A gritty portrayal of a ninja’s doomed life, Kamui Gaiden (カムイ外伝) invites you to reconsider these shadowy assassins as they historically were.
Kamui Gaiden Synopsis
Renegade ninja Kamui is constantly pursued by assassins after abandoning his clan. After surviving various attacks, he settles down in a remote fishing village with a large family. Unfortunately, his peace is but temporary and soon, his enemies catch up with him. To survive, Kamui once again have to rely on his legendary assassin skills.
I wasn’t familiar with Kamui prior to watching this in 2009. But I did know about the Izuna Drop, thanks to the Ninja Gaiden game series. Catching this killer move in live-action was thus my main motivation for watching this movie.
The end-effect wasn’t satisfactory, I regret to say. Hard for me to pinpoint exactly what’s wrong with the quick sequence; I can only say it just doesn’t feel real overall, or natural. As for the rest of the fights, thankfully, they were much more satisfactory, particularly Kamui’s eye-catching mirage slash. The always reliable Matsuyama Keniichi also does a splendid job of portraying the brooding and distrustful renegade ninja; his paranoia and anguish literally stare at you in the face throughout the movie. It makes for an intriguing opposite of Death Note’s L. Both are equally lethal, but Kamui is wholly lacking in conviction and confidence.
Oh, there’s one other thing worth mentioning about Kamui Gaiden, this being the movie retaining the unglamourous feel of the manga version. I think it’s internationally known nowadays that historical ninjas were never costume-clad superheroes, but the tendency to portray them as superheroes in movies still dominates, including in Japanese productions. Of course, Kamui’s supernatural abilities still benefit from this misconception but overall, the real tragedy of a ninja’s life is not brushed aside in this story. This is one movie that encourages you to not want to be a ninja, instead of the usual otherwise. To me, that is one brave creative decision that is worthy of commendation.
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