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Bushido Man

March 5, 2013

An old fashioned fighting movie to delight genre fans

Bushido Man (2013)

It’s been ages since Japan produced anything as manly as Bushido Man. Seven warriors, seven battles! There’s almost nothing else to be found in the film. The casting alone is ace. Mitsuki Koga (Evil Ninja, 2010), Masanori Mimoto (Alien vs. Ninja, 2010), Kensuke Sonomura (Hard Revenge Milly), Kazuki Tsujimoto (Hard Revenge Milly: Bloody Battle)… Nothing but martial artists, stuntmen, action directors and yakuza film b-actors! Pretty face idols that have been terrorizing Japanese action cinema since the 80’s are nowhere to be found!

Violence director Takanori Tsujimoto has established his name as the most promising talent in his field. Tsujimoto’s early shorts lefts something to be desired, but his Hard Revenge Milly: Bloody Battle holds as the most intense Japanese action film of the 2000’s so far. Bushido Man sparked interest ever since the clever advertising campaign, which revealed Koga’s opponents one by one in teaser posters released during a 6 month time span.

In Bushido Man Tsujimoto tones down the violence in favor of martial arts. The concept is like an amusing variation of the Shaw Brothers film Heroes of the East. The protagonist (Mitsuki Koga) pilgrims around Japan looking for masters of martial arts to challenge. In each fight he has to adapt a new fighting style or weapon. The opponents are kung fu master, stick fighter, nunchaku expert, blind samurai, knife specialist, revolver man, and a woman with special weapon. In preparation the hero always heads to a restaurant first. “Learn about your opponent through his diet”.

Today’s Japan is an extremely difficult environment for action filmmakers. The genre simply doesn’t have domestic demand. In Bushido Man the budget has been cut down to the minimum. The cheap visuals look, where especially outdoor scenes tend to look less than natural, is not much to write home about. Thankfully the rest of the film turns out pure 1980’s madcap Hong Kong action. The opening fight alone, in which Koga meets the film’s action choreographer Kensuke Sonomura, is among the best hand-to-hand battles seen in Japanese cinema.

A lot has been invested in the amount of fights. Well over half of the running time is spent fighting. The rest of the time Koga wanders around Japan looking for opponents and eating their favorite foods. The fun concept freshens the movie, though feels slightly underutilized. A few additional scenes would not have hurt. Even then, Bushido Man took more days to shoot than most other Japanese genre films of recent, and the production was delayed by more than half a year.

The philosophical aspects of bushido are brought up both between and during the fights. The self obvious wisdoms and old fashioned gentleman gestures are heartwarming, even if decidedly silly. After each fight the protagonist develops as a fighter and a human being, and learns from the opponent’s strengths. Such moments, as well as the sheer amount of fighting, make Bushido Man feel like an old fashioned martial arts movie in the best way.

Towards the end the film loses its track a bit. Metaphysical references and scenes of comedy are more embarrassing than clever. The fighting spirit of the first half suffers a bit, and action choreography takes a few steps back with more emphasis on firearms. Even then, the final fight reaches such levels of pure, again 80’s Hong Kong style, madness, that entertainment is guaranteed.

Despite a few flaws during the second half, Bushido Man is easily one of the best attempts in Japanese martial arts cinema in ages. In a time when bikini models and pop stars dominate most of the genre, a mentally insane fight circus such as Bushido Man is welcomed with open arms. Japan’s most famous active screen fighter Tak Sakaguchi would better come up with new tricks as Koga just stole the game!

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3 comments

  1. I love your review, and would like to know if you know if this movie will ever make it in DVD? I have seen it in Montreal, at the Fantasia Festival, and I’m trying really hard to purchase a DVD release, or at least know if it will


  2. Hi. Thanks for the compliment. The film is not available on dvd yet. The world premiere was in February at the Yubari Film Fest here in Japan. Since then, it has played in Tokyo in one single theater for a couple of week, and had a couple of festival screenings in Europe, and now North American premiere at Fantasia.

    It’s a very small production financed by the filmmakers themselves. Furthermore, modern genre and action films like this have very little market in Japan, meaning the distribution will be very limited. However, with Sushi Typhoon’s Marc Walcow involved (and the film being pretty awesome) I’m positive that some small US distributor will eventually pick it up for dvd distribution. This might be sometime next year. Probably a Japanese dvd (most likely with no English subtitles) will also come out… again, I would guess sometime next year.

    I have also been waiting to see the film again. You can keep an eye on the film’s official site + twitter. Surely there will be updates if a dvd release comes out. And I can try to remember to post a comment here if I hear any news, but that’s probably not gonna be until next year.

    http://bushidoman.tumblr.com/


  3. R2J DVD ANNOUNCED! 2013/11/02
    http://www.allcinema.net/prog/show_dvd.php?num_sid=896602



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