre. His penchant however, tends toward the macabre, the violent and the humorous. In recent years, the director has focused on live action remakes of animated series and manga. Blade of the Immortal is his 2017 offering, and marks his 100th feature film. Rather fittingly, Blade is about a samurai known as Hundred Killer. With 100 kills to his name, Manji won’t stop until he has destroyed every cranky crook and every moody mercenary. He has revenge in his spirit, and worms in his blood that keep him alive no matter how much he wishes to die.
If one is familiar with the animated series, the interestingly casted Takuya Kimura (who is normally cast in drama roles, and is part of recently defunct boy-band SMAP) pulls off a convincing Manji. Stylishly coiffed and scarred, he is a lone wolf cursed with immortality through a Wolverine-like ability to heal his wounds. Characterization of both protagonists and antagonists is quite faithful to the original drawings of mangaka Hiroaki Samura, down to the costumes and silly hairstyles (think DragonBall and lots of hairspray).
Hana Sugisaki plays dual roles as Rin and Machi, conveying both the naivety of a young girl and the anger of someone facing injustice. She alternates between growling anger and grieving innocence. Manji and Rin want to annihilate the Itto-Ryu – a militant group of swordsmen who insist on mix-and-match techniques, thus disgracing established groups by breaking their traditions. Miike’s fight scenes are always flashy and gruesome (and this is much in the vein of his cool 2010 remake of 13 Assassins). If that’s your thing, Blade delivers. If you prefer a bit more sentimentality, there are also moments of sibling and family interaction.
The film runs a bit long and slows to somewhat of a lull, but picks itself back up with more swords and more blood. The very subtle sense of humor is well placed and doesn’t muddy up the main point of Blade – bloody murder.
Opens, December 1st, 2017 in US and Canada.