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Samurai 1: Legend of Musashi

(Japanese 1954 c 93')

En: 6 Ed: 6

Adapted from Hideji Hojo’s play, a wild young man loves to fight and alienates people; but a priest trains him to be a samurai and makes him leave the woman who loves him.

         In 1600 armies of east and west are fighting for supremacy of Japan. People in Miyamoto village watch an army marching. Sitting in a tree, Takezo (Toshiro Mifune) asks his friend Honiden Matahachi (Rentaro Mikuni) if he will go to war with him; but Matahachi has to take care of his mother, and he wants to marry Otsu. Takezo says he is alone and will go. Otsu chides them for climbing trees, and Takezo runs off. Although they are engaged, Matahachi asks her if she would wait for him for a year or more. She says yes.  She asks if he is going to war, but he denies it. She says Takezo has tempted him, and she begs him not to go. He says he is testing her and will never leave her.

         Takezo crosses a stream carrying a small pack and meets Matahachi also with a pack; they both laugh and go together. In the battle of Sekigahara men dig a trench in the rain. Retreating men tell them to run. Most run, but Takezo wants to fight. He and Matahachi run toward the charging cavalry. Many dead are left on the battlefield. Takezo and Matahachi see horsemen and hide. Matahachi leans on Takezo as they walk. They enter a home, and Takezo demands food from two women; but both men faint.

         On a sunny day Akemi (Mariko Okada) brings food to wounded Matahachi, who says Takezo is trying to conquer a horse. She treats his wound, and he grabs her and lays on her. She hears Takezo riding and goes to him. Akemi rides on the horse with him and asks who is Otsu. She gets him to gallop, and they both fall off. She holds on to him, but he pulls away. She laughs. Six horseman arrive and ask her to tell her mother Oko (Mitsuko Mito) to pay the tribute, or they will make them leave. Then they go.

          In the house Takezo learns that they get valuables from brigands. Outside Akemi tells Matahachi that he has Otsu. Inside her mother Oko tells Takezo that a brigand killed her husband. She is planning to go to Kyoto for business; but he wants fame before he goes home. He practices with a wooden sword and says he is wild. Seven soldiers come in and search the house. The leader grabs Oko, and Takezo fights them with the wooden sword. Six men run away, and Takezo defeats the leader. Oko offers herself to him, but he runs out. While Takezo bathes in the river, Oko tells the others that they must leave that night and that Takezo assaulted her. She begs Matahachi to help them.

         In the morning Takezo finds they are gone. By a lake five men surround Matahachi and the two women. They fight, and Oko stabs one. Matahachi gets a sword, and the five men run off. Takezo breaks through a town gate, fighting several men.

         Otsu laughs and talks with the priest Takuan Osho (Kuroemon Onoe). People arrive, and Matahachi’s mother Osugi (Eiko Miyoshi) says Takezo is coming. In a temple Takezo’s relatives say they have nothing to do with him because he is wild. The chief official (Seijiro Onda) asks them to help him hunt Takezo. Osugi says they must punish him because he left her son to die. Otsu cries and runs after Takezo, who kills a man. The chief official orders the men to hunt, and they comb the forest. Takezo’s relatives are tied up.

         At night Osugi asks Otsu what she will do and invites her to live with her. Takezo drinks water and says that Matahachi is not dead. Osugi offers hungry Takezo food and a bath. He will not tell Otsu why Matahachi did not come back. Men arrive. Takezo gets out of the bath and fights them. Then he runs off.

         The chief official orders the people to hunt for Takezo. He grabs Otsu until he sees Takuan, who gives Otsu a letter. Oko writes that she has married Matahachi. Takezo beats up a man gathering wood. Takuan tells Otsu that he is going to the mountains because the hunt is stupid. She decides to go with him. While camping, Takuan advises her to forget Matahachi. She cries, and he asks her to play the flute. Takezo watches them, and Takuan invites him to join them. He is hungry and eats. Takuan says he came to capture him as a Buddhist so that he will be given consideration. He says Takezo’s relatives are prisoners. Takezo says his relatives hate him. Takuan calls him a fool and slaps him.

         People announce that Takezo has been captured, and he returns tied up and is hoisted up. Takuan tells the chief official he will not turn over Takezo. Takuan jokes about his own head being cut off. Dangling Takezo asks Takuan not to shame him. Takezo says he is a samurai. Otsu pleads to Takuan for Takezo and cries.

         Osugi invites Otsu into her house. At night during a storm Otsu begs Takuan to have mercy. Later Takuan talks with Takezo. He asks Takezo to use his force to help humanity. Wisdom and virtues make a man strong. He says he will behead him. Takezo says he wants to live. Takuan tells him to prepare for death. Otsu manages to lower the rope, and Takezo is lowered to the ground. She cuts him loose, and they run away together.

         In the morning he asks her if it is a dream. Her hands are bloody, and he thanks her and apologizes. She asks him to take her with him. She is alone. He says he cannot make her happy. Men arrive and see him. They run uphill. He fights the men, and she is captured.

         People learn that Otsu was captured and taken to Himeji castle, but Takezo escaped. Osugi says they will kill Otsu and Takezo. Osugi wants to behead him. Takezo climbs up a cliff, but Takuan persuades him to follow him to a room that is locked but has books. Takuan speaks to Otsu at Hanada bridge.

         In Kyoto in a large house Akemi sings for Seijuro Yoshioka (Akihiko Hirata), her mother Oko, and another man. Matahachi asks his wife Oko if she will sell her daughter.

         For three years Takuan has been training Takezo at Himeji castle. Takezo is given the name Musashi Miyamoto and is sent off to travel without saying goodbye to Otsu. Takuan tells him to cut off his past and be reborn. Takezo sees Otsu and tells her to give him up for dead. She says she waited, and he promised. He asks forgiveness. He says he has to travel, but he loves her. He asks her not to follow, but she begs to go with him. He nods, and she goes to prepare. She comes back and sees a note saying he will come back soon.

         This drama of traditional Japan shows how a wild fighter comes to learn the samurai discipline. The young women suffer because of the men’s fighting, but the older women try to manipulate the men.

Copyright © 2009 by Sanderson Beck

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