Stephen reviews: Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal (1999)

Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal [るろうに剣心 追憶編] (1999)
AKA Rurouni Kenshin: Reminiscence, Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuioku-hen

Starring Mayo Suzukaze, Junko Iwao, Nozomu Sasaki, Masami Suzuki, Shuichi Ikeda, Hirotaka Suzuoki

Directed by Kazuhiro Furuhashi


The Rurouni Kenshin series has never been one of my favorites. In fact, I rather disliked the TV series when I gave it a try many years ago. But I’ve heard great things about the film version, which was renamed to Samurai X because that made it sound cooler. The TV series was a misguided slapstick comedy that really didn’t hit very well with its humor. I only watched a few episodes before writing it off as bland and unappealing. This film on the other hand (which is actually a re-edit of a direct-to-video mini-series) is an intense historical drama about a man gone numb from killing, and his growth towards becoming the character portrayed in the TV series.

As an origin story, you don’t need to have any knowledge of the series. It makes just as much sense either way. It starts with a boy nearly getting killed by bandits who massacre the slave caravan he had been trapped in. But a kindly wandering samurai wipes out the brigands and takes the boy under his wing, naming him Kenshin. Kenshin grows up to be a master swordsman with a burning desire to fight for justice. In so doing, he abandons his master’s seclusion and joins a rebellion against the shogun.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal (1999) →

I’m on a Podcast — Filmwhys #42 Rashomon and The Guyver

vintage-cat-headphones
It’s that time again! Bubbawheat from the superhero-centric Flights, Tights & Movie Nights was kind enough to have me on his show Filmwhys again, but this time on a “real” episode where we go one-on-one about a pair of movies. I think this is my best podcast showing yet, so if you’ve been waiting around this is the one to listen to. (Although I haven’t listened back to it yet, so I reserve the right to change my mind. 😛 )

We talked about the classic Akira Kurosawa film Rashomon, and the ’90s “classic” The Guyver. Yes, they are two of the most opposite movies you could find, which is why they perfectly represent my love of both ends of the cinematic spectrum. And if you want to be cheeky you could say that thanks to the success of Rashomon opening the doors to foreign cinema in the US, The Guyver (being based on a manga) is partially in its debt! So every time you see a questionable film/TV show based on a Japanese property, feel free to tweet about it with a #ThanksRashomon hashtag! 🙂 Anyway it was a good talk and a lot of fun. I also did not have time to write full reviews — or any reviews, for that matter — of these films, so if want my thoughts you’ll have to listen!

If you want to do that, I’ve embedded it below! If you wanna subscribe to the show or listen on a portable device you can head to iTunes, Stitcher, or PodOmatic (and for convenience’s sake those links will take you right to the respective Filmwhys page on each service). And don’t forget to throw Bubbawheat some love, too! Subscribe to the show if you like it and check out his site!

As always, I love feedback, so if you listen to the show let me know what you think! Thanks for listening!

Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island (1956)

Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island [宮本武蔵完結編 決闘巌流島] (1956)
AKA Bushido

Starring Toshiro Mifune, Koji Tsuruta, Kaoru Yachigusa, Mariko Okada, Michiko Saga, Takashi Shimura, Minoru Chiaki, Daisuke Kato, Haruo Tanaka, Kichijiro Ueda, Kokuten Kodo

Directed by Hiroshi Inagaki

Expectations: High. Can’t wait to finish the trilogy.


[Editor’s Note: There will be spoilers, although I don’t know how much spoilers come into play on this film, as it’s pretty clear from the get-go what the end result will be.]

Early on in Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island, Musashi Miyamoto bests a fighter dominated by physical strength by using his own strength as tempered by his calm spirit. This tells us that the journey shown in Part 2 of the trilogy was a success; Musashi has indeed become the complete swordsman he set out to become. This is reinforced throughout the film through the encounters that Musahi has, such as moments when he settles a dispute simply by catching flies with chopsticks, or his increased focus on the arts (specifically woodworking). My favorite of these clues that Musashi has attained his goal was the subtle changes in the trilogy’s bombastic theme, which takes on a more reserved and calm tempo in this film.

As the title suggests, Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island is mostly focused on the duel between Sasaki and Miyamoto. While the actual duel doesn’t take place until the closing minutes of the film, its shadow looms over the entire film and creates a sense of impending tragedy for the two men. We are led to believe that Musashi will handily defeat Sasaki, but Sasaki has also proven to be quite the formidable samurai. Even in the final moments, the duel is anyone’s game, and this is what makes the duel so thrilling to watch.

Continue reading Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island (1956) →

Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple (1955)

Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple [続宮本武蔵 一乗寺の決闘] (1955)

Starring Toshiro Mifune, Koji Tsuruta, Mariko Okada, Kaoru Yachigusa, Michiyo Kogure, Mitsuko Mito, Akihiko Hirata, Daisuke Kato, Kuroemon Onoe, Sachio Sakai, Yu Fujiki, Machiko Kitagawa, Ko Mihashi, Kokuten Kodo, Eiko Miyoshi, Eijiro Tono, Kenjin Iida

Directed by Hiroshi Inagaki

Expectations: High. I thought it was OK when I saw it a number of years ago, but after rewatching the first, I’m stoked.


Like Samurai I, I had seen this film many years ago, but re-watching it confirmed to me that I had never really seen it. I had watched its battles and I had taken in its sounds, but its power was lost on me, an action-hungry teen looking for the next Asian thrill. I remember expecting that by including “duel” in the title, it would be the action film I had wanted the first to be. I also remember being disappointed with it, so much so that I never watched the third film at all. But those thoughts of days long gone have been wiped away, as I have seen Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple with new, more careful eyes.

