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Linus de Paoli [Film Festival 08.21.09] Japan review animation documentary

Year: 2009
Directors: Mizuho Nishikubo
Writers: Mamoru Oshii
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Linus de Paoli
Rating: 3 out of 10

Every Japanese kid knows the name Miyamoto Musashi. The 17th century samurai became a legend for his bravery, matchless sword fighting techniques and flawless dueling record. He won over sixty duels, fought in six wars as a simple foot soldier and founded the Niten Ichiryu sword fighting style.

There have been numerous films and TV series based on Musashi’s life, but most of them are rather fictional, inspired by the myth and not the man’s actual biography. It was no one less than Ghost In the Shell director, Mamoru Oshii, who came up with the idea for this film which focuses on facts to unveil who Musashi really was and what made him so strong.

Some films fail in such a strange way, that a new quality arises in them. “Musashi – The Dream Of The Last Samurai” is a hot candidate for that category. But then again, what the hell is this?!

Though the film claims to be a documentary, it reminded me of those little video clips for kids that they often have in museums: A poorly animated 3-D professor is the host, standing in his library and talking about the history of samurai, while his even worse animated assistant supplies the audience with some comic relief, stumbling over something, accidentally hitting the professor on the head, dressing up as a samurai.

Some “live-action” shots were also included, mostly of the original locations were Musashi lived or fought. I can’t say they blend in well. Luckily there are some classic 2D animations that kick ass! They show Musashi’s most important fights in highly stylized black & white (& blood red). Thanks for that.
The film was in this year’s “Filmmakers Of The Present Competition” but I honestly have not the slightest idea how Mizuho Nishikubo’s work fits here. It was screened from a Digital Beta tape (probably a PAL copy of the NTSC master) and had the worst quality of any print in the entire festival. Considering the other films were mostly European art house, it almost seemed like a joke. Yes, it is informative, but you’ll find the same artistic demands in any BBC documentary.

If you are up for some great fights, some lame jokes and are interested in the history of samurai, or Miyamoto Musashi in particular, this might be fun to watch on DVD. At least it doesn’t fail in its mission to give you some facts and background on the man behind the myth.

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Ulrik (12 years ago) Reply

Wow, too bad they screwed this up. The anime sequences in the trailers looked so good...

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