I was lucky enough to catch Takashi Mikke’s Blade of the Immortal at the new Odeon Luxe Panton Street, complete with comfy reclining chairs. That’s a pretty good way to spend your last week in London before returning up north for Christmas!
I was disappointed to miss Blade of the Immortal at the BFI Film Festival earlier this year, so was happy it got another run in December. My Twitter and Facebook feeds were certainly full of people either saying they were seeing it or wishing they could see it last week…
As for Blade of the Immortal itself, I think it’s fair to say it lived up to the hype. This is Takashi Miike’s 100th film as a director (and what have you achieved this year?) It certainly delivers visually: well-choreographed and over the top fight scenes, colourful characters, some unexpected humour and blood. Lots of gore and blood.
Manji is a battle-scarred Samurai who has been cursed with immortality by a sinister witch. Fifty years ago, he lost his sister and now wanders aimlessly and alone. His chance for redemption comes when Rin, whose family is massacred by the Itto-ryu, enlists his help for revenge. And so our high-octane story begins.
I’ll be honest, Blade of the Immortal was more of a fun ride than a cinematic masterpiece for me. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it because I certainly did, although it doesn’t sit in the same league as a samurai action flicks such as Rashomon or Seven Samurai. It certainly won’t disappoint, though.
Blade of the Immortal is based on a manga of the same name by Hiroaki Samura. I haven’t read the manga so can’t comment on the translation from page to screen, but I can say with certainty that this definitely felt like a film based on a manga. There are some physically impossible fight scenes, very over-dramatic poses and people screaming about killing their enemy while not actually doing it. There are a lot of stylistic tropes (or traps, depending on your opinion) scattered throughout. You get the strong impression that the director and actors had a lot of fun during filming!
My favourite thing about Blade of the Immortal was undoubtedly the cinematography. It’s beautifully shot and, while some of the characters are dressed more like anime characters than in traditional Edo-era clothing, the stylishly-choreographed fight scenes will get the blood pumping.
The character development is, in my opinion, the weakest thing. Most of the main characters feel like stereotypes and are identified by their cool clothes and hair (another familiar anime/manga trope). There were one or two characters whose purpose eluded me completely, such as the other immortal swordsman who Manji meets. All of this can be forgiven if you’re watching Blade of the Immortal for the fun of it!
In my opinion, Blade of the Immortal is a great way for Miike to mark his 100th film as a director. It has his name written all over it and fans of the likes of 13 Assassins and Audition will be thoroughly entertained. If you’re new to Miike, Blade of the Immortal is a very entertaining watch, even if it doesn’t become your favourite of his films.