The Dagger of Kamui (1985)

Genres - Action, Adventure, Western  |   Sub-Genres - Anime  |   Run Time - 125 min.  |   Countries - Japan  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Emru Townsend

Based on a series of novels by Tetsu Yano, Dagger of Kamui avoids the usual clich├ęs of honor, mysterious societies, and mystic oaths and instead relates a story of politics, double-crossings, and revenge. With the shudderings of the Meiji restoration as a backdrop, director Taro Rin draws us into a complex conspiracy masterminded by the Buddhist monk Tenkai and focuses on the young Jiro, twice orphaned and lusting for revenge. Rin's stylized visuals work well in a world where people can kill at the speed of thought and count hallucinogens and hypnotic tricks as weapons in their arsenal. Time speeds up and slows down; blood floats out of bodies, glowing a bright red; bodies twist and flow like water as a mesmerized Jiro fights a bizarre trio of assassins. At times the story sags under its own weight, dragging along as we are introduced to even more allies during Jiro's travels, coincidences springing up like weeds. Ultimately, the storytelling is more important than the story itself; easily evoking the feeling of myth, Dagger of Kamui is an inventive tale told by an equally inventive director.