ReviewWriter: Casey LeeWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
“The Last Ronin” and Samurai films.
When Sakunosuke (Noriyuki Hagashiyama) of the Inui household is summoned to meet his feudal lord of the Unasaka clan, he is bequeathed with the task of finding and executing Morie Sakuma (Kataoka Ainosuke); a former samurai of the clan who has abandoned his duties and is reportedly hiding in a distant outpost.
The assignment is not one that is easy for Sakunosuke to accept because Sakuma is his brother-in-law, and there is also the danger that Sakunosuke's sister, Tazu (Rinko Kakuchi), who had also fled with Sakuma, may use her trained sword skills against her own brother in order to defend her husband. As Sakunosuke is troubled by finding a balanced solution to restore his family's honour without resorting to killing his own kin, his own retainer Shinzo (Ryo Katsuji) requests that he be allowed to accompany his master to aid him on his mission.
Adapted from Fujisawa Shuhei's novel, the plot of "Ogawa no Hotori" is pretty much standard samurai literature that goes into the familiar territories of honour, loyalty, family and love. But as the good half of the film is structured around expositions, the stakes are slowly dipped into murky waters as the reason for Sakuma's insubordination and death sentence become clearer. There is a building sense of dilemma as to how Sakunosuke and Shinzo should face the inevitable, and this is further complicated by the deep respect between Sakunosuke and Sakuma have for each other. Although the relationship between Shinzo and Tazu seemed a little childish, but it is given proper closure in the end.
On the technical aspects though, "Ogawa no Hotori" is a well-crafted piece in the hands of director Shinohara Tetsuo, and this compliment is not only reserved for his precise direction of the seasoned cast. It is easy to be taken in by the cinematography of the breathtaking landscapes that Sakunosuke and Shinzo travel through, and the score by Satoshi Takebe that accompanied it is a flash of brilliance to the experience. Even though the story focuses more on the inner turmoil of the characters than the bloodletting, the fight scenes are tightly choreographed and it sufficiently paid off during the final duel.
As there are no winners and losers in a world of honour, casual fans of the samurai genre may find the appeal of "Ogawa no Hotori", which is worthy of being added into their watch list, or for anyone who enjoyed last year's "The Last Ronin". Cinema Online, 19 September 2013