A gritty portrayal of a ninja’s doomed life, Kamui Gaiden invites you to consider these shadowy assassins as they historically were.
Renegade ninja Kamui is constantly pursued by assassins after abandoning his clan. After surviving various attacks, he settles down in a fishing village with a large family. Unfortunately, his peace is but temporary and soon his enemies catch up with him. To survive, Kamui would once again have to rely on his deadly killing skills.
I wasn’t familiar with Kamui prior to watching this in 2009. But I did know of the Izuna Drop, thanks to the Ninja Gaiden game series. Catching this killer move in live-action was thus my main motivation for watching this movie.
The end-effect wasn’t satisfactory, I regret to say. Hard for me to pinpoint exactly what’s wrong with those quick sequences; I can only say it just doesn’t feel real overall. As for the rest of the fights, thankfully, they were much more satisfactory. Particularly Kamui’s mirage slash. The always reliable Matsuyama Keniichi also does a splendid job of portraying the brooding, distrustful renegade ninja. His paranoia and anguish stare at you in the face throughout. It makes for an intriguing opposite of Death Note’s L. Equally as lethal, but wholly lacking in conviction and confidence.
One other thing worth mentioning about Kamui Gaiden is how the movie retained the unglamourous feel of the manga version. I think it’s well-known nowadays that historical ninjas were never costume-clad superheroes, but the tendency to portray them that way in movies still dominates. Including in Japanese productions. Of course, Kamui’s supernatural abilities still benefit from this misconception, but overall, the tragedy of a ninja’s life is not masqueraded. This is one movie that encourages you to not want to be a ninja, instead of the usual otherwise.
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