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Byakkotai (1984) : ShinsengumiHQ

Byakkotai (1984)

November 2, 2008 · Filed Under fiction 
review by SHQ member Tama
(Note the images are screencaps from an unsubtitled copy of this 1984 TBS series . Hopefully this film will be made available to the audience here in the USA someday! )
I watched this TV film for the first time when it was aired a long long time ago, and what I can remember now about it is this film made me cry and cry.
I re-watched this one few days ago and it still made me cry, seeing those young boys committing suicide, the tragedy of Aizu people so proud and
loyal.As mentioned in the comment about this film in the filmography. This film has two parts.The first part shows well the complicated situation of Aizu.
There are some samurai of the domain like chief retainer Saigo Tanomo, who opposed Matsudaira Katamori receiving the office of Protector of Kyoto,
because they thought that would involve Aizu too much in political conflict.
They show also the tragic destiny of Jinbo Shuri (husband of Jinbo Yukiko) who must commit seppuku
after the defeat of Toba-Fushimi, as the one responsible of Katamori’s abandon.
Shinsengumi makes an appearance indeed, but they show only Kondo, Hijikata and Okita as main characters. There is no Saitou, nor other principal members.Nevertheless, Ikedaya Raid scene is awesome one. I especially like Okita portrayed by Katsuhiko Nakagawa in this film. Kondo and Hijikata are also good,but perhaps I’m now too captivated by NHK Shinsengumi! Hijikata.
The second part entirely focuses on Aizu War with many details. It’s really painful to see how Byakkotai boys decided to kill themselves,
suicide of Tanomo Saigo’s family including little girls and servants, extermination of Nihonmatsu Shounentai ( a unit formed by little boys younger than Byakkotai), etc…
There is also,mortal combat of female unit Joushitai with heroic death of
Takeko Nakano, gun fighting of brave Yaeko Yamamoto [also mentions here], Battle of Bonari Toge (They show only Hijikata,
however we can imagine at that time Saitou strayed from Shinsengumi for a while) .The actors and actress are most prestigious whom you can see in many other films like Hisaya Morishige (Okazumi Inoue), Koutaro Satomi(Yorimo Saigo),
Morio Kazama (Matsudaira Katamori), Yumi Takigawa (Princesse Teru of Aizu or Teruhime),Masaomi Kondo(Hijikata) etc…
Although many of us might regret the absence of Saitou or Tokio in this film,
watching this one makes us imagine his or her presence, and have an idea about what happened during the siege of Aizu.

I have to mention brief appearence of Tokio’s brother Takagi Morinosuke as a messenger.
Although Tokio’s cousin Takamine Hideo is not portrayed, the movie did show Matsudaira Katamori’s page in both Kyoto and Aizu (Hideo was the daimyo’s page from April 1868 until he was seperated from the Matsudaira family).

[Note from secretarytocapt3] Yamakawa Hiroshi (learn more here and here) was a key figure in the lives of both Saitou and Tokio as their matchmaker. One of my favorite parts is when Hijikata and the Shinsengumi run in and assist Sagawa “the Oni” Kanbei (of Aizu). Sagawa was just a blur on the battlefield and Hijikata sort of says “whoa who is that wild guy!”.

The Byakkotai were in awe of the Shinsengumi as they arrived in Aizu and they, like rockstar groupies, waited for their hero. Overall, this film is epic in scope and does not take the easy way out in appealing to the audience with its portrayal of Matsudaira Katamori’s key decisions. The audience is not forced to see the revolutionaries as “bad guys” either—there are fascinating and sympathetic figures amongst the Ishin Shishi as well. One such historical figure witnessed the various tragedies in Aizu and later wrote about them. Although lengthy and detailed the film is careful to exploit action scenes like Ikedaya which was well directed however they should have used dim/dark lighting as seen in Mifune’s BAnd of Assasins. All the key characters were well acted, especially Matsudaira Katamori (a tragic figure, stubborn leader who admits to his own mistakes).

Saigo Tanomo, is presented by a skilled actor who is the “Cassandra” of the narrative, equipped with wisdom, foresight and undying loyalty. The Byakkotai themselves won me over with their energy and youthful optimism. The director was clever to make sure that the viewer got as close as possible to the battlefield and the scenes shot in the forests were memorable and realistic. I hope that this film will be subbed and made available for all Shinsengumi fans.

A translation of the 8/18/63 scene (aka the Kinmon Incident) from “Byakkotai” from 0:50:55 to the 0:59:19 mark by Hirotada Tokugawa (Shimazu Masayoshi)
*footsteps*Katamori: “It’s time?”Katamori: “Hear me! From here on we will take command of the Nine Gates, and bring reassurance to the heart of the Emperor! No one except Aizu, Satsuma, and Yodo may pass!”Narrator: This incident of 8/18, later known as the Kinmon Incident, was this.Guards: “What domain are you? Stop!”*Shinsengumi flag appears*

Nomura: “I am liaison officer Nomura.”

Kondou: “We are Shinsengumi, under the patronage of Aizu-han. By order of the Liaison Office, we will take up security at the South Gate.”

Narrator: This was the first time that Shinsengumi officially took to the field under the patronage of Aizu.

*cut to Choshu-han residence*

(sign: “Choshu-han Kyoto Residence”)

Katsura: What?! Aizu-han soldiers at the Palace?!

