ZOKU SHINOBI NO MONO press stills (part 2)

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The Shinobi no Mono films not only revolutionized the way ninjutsu was portrayed in film, they changed the very notion of ninja characters. Raizo Ichikawa was the perfect victim protagonist – the lone man struggling to survive in a world that really IS out to get him. To outwit the oppressive machinations around him, to carve out a life for himself when giant conflicts rage around him big enough to steer society itself. Could there be a more appealing character, a more engaging conflict theme, to a nation that in the 60’s was putting more and more of it’s young people into office cubicles?

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Packed as the second film was with political conflict and wartime drama, the purpose of the hero this time was to endure. Goemon has already lost his clan, and throughout the film he keeps losing what little he has left. By film’s end, he knows there no escape, and has resigned himself to a grim fate. Can returning to his martial arts at least allow him one last act of justice?

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If this spoiler was displayed in theater lobbies, audiences must have been pissed...
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Goemon gets THIS CLOSE to gaining revenge and changing history. Alas, this film IS a tragedy, so despite being skilled enough to throw a shuriken while wearing a climbing claw, it's off to the boiling oil shortly after this scene.
Zoku Shinobi no Mono has a superb domestic DVD release as Shinobi-no-Mono 2: Vengeance via Animeigo. Obviously highly recommended. The castle invasion that ends this film is second to none!

Read some great reviews here and here and here.

2616mono

ZOKU SHINOBI NO MONO press stills (part 1)

posted in: 1 - Film and TV | 2

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These sepia-toned (and aging poorly) 8×10’s are from either a theatrical lobby promo kit or a studio press kit contemporary to the 1963 theatrical release of ninja blockbuster Zoku Shinobi no Mono (Return of the Band of Assassins, ). Raizo Ichikawa returned as a thoroughly retroshinobified folk hero Ichikawa Goemon in a direct sequel to the ground-breaking first “Band of Assassins” film. The success of this sequel cemented the serious ninja movie trend (this series alone would go nine chapters), and like the others in the line, it delivers on all fronts.

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Star presence is when you can manage a recognizable (and dramatic) face even when fully hooded. But facts are facts – Hollywood or Tokyo – when the Japanese James Dean is your franchise star, costuming takes a backseat to face-time on screen. What I love most about Raizo is the absolute conviction he portrayed, especially in the black pajamas. He could really SELL it. He sold danger, desperation, fear, tension, love, joy, and crushing heartbreak like few others.

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Yeah, Tomisaburo Wakayama is great in these movies and all, but as a non-sword-fighting villain that inevitably leaves those of us weaned on LONE WOLF AND CUB disappointed.

The first Shinobi no Mono had two major strengths – the fascination of the arcane ninjutsu being shown as a credible martial art for the first time on screen, and a sympathetic plight of appealing protagonists. In the second film, much of the ninja stuff was old hat, so they upped the intrigue and espionage. This film isn’t ninja vs. ninja, it’s ninja vs. world.

(to be concluded…)

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