|OKITA SOJI (1974)
Okita Soshi (Samurai Okita Soshi)
I’d like to state right off the bat that MANY fangirls will appreciate the casting choice of Okita. He is tall, rugged,
and has very beautiful eyes. Simply, he is a very manly Okita! Easily one of the best actors to portray Okita. Both Kondou and Hijikata are miscast.
I’ll mention some parts of the film which I found striking.
Shieikan is depicted as experiencing financial hardship (based on what the characters were eating). The future members of the Shinsengumi all
look as if they haven’t bathed for weeks.Mention of the popularity and spread of Tennen Rishin Ryu and moving in on the “turf” of other schools.
Kiyokawa Hachiro and Murakami comment on the Shieikan men “either they’re loyal to the Shogun or they’re dirt poor.” Serizawa Kamo is shown in a helmet splitting demonstration. Hijikata while in the Roshigumi “never in the Tokugawa history could this large a group of
ronin walk in public.” Kondo dreams of being a hatamoto. Hijikata dreams of forming the greatest army in Japan and Okita dreams of eating sweets in Kyoto. Assasination of Serizawa Kamo was shown briefly but in a pretty creative manner.Pretty graphic depiction of the torture of Furutaka Shuntaro (if you ever wondered how and where the
candles were stuck on the guy—well this is the movie which shows it).
The Raid on Ikedaya is very brief however the event gave the viewer a “first person” claustrophobic view. Unlike many well staged
The title of this film is also “Shinsengumi: Band of Assasins”
(commentary by Barbara Sheridan)
Band of Assassins is an interesting film though as so often seems to happen the major players don’t fit the historic people they portray in terms of age or appearance. However, I have to admit that Toshiro Mifune does bear some resemblance to the actual Kondou Isami. AND it’s also noted that he “changes” after becoming Shisnengumi head, apparently this is something drawn from real life as Nagakura, Saitou and a few others did end up going to Matsudaira Katamori and asking for Kondou to be dealt with because of his attitude change (that isn’t mentione din the film though).
Hijikata and Yamanami are far older than the actual men but again their portrayals do fit in well with the information I’ve come across. The same goes for Okita, I thought he was handled very well although they show him meeting his end by being shot at Toba-Fishimi.
The character I was most anxious to see was Serizawa Kamo (portrayed by Rentaro Mikuni father of the current NHK version of Serizawa–Sato Koichi) I much prefer the Sato angsty/troubled Seriawa as opposed to the totally messed up, pathetic alcoholic Rentaro version.
Another major disappointment was the absence of Saitou Hajime. In fact I think he’s suposed to be the character referred to as Kayama Goro as he’s mentioned after Okita, Yakamura Shinpachi (whom I suppose is Nagakura), Todo Heisuke, and Harada (A)Sanosuke the original Shieken members.
Todo is the only one mentoned as leaving with the Itou group and nothing is mentioned at all about there being a spy (Saitou) in their ranks. Kondou is shown as the one who corners Itou in a dark street and does him in.
Something else which I found interesting was the way Matsudaira responded when his aide brought him the application from Kondou, Serizawa & company asking to be put under the Aizu peace keeping forces. Matsudaira told the aide to go ahead and approved the sponsorship and that they’d treat them like a pack of “pet dogs”. While I doubt this was Matsudaira’s actual personal belief I imagine quite a few people considered the Shinsengumi no more than that. The Shogunate’s trained guard dogs.
(commentary by SecretaryToCapt3)
Toshiro Mifune’s portrayal was one of the few enjoyable elements of this film. Finally, we get to see a capable Kondou Isami who was also willing to defuse a situation at Shimabara with a sword dance.
The film also shows the Shinsengumi with a tan uniform rather than the typical light blue we are accustomed to seeing.
Okita was perhaps the most worst example of miscasting I have ever seen. Although, I understand that it is popular to portray the swordsman with a slight figure in anime and manga I didn’t imagine him to be huge. The actor seemed too old to be sporting the haircut associated with Okita.
Before Itou defected, Hijikata had a serious meeting with the scholar. In a brief moment Hijikata nods to a man sitting in the adjacent room. I believe that man was Saitou Hajime!
