Over the years, Japan Cinema has reviewed LOTS of Muay Thai films. It is starting to get tedious to the point of seeing the same material recycled over and over again. Luckily for me, I came across a new film that blurs the lin between Muay Thai and Samurai life. Yamada: The Samurai of Ayothaya follows a young Samurai of Edo period, came to be a soldier in the Japanese volunteer regiment in Ayothaya. He fought against a group of Japanese who disguised themselves as the Hongsawadee soldiers and beset Ayothaya with troubles led by “Kuroda Toranaga”. Yamada was critically injured and helped by a group of Thai warriors. Yamada Nagamasa is played by Seki Oseki, a Japanese model and Thailand-based actor, who does a great job. If this type of role was played stateside by a model, it would end in a tragedy.
Yamada investigates and finds that the men are actually rogue Japanese samurai. He then has a score to settle with his own countrymen. In the process he learns the art of close combat Thai boxing but the aggressive tribal warrior style. It makes for some truely awesome fight sequences. Directed by Nopporn Watin, he pays strict attention to detail, especially with the attention to language as the characters can be heard speaking Japanese, yet has thai and English subs. He might have paid attention to the film since it is advertised as a true story and wanted to remain as accurate as possible. Apparently it didn’t stick around in theaters long enough for me to catch it. I’ll still try to find something on it, but it sounds like it is heavy on the “fiction” side of historical fiction.
Yamada was shot beautifully in Thailand countryside with exotic scenic landscape, but the village was designed and built too modern and so clean that even the inspector from the Health Dept. couldn’t have find anything unhealthy or cross-contaminated. That may be the only downfall of portraying a realistic POV of the film as it gives good backstory on the main characters. He became involved in Japanese trade activities with South-East Asia during the period of the Red seal ships and settled in the kingdom of Ayutthaya (modern-day Thailand) from around 1612.
I wished it was 20 minutes longer, but the way it went, it was enough. The fighting is amazing. Action-wise, its a mashup between Japanese swordplay and the brutality of ancient Muay Thai. That aside, the film remains an important piece of history. Nagamasa now rests in his hometown in the area of Otani. The remnants of the Japanese quarters in Ayutthuya are still visible to visitors, as well as a statue of Yamada in Siamese military uniform. On a final note, the traditional Thai warrior fighting technique in this movie is amazingly effective and aesthetically beautiful, making the so-called Chinese martial arts or Japanese karate more like child play. Solid entertainment.