Dir/scr: Takanori Tsujimoto. Japan. 2012. 88mins
A martial arts film that aims to pack in as any fighting disciplines as possible into its relatively short running time, the impressively mounted Bushido Man is a nifty bit of action-packed fun, with Mitsuki Koga a charismatic lead as the martial arts student bent on proving himself against a series of champions.
Bushido Man is a film that moves with a nice pace and doesn’t rely on simple martial arts moves to make its mark. It’s a funny, exciting and colourful film well worth catching.
The film, which had its North American premiere at Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival, certainly delivers the martial arts goodies for fans of the genre, and while it runs out of steam a little towards the end, it is resolutely up-beat, amusing and watchable. Theatrical exposure is likely to be limited, but it is an easy fit into genre festivals.
At the idyllic dojo of the Cosmic Way, a school of the martial arts whose sensei Gensai preaches a path of hard-earned wisdom and honour, top student Toramaru (Koga, who appeared in Shinobi and Ichi) returns from a year long journey through Japan to tell his sensei of his quest.
Gensai had taught him, “know your opponent through what he eats,” and Toramaru teases his teacher, introducing each account with details about the meal that preceded it, so that Gensai must guess where the fight happened, and who it was against. Toramaru has seven tales of seven battles in his quest for mastery of the martial arts.
Toramaru has to take on a series of masters all with very different skills. They include a kung fu master; pole fighting expert; blind swordsman; a nunchaku champion (who ends up defeating himself); yakuza knife fighter; a Japanese wannabe gunslinger and (in a rather surreal almost sci-fi, twist) a stern-faced, leather-clad, women who guns in her elbows. From each he gains a precious scroll that he must take back to his master, but his final lesson comes from Gensai himself.
Some of the fight scenes are expertly staged – with the sequences of Tomamaru tucking into food as clues for his master amusing – and while the film’s spiral into almost fantasy territory in the final third may bemuse fans of the genre, Bushido Man is a film that moves with a nice pace and doesn’t rely on simple martial arts moves to make its mark. It’s a funny, exciting and colourful film well worth catching.
Production companies: The KlockWorx, TwoGuns Films
Producers: Yohei Haraguchi, Miku Kikuchi
Executive producers: Itaru Fujimoto, Takanori Tsuijimoto
Cinematography: Tetsuya Kudo
Action director: Kensuke Sonomura
Editors: Kensuke Sonomura, Takanori Tsujimoto
Music: Hikaru Yoshida
Main cast: Mitsuki Koga, Yoshiyuki Yamaguchi, Miki Mizuno, Masanori Mimoto, Kazuki Tsujimoto, Kentaro Shimazu, Ema