Creatures in SATOMI HAKKENDEN (part 1)

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It’s one of Japan’s greatest literary works, has been turned into kabuki, manga, films, serials and TV series, and is essentially the origin of Japan’s preoccupation with the ‘assemble the team’ motif in cinema. It is Satomi Hakkenden, and it’s movie versions are often chock full of creatures and critters and creepy crawlies of epic proportions.

Here’s several caps of the monstrous incarnations of the evil sorceress from the 1959 Toei 3-part serial-esque adaptation:

Aobiku (Rieko Matsukaze) is a second-generation evil sorceress out for revenge on the noble Satomi clan.
She can turn dead leaves into these mytical ninja foot soldiers, but...
...would rather send the family's signature creature, the giant serpent, on her evil errands.
A few shots of the serpents are gorgeously animated.


Lord Satomi’s pet Yatsufasa is the greatest dog EVER! He fetches the decapitated heads of fallen warlords from the battle field on command. When Aobiku’s mother Shirobiku sends a serpent after the family, the dog hulks up big time and fights it off. Killed in the scrap, Yatsufasa then explodes into a mystical cloud that sends off eight “beads of virtue” across the land. Years later, eight samurai will find those beads and come together to yadda yadda, you know the rest…

Aobiku also likes to do her own dirty work, transforming into this flying bat creature for nocturnal kidnapping raids on the Satomi.


This is my favorite of her other forms, a reptile man!


LOVE this head design, and it looks as good as Abe Sapien in the Hellboy flicks, sans the digital assists.
This version of "Satomi" has a definitive giant toad magic sequence that would be copied for years after.



The same showdown between fire-breathing serpent and mist-belching magic toad happened in the seminal ninja wizard film NINJUTSU GOZEN JIRAI, but in B&W was nowhere near as cool.


At the epic's climax, warrior wizard Inuyama Dosetsu (Satomi Kotaro) defeats Aobiku with magic and blade alike, but only after busting out this fine example of a Grecco-Roman ankle lock!

The three one-hour 1959 films are pretty great (subbed versions under titles like Eight Brave Brothers are out in the ‘trading community’), but it is another, higher profile Satomi Hakkenden film from the 80’s that we outside of Japan know most – Kodokawa’s Legend of the Eight Samurai. More on that version’s horific creatures tomorrow.