Tajomaru: Avenging Blade will be familiar to some already because it borrows heavily from Akira Kurosawa’s classic film “Rashomon“. It puts the emphasizes on modern presentation, interspersed with well-known young actors and a jazzy soundtrack. It is quite evident that Tajomaru was meant for young audiences who find the old black and white films a bit ‘boring’. Director Hiroyuki Nakana resurrects the character, and fleshes out a backstory that leads into the earlier film’s narrative.
Driven out of his kingdom by scheming conspirators, young lord Naomitsu loses his beloved Ako in a deadly clash with the notorious Tajomaru. Upon defeating Tajomaru, however, Naomitsu inherits the bandit’s name and legendary sword, The Cutting Wave. Now, after defeating the villains who destroyed his past, Naomitsu will embark on an exciting new journey as Tajomaru that will lead him straight into the dreaded Pit of Hell. There is never really a dull moment. Right when you are about to think its starting to get slow, something happens where you can’t help but want to keep watching. The second thing that jumps out upon watching the film is the stunning visuals used in the film and the care taken to either find the perfect location and shots or mock-up the environment to provide the look with wonderful success.
An ambitious production, which a little of Kitano’s “Zatoichi” is seen sprinkled in for agood measure, is not enough to convince me that this film is an instant classic by any means. Not only is the story of Tajomaru predictable, but the release of the main characters with their “battle of the sister boy” is an error and moreover, the plot creates a lot of open questions. These questions lead to inevitable plot holes that left me scratching my head. Sure, the visuals are amazing, but to less studied eyes it kind of just takes the wind out of the films sails.
Tajomaru isn’t a complete chore from start to finish, but the awful soundtrack almost makes it one. The Coldplay-like music doesn’t benefit a samurai movie at all and a soundtrack change should have been in order. The action sequences add a touch of style to proceedings, and the antagonistic relationship he shares with his brother has some potential for intrigue. All in all, I walked away satisfied, but only because I watched this film on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I suggest you do the same. Tajomaru: Avenging Blade is only for the hardest of hardcore fans of feudal Japanese cinema.