Asian Movie Review – Kamui Gaiden (カムイ外伝)

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 review - 4 thumbs up and 4 thumbs down.
Snappy Asian Movie Review | Kamui Gaiden (カムイ外伝)

Kamui Gaiden (カムイ外伝) 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 and becomes part of a large family. Sadly, his peace is but temporary, and soon, his enemies catch up with him. To survive, Kamui once again has to rely on his legendary assassin skills. He also learns he is doomed to forever be alone. As an ex-ninja, no one will ever be safe when with him.

Snappy Review

I wasn’t familiar with Kamui prior to watching this Japanese live-action adaptation in 2009. However, I did know about the Izuna Drop, thanks to the Ninja Gaiden game series. Watching that legendary killer move in live-action was thus my main motivation for catching this movie.

The end-effect wasn’t satisfactory, I regret to say. Hard for me to exactly pinpoint what’s wrong with the quick sequence; I can only say it overall didn’t feel real, 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 did 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 as well; L, of course, Matsuyama’s representative performance. Both characters are equally lethal, but Kamui is wholly lacking in conviction and confidence.

Oh, there’s one other thing worth mentioning about this ninja flick, this being how Kamui Gaiden e retained 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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