DVD/Blu Ray

Samurai Reincarnation (18) |Home Ents Review

Dir. Kinji Fukasaku, Japan, 1981, 122 mins, Japanese with subtitles

Cast: Sonny Chiba, Kenji Sawada, Ken Ogata, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akiko Kana

Review by Colin Dibben

Crazed, pulp-fiction swordplay goings-on get up inside your head in this supernatural samurai film from the director of Battle Royale.

Christian martyr Amakusa Shiro (Sawada) is resurrected after pleading allegiance to dark powers. He pledges to destroy the Tokugawa clan who massacred thousands of Christians during the Shimabara Rebellion.

His plan? Recruit famous dead or dying swordsmen, a monk and a female Christian convert, sign them up with the dark side so that their powers are greater than ever, then create chaos across the land and infiltrate the shogun’s castle at Edo.

One of Shiro’s recruits is the aging Musashsi (Ogata). His arch-rival, terminally ill Tajima (Wakayama) attempts to stop the evil plot but succumbs to his disease. It’s up to his son, Jubei (Chiba) to uncover that his father secretly paid a legendary swordsmith to forge a sword that can kill demons. Jubei goes in search of the sword.

Based on a series of popular novels, themselves based on historical events and characters, this is outrageous, spectacular stuff. Designed to be a mega-hit, Fukasaku assembled a classy cast: not just Sonny Chiba on good form, but also androgynous rock star Sawada (“Julie” to his friends), Ken Ogata (Mishima), Tomisaburo Wakayama (Lone Wolf and Cub) and Akiko Kana.

The framing and editing are slightly frenetic and 1980s for my taste, but there’s a lovely vivid colour palette and the weird things keep coming.

Sonny Chiba underplays here to good effect and there’s a nice ‘competitive dad’ angle when Tajima resurrects just to have the opportunity to fight his son one more time. The flames in the three-way fight in the burning castle at the end look very realistic; the actors had to be drenched in water to stop them burning while filming.


Samurai Reincarnation is out from Eureka! on Blu-ray as of 19 June 2023.