Oni-masked villainess in EDO O KIRU V

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Meet the “Demon Yasha” gang – a group of oni-themed, ninja-garbed, thieves and killers being chased down by one of feudal Edo’s many secret police forces in Edo O Kiru V. If you’re unfamiliar with 70’s and 80’s period cop shows, here’s the basic rundown:

– They LITTERED Japanese prime-time TV for decades ala Law and Order or CSI now. A hugely successful genre, with shows outlasting multiple cast changes and social climates.

– Like the aforementioned modern American shows, they were ensemble casts formed around an attractive male lead, who was usually someone of position who instead of leading the easy life dedicated himself to helping the people of the city. Casts of helpers were often rounded out by someone with shadow-spy skills, an ace swordsman, a beautiful woman with hidden blade in her hair or banjo or some other civilian implement, a tomboy gal with surprising martial skills, a reformed criminal with inside connections, etc. and so forth.

– The operations are centered in some sort of public place where rumors and info can be obtained – a bar, bath house, inn, restaurant, etc.

– Someone new comes into town each week with a problem in tow, a who’s-who of genre regulars.

– Even though they all operate in a small, crowded urban area, they constantly go undercover with no one recognizing anyone else.

– There is at least one totally kick-ass sword fight per show, often a small team vs seemingly overwhelming odds.

This formula held true of all sorts of shows, from ‘secret police’ classics like Onmitsu Doshin to Chiba’s outright ninja-based Kage no Gundan. Teruhiko Saigo plays a samurai magistrate slumming it with the commoners, doling out his own justice on the side. The real charm of this particular season of Edo O Kiru was his wife, a female sword expert played by the gorgeous Keiko Matsuzaka, donning the iconic “Purple Hood” to aid her man’s covert crusades. The first episode of the fifth series in EoK‘s twenty-plus season run saw not only the female Purple Hood, but also a masked villainess leading a gang of cutthroats and a woman inheriting the jutte baton from her slain father, becoming Edo’s first policewoman. Saigo’s “Kin-San” is a popular character with varying incarnations. He’s all about justice, so he goes into battle with his sword turned backwards, delivering non-lethal blows to cripple foes until the legit law shows up. But it’s the female version of the “Purple Hood” vigilante hero that’s the real charm for me… You can grab two episodes of Edo O Kiru V with English subs from Kurotokagi. I also recommend their 2-ep disc of Sue Shihomi appearances on”Edo Dragnet” (Onmitsu Doshin) in, surprise, the tomboy-with-martial-skills role. The first episode

Kunoichi Kaji!

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Meiko Kaiji in ninja gear? Swoon!

Found these caps years ago in a sadly defunct blog (German if memory serves?), but they also floated around various newsboards for a while. The Female Convict Scorpion and Wandering Ginza Butterfly star had a stint on the long-running Oedo Sosamo TV series, and man did those expressive eyes ever work in a hood! Wow…

For the unfamiliar – and as a major lover of 70’s and 80’s Japanese action TV I HIGHLY recommend you become familiar – the Oedo Sosamo / Onmitsu Doshin property spans around 18 years of prime-time TV, TV specials and theatrical releases. Think of it like a chambara version of  The Untouchables or even The Mod Squad, with a who’s-who of genre stars filling in roles of shadow-skilled secret police patrolling feudal Edo. Kaji was just one of many kunoichi cuties and blade-weilding honeys featured.

The female’s role in the team would always be disguised info gatherer and undercover intelligence, but when the gloves came off, they’d have short sword in hand ready to throw down.

Needless to say, if a female villain ever showed up, it was the kunoichi’s job to take her out. You don’t want your handsome leading men cutting women in half, no matter how much they might deserve it.

Read more on the gorgeous and enigmatic Kaji at Cult Sirens and at Pinky Violence. Chris D’s superb Outlaw Masters of Japanese Film is a must read as well.

AND speaking of ‘sword girls’ – check out this article on the rise in women’s sword training in Japan!