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Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades – Review

by Dane Benko

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In the third film of the Lone Wolf and Cub series, Ogami Itto volunteers to be tortured by Yakuza to save a prostitute and is hired by their leader to kill an evil chamberlain.

The third installation of the Lone Wolf and Cub franchise dispenses with the diptych structure of the previous two films and closely resembles Sergio Corbucci’s 1966 giallo Django, which itself is a remake of Leone’s spaghetti western A Fistful of Dollars (1964), which itself is a remake of Yojimbo (1961), which means the story has circled the globe right back to Japan (Takashi Miike also performed a similar spin-back in 2007 with Sukiyaki Western Django (2007), with a lot more self-awareness and postmodern pastiche). It’s not surprising that the series goes this route considering the visual similarities between Django’s coffin and Lone Wolf’s baby cart. Still, as far as the first three films of the series go, this one feels more like a departure from the original trek as our favorite samurai dispenses with the sword and starts trading bullets with the baddies.

The story begins with Ogami and Daigoro crossing the paths of some watari-kashi (poor samurai hired out on a temporary basis by Daimyo for accompaniment while travelling). Three of them have accosted a couple of female passersby but a fourth, Kanbei, steps in to cover their tracks before stumbling upon Ogami. Kanbei was once in charge of the Okaga of the Maruoka Clan in Echizen, and still believes in honor. Hence being caught red-handed by Ogami forces Kanbei to request a duel, which Ogami initially accepts but then dismisses. His decision leaves Kanbei regretful and worried about his honor, and now the chase is on.

Daigoro and Ogami’s bad luck continues when a prostitute who bit off her rapist’s tongue hides in their room at an inn, causing Daigoro to accept the blame for her and take her beating. His standing up in this manner attracts the attention of headmistress Torizo, who hires the famed assassins for another job. It seems her father, Miura Tatewaki, has been disposed by Chamberlain Sawatari Genba, the Deputy of Tootoomi, whose deals in deceptions and double-crossings in order to gain standing in the Shogunate even as he plans to depose of those who are equal or above him. Amidst these political shenanigans is a personal familiarity between Ogami and Miura, as Miura lost his arm holding the demented Lord Mitake-Dewanokami Fijishige steady for Ogami’s blade back when Ogami was the Official Executioner.

The result is an interesting sort of proxy war as Chamberlain Genba plans the next steps of his conspiracy, Ogami performs a guerilla war of attrition on the henchmen of Tootoomi, and the ever-looming shadow of the Yagyu Clan proceeds to bleed into the arena, all while Kanbei hunts Ogami to regain his sense of honor. This multiplication of intrigues and foes makes for a much more dialog-driven episode of the series but is paid off with battle sequences of a more massive scale than previously seen in the series.

As for the Ogami and Daigoro, their character development stays on course for the series. Ogami is forced to reinterpret his knowledge of honor and his mission to a new host of curious inquisitors while Daigoro has become much more than an assistant and even seems to be helping plan some of the action himself.  The two are more a team than ever before and what’s really neat to see is Daigoro starting to understand and interpret his role as heroic outsider as he alone sometimes steps in to help bereaved others.

A note on the translation: the original subtitle translates roughly to “Perambulator against the Wind of Death”, but the English translation puts in Hades to keep consistent with its ‘River Styx’ Greek myth reference of the previous episode.

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Author: Dane Benko

Dane is an independent filmmaker and freelancer in Albuquerque, NM. Japanese cinema is a particular fascination of his.

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