SHOGUN ASSASSIN 2: LIGHTNING SWORDS OF DEATH (DVD) Image

“Shogun Assassin 2: Lightning Swords of Death” (one of about eight titles this film has gone under) suffers from some of the same problems as the first film in this newly restored DVD series. It’s still dubbed to appeal to a wider audience, and it lacks some of the emotional punch of its source material (the “Lone Wolf and Cub” manga). On the positive side, however, it’s got the manga’s creator, Kazuo Koike, writing it (and he’s left in some of the elements from the manga), and this film isn’t two films cobbled together like the first one.

AnimEigo has taken the third film in the series, “Baby Cart to Hades,” and has dubbed and digitally restored it in order to attract a whole new audience to this samurai revenge tale that has influenced creators worldwide. In this film, Ogami (Tomisaburo Wakayama) and his son, Daigoro (Masahiro Tomikawa), wander the country and end up saving a prostitute before Ogami is hired to kill a governor who, in turn, wants to hire the Lone Wolf (Ogami, to those who don’t know) for his own use. This creates some tension when the governor finally realizes that the reason Lone Wolf has declined the job is because he his target, and it becomes kill or be killed as the governor amasses an elite group of killers to take down the man and his boy. Couple that with ninjas who are after the father and son, and you are guaranteed non-stop bloodshed as Ogami continues down the path revenge for the murder of his wife.

Watching these films is pure joy. Anyone who would denounce these tales as nothing but violence and bloodshed obviously hasn’t seen them, as there is more humanity in these than in almost any critically praised drama. They are set in a time when honor and respect still meant something (though they were on the decline), and a person’s word was supposed to be bond. They are stories about doing the right thing, even when that meant killing. In other words, these are the kinds of movies that are no long being made that are set in a time that no longer exists. AnimEigo deserves praise for putting these out, though if this one hadn’t been dubbed it would have earned four stars. In the future, perhaps making the dubbing an option would better serve everyone involved.

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