In this next installment of the legendary series, Ogami and Daigoro find themselves taking an assignment to assassinate a daimyo that has destroyed another fief and has thus made the surviving clan members miserable. Accepting this offer, he has come about this contract by rescuing a young girl from a life of prostitution and earning her freedom. Being recognized as the infamous Lone Wolf and Cub, he and Daigoro set off to accomplish their task, facing the machinations of the treacherous Yagyu and the unwillingness of the daimyo himself to die. Included in his opponents is Kanbei (Go Kato) a samurai himself who is also on the road. A samurai of no small skill, he will prove to be a formidable opponent and interesting ‘other side of the coin’ character.
Standing out from the other films released thus far, this entry is notable for revealing the true capabilities of Itto, Daigoro,and that damn awesome cart. Faced with what should be insurmountable odds, Itto and Daigoro stay calm and execute flawlessly, never letting the enemy get the upper hand. Daigoro helps out quite a bit here serving as decoy, but the real addition to the series this film offers is more a establishing of the world in which they live. It also shows a bit of a soft side to Daigoro and father, one that despite claims, keeps them as humans, and not the demons they claim to be. This touch of humanity makes it easy to remember why we see these two as our heroes, even when they sell their skills to the highest bidder.
Featuring multiple scenes of torture, assault of women, and the difficulty of life for the peasants, this film truly shows a dirtier side to life in feudal Japan. With stories and segments culled from the manga itself, readers may be happy to see how these segments combine to paint a fuller picture of the Lone Wolf world. Though the Yagyu make an appearance, Itto’s blade will wait another day until he can get revenge, but they are always on watch and always a constant threat.
Offering a great finale and one of the most crowd pleasing battles in the series, Baby Cart to Hades delivers a much more realistic and accurate depiction of events in the manga. With its look at feudal Japan and the varying ideas concerning roles and duties of the samurai code, one could make an argument that this film, and even the entire series itself, is somewhat anti-samurai. The realist sentiment held by many characters in the series is not uncommon to Misumi’s work, but is absolutely in parallel with the work of spaghetti western directors to take the romance out of a period where life was cheap and how the little people get swallowed up by the strong.