Director: Kenji Misumi
Starring: Raizo Ichikawa, Yoshi Kato
Nemuri Kiyoshiro (Raizo Ichikawa) returns in the second installment of the Sleepy Eyes of Death series, Sword of Adventure. This installment sees Kiyoshiro at the start of the New Year and befriending an elderly samurai named Asahina (Yoshi Kato). As it turns out, Asahina is the Finance Commissioner for the Shogunate and he’s been taking on criticism because of the economic crisis. His plans to institute reform, in particular his plan to reduce allowances for Princess Taka, have earned him some powerful enemies. With grudge holding swordsmen, an amourous princess, and a slimy official scheming in the background, it is up to Kiyoshiro and his Full Moon Cut technique to protect Asahina and ring in the New Year with a bang!
Taking over directorial duties, Kenji Misumi directs his first Sleepy Eyes film but certainly not his last. Taking a much lighter stance with this installment, Sword of Adventure isn’t so much nihilistic than flat out entertaining. Setting a theme that would follow for pretty much the rest of the series, this second part improves in virtually all aspects, that each installment is better than the last. Misumi directs a fast paced and beautifully shot picture that is filled with terrific characters, memorable moments, and solid swordplay. Considered one of the best samurai film directors, Sword of Adventure is definitely one of his best.
Ichikawa tears up the screen here as Kiyoshiro. He shows just how cunning and tactile he is when he engages multiple adversaries out for his blood. Also revealing a bit more on Kiyoshiro’s history, for the first time the issue of his parentage is addressed in a powerful scene that hints of what’s to come. Further reinforcing the fact that he’s a ladies man, he has women throwing themselves at him but he’s a bit of a wild creature, not willing to settle down and goes where he wants to go. He’s infinitely cool and a terrific lead that ranks among the best on film.
A nice and tight production, the film never feels rushed and is filled with content. Character development and action are never emphasized more than the other and the film strikes a nice balance between the two. Music is solid and flows well in the film and sound design is very good.
Sword of Adventure is one of my favorite samurai films period and one of the most purely entertaining films in Ichikawa’s prolific career. Filled to the brim with content and endlessly entertaining, they just don’t get much better than this. With how effervescent he is on screen, I always lament the late actor’s much too early passing. If you haven’t seen it yet, what’s wrong with you?
You may enjoy this film if you like: The Zatoichi series, the Lone Wolf and Cub series, and Kill!
Special Thanks to Animeigo for providing a viewing copy!