A detail I appreciated was the local farmers from Tama coming forth to greet their hometown boys and offering assistance. This is no exaggeration, Kondou Isami as well as Hijikata Toshizou had deep ties with the elite farmers.
Unlike other films, Band of Assasins also shows the hardship of people in Kyoto with the rioting and numerous fires as the political situation escalated.
While certainly, not the best portrayal of Shinsengumi the film did bring in detail other films have avoided.
(Commentary by Barbara Sheridan)
This is a well done, good looking but bizarre little movie that delves deeply into the Shinsengumi Keppuroku chapter “The Boy With Bangs”. Basically one of the Shinsengumi’s impressive new recruits is a very pretty young man named Kano Sozaburo. And I do mean pretty as you can see from the posters above. As one might imagine in a place where men are stuck with men pretty much 24/7, young Kano starts becoming the object of many men’s desires though he seems not to be interested.
CRUEL STORY at the END of the TOKUGAWA SHOGUNATE or Brutal Story at End of the Tokugawa Shogunate
This film features the murder of Serizawa Kamo and death of Yamanami Keisuke. Feature characters are Okita, Yamanami Keisuke and the elusive Yamazaki Susumu and some serious partying….
SHQ member Barbara Sheridan: Whoever titled this movie was dead on which you’ll see the moment they begin “testing” the new potential Shinsengumi recruits. This is a most interesting and most unflattering film portrayal of the Shinsengumi as a whole which leads me to believe that it may be a bit truer than we fans who tend to idolize the Miburo would like.
SHQ member Phil: Okay, my brain is totally fried — I’ve just finished watching this film and I am completely blown away by it. Whatever you have to do to see it, just do it!
Wonderful, gritty look at the internal world of the Shinsengumi from just after the Ikedaya Affair to just past the death of Yamanami. Fundoshi theft, homoerotic playfulness, guy talk about women & Shimabara (including Kondou’s 4 babes), a sweet love story, patrol changes, after-hours in the barracks, execution of law breakers, a samurai bacchanal, the clash of strong personalities, testing new recruits, man’s inhumanity to man, history, regrets, blood & gore, Saitou — it’s got a little of everything. The ending is just too amazing to even consider hinting at.
The flashback of Serizawa’s assassination is pure poetry and exactly as I read about it. I swear, the words came right to life before my eyes.
Every Shinsengumi fan should have a copy of it!!!
SHQ member Secretarytocapt3:
What concerns me is the back cover of the film
“This is another view of that group without the usual white washing of their character”
which means 2 things:
1) they tried their best to tell it like it was [or]
2) they went -overboard- in trying to dispel the “hero” image.
To me personally the movie was a ~bit~ more of #2. My impression is this movie is a skillful mix of parody and satire and 100% PURE TOP-NOTCH ENTERTAINMENT!!!!.
The movie tried to be a bit balanced with a scene in which a letter is read regarding ‘normal’ police work the Shinsengumi did—breaking up a gathering which could’ve escalated into a riot. But the screenwriter should’ve pulled just a bit more material from the historic battlefield records. I know the Shinsengumi weren’t practicing a “peace & love” approach to their work but really 3 fatalities during intake fighting on one day? I prefer the term intake fighting over “tryouts” because the latter conjures up cheerleader auditions
Now I totally love the “atmosphere” in the barracks…very realistic and exactly how I imagined it (we are talking about a bunch of guys)…being a member of the Shinsengumi is understandably a high risk job…but [so] is being a serving woman in the headquarters. I thought it was neat how the bookworm was shown amongst the guys…just shows the wide ranging demographics (wonder how did -this- guy past the tests!). I wonder if they harassed the Christians (there were 2-3 if I recall) or artist like Nakajima Nobori.
The movie is incredibly dense and excels in trying to capture group peer pressure or group psychology which must’ve existed.
I also found some of the sword school (martial linage) names were wrong or the screenwriter chose the lesser known possibilities…e.g. Okita Souji says a totally different school school than Tennen Rishin Ryu which was his dominant style (but like Saitou he seemed to have cross trained according to a Japanese site).
If you do want a “fast” and entertaining movie then this film is for you!