Based on the original comic from Sampei Shirato comes this tale of a fugutive ninja who wants to live a normal life but learns it will not be as easy as he thinks.
When he was a child, Kamui was raised in the art of shinobi, the ways of the ninja. However, he has longed to feel freedom. After witnessing an incident fourteen years ago, Kamui decides to become a nukenin, a fugitive ninja. This makes him a target from his old comrades. However, when he comes across a fisherman who cuts off the leg of a feudal lord’s horse, Kamui’s life is soon about to change. En route in the sea, Kamui is thrown overboard by the fisherman.
Still alive, Kamui is washed up ashore in a fishing village. There, he learns of the fisherman known as Hanbei, who is a resident of the village. However, his past catches up with him when Hanbei’s wife is revealed to be Sugaru, the nukenin he thought had died fourteen years ago at the hands of his master, Dumok. While Sugaru still has doubts about Kamui, the young ninja proves that he does want to change by helping the villagers. In addition, Hanbei and Sugaru’s daughter Sayaka begins to have a crush on Kamui. However, what will happen when Kamui begins to suspect that his past is about to catch up with him again?
From director Yoichi Sai, who co-wrote the screenplay, this is a decently made ninja film that some may feel have a bit of a drag in the middle. However, this proves to be necessary as the story revolves around a ninja who just yearns to live a normal life. Yes, there is some action but it is spread out quite sporadically and that’s okay for this story. As long as it is not overlong, it is okay for an action film to slow down a little to bring the story to life. Here, the film runs at exactly 120 minutes and it works out well.
Kenichi Matsuyama performs well as the titular Kamui. When he’s not fighting, he may have somewhat of a straight-faced look to him. This is clearly attributed to his upbringing and how while he is attempting to live a normal life, still finds himself extremely cautious. Koyuki (Matsuyama’s real-life wife) does well as a fellow nukenin who has found a normal life as a fisherman’s wife. In a surprise appearance, Hong Kong actor Ekin Cheng makes the most of his screen time as Dumok, Kamui’s teacher. One might not like how Kaoru Kobayashi’s Hanbei is introduced, but he proves to be a pivotal influence in Kamui’s quest for a normal life. As for Hideaki Ito, he does quite well as Fudo, the leader of a band of shark hunters who befriend the villagers after rescuing Hanbeo and Kamui during the course of the film.
The action sequences are quite a wondrous mixed bag. When Kamui unleashes his blade, the action is nicely handled without too much of the crimson flying like in other Japanese action films. That’s not to say there isn’t any madness, because there is. For a good laugh, look for one thug to have both of his arms amputated by our hero. The opening action scenes clearly have an inflience similar to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon with its use of wirework. Stunt coordinator Kenji Tanigaki and fight coordinator Takahito Ouchi did an overall pretty good job with the action sequences here.
The bottom line is that you will either love or hate Kamui: Gaiden. In my opinion, it is an enjoyable ninja flick with a straight-laced lead in Kenichi Matsuyama plus the action sequences are not too bad, even if there is a ridiculous amount of wirework at times.
WFG RATING: B
Shochiku presents an Eisei Gekujo production in association with Horipro/Kinoshita Komuten/Optrum//Shogakukan. Director: Yoichi Sai. Producers: Akira Morishige and Yui Tamae. Writers: Yoichi Sai and Kankuro Kudo; based on the manga by Sampei Shirato. Cinematography: Tomoo Ezaki and Junichi Fujisawa. Editing: Isao Kawase.
Cast: Kenichi Matsuyama, Koyuki, Kaoru Kobayashi, Suzuka Ohga, Koichi Sato, Hideaki Ito, Ekin Cheng, Sei Ashina.