Synopsis by Josh Ralske
When the Last Sword Is Drawn opens in Tokyo in 1899, when an elderly man, Saito (Koichi Sato), brings his young grandson to see a local doctor, Ono (Takehiro Murata). Saito notices an old photo of a samurai in the doctor's home and asks him about it. As it turns out, the photo is of Yoshimura (Kiichi Nakai of Warriors of Heaven and Earth), and both men had a strong connection to him. Saito and Ono take turns reminiscing about their experiences, and the film flashes back 30 years to the tumultuous beginnings of the Meiji era, when the emperor, bent on modernization, consolidated his power, and the shogunate with its samurai was phased out. Saito remembers Yoshimura as a fellow member of the Shinsegumi, a samurai group divided between loyalty to its shogun and the defense of the emperor. Saito looked down on the money-grubbing, shabbily dressed Yoshimura from the moment they met, and even decided to kill him. But Yoshimura soon proved his prowess with the sword, and his commitment to samurai ideals. Ono remembers Yoshimura as the disgraced father of his best friend. Yoshimura abandoned his village and his clan during a famine to join the Shinsegumi, and as the story unfolds, his motives come to light. Caught in the middle between conflicting forces, their way of life rendered obsolete, Saito loses contact with Yoshimura during a bloody battle and assumes he is dead. Ono tells him of the misunderstood samurai's true fate. When the Last Sword Is Drawn, directed by Yojiro Takita, won several Japanese Academy Awards in 2003, including Best Actor (Nakai), Best Supporting Actor (Sato), and Best Picture. It was shown at Subway Cinema's 2004 New York Asian Film Festival.
emperor, Samurai, sword