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.