The Princess Blade

A desolate fairy tale that transposes the conventions of traditional Japanese "chambara" (feudal swordplay) narratives to a futuristic setting. The Takemikazuchi, a hereditary clan of imperial guards left stateless after the overthrow of their emperor, are employed by the fascist government of an unnamed, desolate nation to keep peace through violence....read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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A desolate fairy tale that transposes the conventions of traditional Japanese "chambara" (feudal swordplay) narratives to a futuristic setting. The Takemikazuchi, a hereditary clan of imperial guards left stateless after the overthrow of their emperor, are employed by the fascist government of an unnamed, desolate nation to keep peace through violence. The country, once devastated by some distant apocalypse, is populated by ordinary citizens leading lives of quiet desperation and rebel groups trying to overthrow their oppressive leaders. The mercenary Takemikazuchi, led by Byakurai (Kyusaku Shimada), include the last surviving member of the clan's bloodline, unsmiling 19-year-old Yuki (Yumiko Shaku). Her mother, Princess Azora, died when she was a toddler. On the eve of her 20th birthday, Yuki learns that Byakurai murdered her mother, and tradition dictates that she must either kill Byakurai and assume leadership or abandon the clan entirely. Yuki chooses the former, but badly underestimates Byakurai and barely escapes alive. Wounded and exhausted, she makes her way to a remote gas station run by the mild-mannered Takashi (Hideaki Ito), who lives in a small house behind the pumps with his mute and traumatized sister (Yoko Maki). Takashi reluctantly nurses Yuki back to health, and removed from the brutal discipline and mercenary values of the Takemikazuchi Yuki begins to soften. But even as she allows herself the luxury of relaxing, Yuki knows the Takemikazuchi will eventually find her. Takashi, whose childhood ended the day his family was viciously murdered, also begins to let down his guard, though his connections to a covert rebel faction are bound to come back to haunt him. As the deeply damaged Yuki and Takashi slowly, tentatively, almost fall in love, the shadow of their unhappy pasts cast a pall over what can only be a temporary idyll. Director Shinsuke Sato's highly stylized martial arts drama is based on Kazuo Koike (Lone Wolf and Cub) and Kazuo Kanimura's popular manga Shurayuki Hime, a science fiction variation on their earlier Shurayuki Hime, which took place in a traditional Meiji-era context and was filmed as LADY SNOWBLOOD (1973). Adventurous viewers will find this unusual genre hybrid an intriguing experience, and Donnie Yen's fight choreography is breathtaking. But the combination of spasmodic violence and ominously quiet interludes may alienate both action junkies impatient with the spare, gloomy philosophizing that dominates the film's middle section and those put off by the graphic bloodshed that bookends it. (In Japanese, with English subtitles.)

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  • Released: 2001
  • Rating: R
  • Review: A desolate fairy tale that transposes the conventions of traditional Japanese "chambara" (feudal swordplay) narratives to a futuristic setting. The Takemikazuchi, a hereditary clan of imperial guards left stateless after the overthrow of their emperor, ar… (more)

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