Picking up the threads of Samurai I, Duel at Ichijoji Temple tells not just Musashi’s story, but that of his old companion Matahachi and the mother/daughter that sheltered them in the first film, his love Otsu, and a small selection of brand new characters. The film isn’t all that long, so focusing on telling everyone’s concurrent stories makes the focus drift a bit from Musashi. This is a definite flaw of Samurai II, but it creates a rich tapestry surrounding him that eventually grows into an integral part of the tale. Looking back on the film, it wouldn’t be nearly as effective a story without the supporting characters, but actually watching some of their storylines made me lose interest in the moment.

Continue reading Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple (1955) →

Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto (1954)

Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto [宮本武蔵] (1954)

Starring Toshiro Mifune, Rentaro Mikuni, Kuroemon Onoe, Kaoru Yachigusa, Mariko Okada, Mitsuko Mito, Eiko Miyoshi, Akihiko Hirata, Kusuo Abe

Directed by Hiroshi Inagaki

Expectations: Moderate. I liked this well enough when I saw it 10–12 years ago.


Sometimes you see films too early in your life and their intricacies are lost in a haze of unfulfilled desires and expectations. Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto is one such film for me, as I saw it roughly 10–12 years ago, hoping for a rip-roarin’ samurai action film. It’s a film about the most famous samurai of all time so he should totally kick the most ass, right? While that logic still makes sense to me, it is a flawed way to approach this film, and is a big reason why I only moderately enjoyed it back then. This time, however, I was able to fully appreciate it for what it is: a tale of how Musashi Miyamoto becomes Musashi Miyamoto.

As the film opens Takezo (Toshiro Mifune) and Matahachi (Rentaro Mikuni) watch warriors marching to battle from their vantage point high in a tree. Takezo wants nothing more than to be out of his hometown, where people look down on him as a ruffian and a troublemaker, so he talks Matahachi into joining the troops with him. They fight together in the Battle of Sekigahara, but their faction loses and control of the area slips to the enemy party. Takezo and Matahachi now find themselves fugitives, and with Matahachi wounded they need to find shelter at all costs.

Continue reading Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto (1954) →

13 Assassins (2010)

13 Assassins [十三人の刺客, Jūsannin no Shikaku] (2010)
Official US release in 2011

Starring Koji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada, Yusuke Iseya, Goro Inagaki, Masachika Ichimura, Mikijiro Hira, Hiroki Matsukata, Ikki Sawamura, Arata Furuta, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Masataka Kubota, Sosuke Takaoka, Seiji Rokkaku, Yuma Ishigaki, Koen Kondo, Ikki Namioka

Directed by Takashi Miike

Expectations: High. Samurais = Awesome, right?


I loved everything about 13 Assassins. Start to finish, it’s flawless. Opening as a slow-paced and very traditional samurai picture, and ending as an all-out action blowout, 13 Assassins is the samurai film of the modern era. This is the first Takashi Miike film I’ve seen, despite being very aware of his name for many years. I remember hearing hot shit about Audition after it came out in 1999, but my mind was elsewhere and I chose to put it off until later. The years went on, and still I chose to push it aside, perhaps because the passing years led me to inadvertently picking up a good portion of the plot through varied conversations. In any case, as soon as I saw some footage from 13 Assassins I knew that I’d make it my first Miike film. I’m just a sucker for a samurai film. I never could have imagined that I’d love it as much as I did, and if his other films (of which there are many) are even half as awesome as this, then they are very well worth watching.

I knew virtually nothing about 13 Assassins going into it and that’s probably the best way to experience it. The film is a remake of Eiichi Kudo’s 1963 film, The Thirteen Assassins, which, coincidentally, is finally getting an American DVD release this June. I haven’t seen the original, but judging from some plot summaries the two films follow the same framework. While I don’t want to go into any plot specifics, 13 Assassins spends a little more than half its runtime slowly building up the tension and the characters, and then the remaining minutes are completely devoted to exploding that tension and delivering nothing but action.

Continue reading 13 Assassins (2010) →

A Look Back: Akira Kurosawa (1910-1998)

This is the third in a three-post series where I share my school reports from my first real film class, Film History. These were the first serious writings I did on film, and they offer a look back at the foundations that would eventually lead me to start writing reviews here at Silver Emulsion. I recently found them in a box while preparing to move, and I hope they are as entertaining to you as they are to me (they won’t be). These were written about twelve years ago during the Fall of the year 2000, when I was a spry nineteen years old. I will be re-creating the documents with the same formatting and images to the best of my abilities with the WordPress editor. Also, I’m leaving in any grammar errors or other things that I might want to change. It’s all about posterity and not falling into the George Lucas trap. Anyway, enjoy! Maybe.


Akira Kurosawa (1910-1998)

“I simply make a film as I want it to be,” Akira Kurosawa replied when asked why he shoots his films the way he does. It is this independence, this incredible cinematic vision, that has given Akira Kurosawa the nickname of The Emperor. His films not only inspire and teach but also entertain with top notch acting and visuals. Kurosawa never settled for second best and it comes through in every single one of his films, especially the three films I have chosen to focus on: Rashomon, Yojimbo, and Ran. These films were all pivotal to Kurosawa’s career, Rashomon made him famous, Yojimbo was his biggest commercial success, and Ran was the film that he felt to be his best. All of the films are set in the past, in Japanese history. As a student, Kurosawa was very interested in literature, especially Dostoevsky and Shakespeare, and the kodan, a story-telling entertainment where traditional samurai tales were told. Obviously, these interests molded themselves into the films Kurosawa made and shaped his style and vision into something the world had never seen before.

Continue reading A Look Back: Akira Kurosawa (1910-1998) →

Page 1 of 212




Subscribe via Email!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 70 other subscribers

Ongoing Series

Top Posts & Pages