Following the events of Sword of Vengeance, Ogami Itto and son Daigoro continue their journey as assassins for hire. Taking a contract for a hit on the clan leader of a small fief, Itto and Daigoro find their way hindered by the appearance of the Kurokawa ninja and a branch family of the treacherous Yagyu clan, led by Sayoko Yagyu (Matsuo Kayo). Sayoko’s branch family consists of trained female warriors with skills enough to challenge any other Yagyu. To make matters worse, his contract is being escorted by the Hidari Brothers, a fearsome group of warriors each using a distinctive weapons; a claw, a spiked mace, and finally a set of spiked gauntlets. These three brothers are known for their ruthlessness and 100% success rate. Lone Wolf and Cub have their work cut out for them to make their 500 pieces of gold.
This entry is quite good, both for its diverse and fantastic swordplay, as well as the growing character development of both Itto and especially Daigoro. Somewhat of a bystander in the first film, Daigoro racks up a few kills of his own and even holds his own on the rough road he and his father have chosen. During a rescue sequence, father and son develop an ingenious method to succeed that speaks volumes of the maturity of Daigoro thus far. There are glimpses of childhood innocence to be sure, but he is quickly adapting and proves his worth to great effect in this film. The bond of father and son in this film has been carefully crafted and is natural.
Daigoro even gets a little ‘action’ proving that the apple does not fall far from the tree. This film offers tons of memorable scenes; from the Yagyu march at the beginning of the film, to the showdown in the desert that probably ranks among the best of Wakayama’s career. Oh, and let us not forget a certain sequence that makes the opening Murphy death scene in Robocop look tame by comparison. Certainly,the film delivers indelible images and it is quite easy to become absorbed in the picture.
Misumi directs another great swordplay film with Baby Cart at the River Styx. The action is varied and exciting with the incomparable Wakayama demonstrating why he was among the best to wield a sword on film. The development of Daigoro is fantastic too, as his growing fearlessness and devotion to his father is evident and touching in its own way. Baby Cart… is probably my favorite Lone Wolf and Cub film for this very reason; it captures the manga’s parental nuances very well here and includes some diverse and truly great action sequences. This film is a great continuation of the series and I challenge chanbara fans to not love the hell out of it.