Choshu officer: It’s not just Aizu-han….Satsuma and Yodo are there in droves! Their numbers must be above two thousand!

Katsura: No word from Prince Sanjo yet?!

Choshu officer: None yet.

Katsura: Come on, we need to get going! Hurry!

Narrator: By the time Choshu-han realized what had happened, the three clans had set up a solid defense, and it was the dawn of 8/18.

*cut to Kakuma’s position*

Yamamoto Saburo: “Brother, fire the signal shot.”

Kakuma: Right.

*Kakuma hesitates*

Saburo: Brother!

Kakuma: I can’t see….everything’s going dark and I can’t see! Saburo!

*cannon shot*

*cut to Choshu forces*

caption reads “Choshu retainer Masuda Uemonnosuke”

Masuda: What was that? Damn Aizu….come on, let’s keep going!

*caption: Sakai-machi Gate*

Masuda: Are you out of your minds? Sakai-machi Gate is under the supervision of Choshu!

caption: A Satsuma retainer

Satsuma retainer: (in thick Satsuma accent) What’re you sayin’? Under tha orders of the Emperor, this here gate’s under Satsuma control from today on! Git outta here!

Voice heard. “Withdraw! Withdraw! Your side must withdraw!”

Masuda: Who the hell are you?!

Akizuki: I am Aizu liaison officer Akizuki Teijiro! I will now read the Imperial decree! Pay heed with reverent ears! *everyone rises, and Akizuki reads the edict* The Imperial mind is troubled at recent events, and therefore this decree is issued. The Emperor’s rage knows no bounds. Therefore, Sanjo Chunagon and his faction are exiled. Choshu han is hereby removed from its duty at the Nine Gates!

Masuda: Stop talking shit! Men! Load the cannons!

*Shinoda Hyogo and Jinbo Shuri run up*

Shinoda: “Damn rebels! Go away! Get lost!”

Jinbo: “We’ve come all the way from Aizu just to get you! Get lost!”

*Satsuma retainer Takasaki Sataro appears*

Takasaki: “You men there! You would dare to raise a hand against the Emperor? If you want to fire, then go ahead and fire! You’ll be branded as rebels against the throne!”

Masuda: “Grrr…”

Tanaka Tosa: “Go home! The domains in charge of security are all under Aizu’s command now! Do you want Choshu to stand alone as a rebel? Go away!”

*Katsura and Maki’s men run up*

Katsura: If we come to blows here it’ll be bad. We ought to withdraw and wait for the next move.

Maki: But Prince Sanjo is still a concern. Katsura-kun…

*Maki and Katsura run down the street*

Katsura: “It’s sealed! I’m going in!”

*Shinsengumi appears*

Hijikata: “What clan are you with? Name yourself!”

Maki: “I am Maki Izumi of Kurume. We’re here to take charge of Prince Sanjo’s security.”

Hijikata: “You there…you’re Katsura-dono of Choshu?”

Katsura: “Indeed, I am Katsura Kogoro of Choshu-han.”

Kondou: “Prince Sanjo has been banished, so we can’t let you in. We’ll have to ask you to leave.”

Katsura: “No matter what?”

Okita runs up.

Okita: “If you don’t back off, you’ll have to face me.”

Katsura: “You look familiar.”

Okita: “At the Chiba dojo in Edo.”

Katsura: “Your name?”

Okita: “Okita Soji.”

Katsura: “I say this as a swordsman of the same school. I have seen the end of the Tokugawa. Will you record your name in history as a bodyguard of Aizu? Your desire must be one and one only. If you have a heart of Imperial reverence, we will welcome you into our ranks at any time.”

Okita: “My home is Oshu-Shirakawa. It’s closer to Edo than Kyoto. That’s all I have to say.”

Katsura: *frowns* “Come on, let’s go.”

*cut to Sakai-machi Gate*

Narrator: “In the end, for almost two days, the allied Aizu-Satsuma force that had surrounded the palace faced off against Choshu. And on the second night….Kyoto fell into torrential rain.”

*cut to rainy view of the ‘Flight of the Seven Nobles’ ”

Narrator: Sanjo Sanetomi and the pro-Choshu nobles left the Palace and headed to Choshu that night. To this day, it is remembered as “The Flight of the Seven Nobles”.

*Katsura and Maki stare in shock*

Aizu samurai: “Ei! Ei! Oh!” (victory yell)

Sanjo Sanetomi turns.

Sanjo: Damn you, Aizu! I sear I’ll get my revenge!

*panning shot over to Nomura and the Shinsengumi*

Hijikata: “Aizu-han sure did well.”

Nomura: “This way the capital will finally be peaceful.”

Kondou: “I dunno about any of that. I’m kind of mad that we got stuck in a big laundry pail like this.” (commenting on the rain)

Hijikata: “Yeah, that’s a bother indeed.”

*everyone laughs*

*cut to celebration ceremony at Kurotani, with people singing*

Narrator: “In those days, a song was popular in Kyoto:

‘Aizu Higo-sama is Protector of Kyoto. The Palace is safe, the nobles are secure. Peace has returned to the world.’”

*shot of Katamori smiling*

Narrator: “Aizu Lord General Matsudaira Katamori’s joy was increased by the letter of thanks and the poem which he received from Emperor Komei. These letters, which Katamori to the end of his days would always carry close to him, were to have a great importance in Aizu’s destiny. And though it was only for a short time, Aizu was, without question, the Imperial Army.”



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