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Bushido Man – Review

by Olivia Saperstein

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When Toramaru returns to Master Gensai, he shares with him the tales of the seven martial arts masters he defeated, and what he learned from them. The catch is that, just as his master taught, Toramaru learns about his opponent by first eating the same food. Seven meals and seven fights? Yes please.

Creating an effective low-budget action film that isn’t innately satirical is a tricky task, and one that requires a special ingredient–or seven. Writer and director Takanori Tsukimoto sprinkled his latest film, Bushido Man, with seven different forms of martial arts, creating a sequence of fights that is as tenacious in its choreography as its diversity.

Kensuki Sonomura, plays Yuan Jian, the Kung Fu master of whom Toramaru fights first. Yet his praying-mantis like moves aren’t all he shows off; Sonomura is also the film’s choreographer, who often wouldn’t block the scenes until shooting day. Months and months of practicing the same routine? Think again. The film’s shoestring budget forced the actors to be adaptable on set.

This only raised the adrenaline. Each fight, shot in real time, was as elegant as it was edgy. Muso the Blind Samurai, wielded his sword as if Bach were conducting his “William Tell Overture,” which would position M, as a fierce Kchachaturian, firing away the “Gayane: Sabre Dance” with her machine gun arms.

Yet it was impossible not to favor Masanori Mimoto, the callous Joey Ramone of Yakuza fighters, slicing away with his blade as he slurped down a cigarette: the definition of bleeding cool. Pair him with Americana-loving gun slinger Billy Shimabukuro, and the two would birth a rockabilly bloodbath. Shimazu’s humor and perverse affectation is remembered from Dead Sushi (2013) and Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead (2011), both of which played at Fantasia last year.

Substantially more humor was captured in Yamaguchi’s Master Gensai, who’s wisdom is key to the genre–the comedy a great addition. After Toramaru retells the story of how he prepared for a fight while eating a plate of beef and vegetables, Gensai scolds him for being “too choosy,” and leaving carrots to waste. “You must finish everything on your plate.” It seems that light humor pairs well with heavy meals.

Tsukimoto’s unearths the beauty in cuisine almost as keenly has he does with the art of combat. Whether it be picturesque slabs of tuna placed most delicately over beds of sushi rice, meatballs fried in a reddish paste, or a bowl of noodles topped with the perfect garnish, Tsukimoto accustoms us with Japan’s high regard for presentation when it comes to food. If anything, a sharper lens may have proven more delicious; food is one of the sole areas of the project where a higher budget could have truly benefited.

It seems that the trifecta of fighting, fodder, and slapstick humor, plus some One-Armed Swordsman wisdom of good measure, makes for a savory good time. One that sent the audiences of Fantasia to the nearest food trucks and restaurants upon the films ending. Yukan’na!

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Author: Olivia Saperstein

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