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Samurai Vendetta (Hakuôki) - arthouse and international DVD / foreign language DVD / action and adventure DVD review
SAMURAI VENDETTA (Hakuôki) Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 4 stars
Featuring: Raizô Ichikawa, Shintarô Katsu, Chitose Maki, Ryôsuke Kagawa
Directors: Kazuo Mori   Distributor: Animeigo
DVD release: 12 October 2010   Runtime: 109 minutes (1 disc)
Format: Color, DVD, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD Features: Aspect ratio 2.35:1, Audio tracks (Dolby Digital Mono - Japanese), Subtitles (English), Image gallery, Cast and crew bios, Restoration gallery, Theatrical trailer

SAMURAI VENDETTA(Hakuôki)SAMURAI VENDETTA is a complex story of love, unrequited love, vengeance, honor and swordplay.

Two Samurai - Nakayama Yasube (Katsu Shintaro) and Tangé Tenzen (Ichikawa Raizo) - meet briefly on the road while Yasube is running to help his uncle defend himself from the Murakami Brothers. Yasube becomes a celebrity after his performance in this battle.

Both Samurai have been dismissed from their respective schools; Tenzen for not taking up the battle of the Murakami Brothers (from his school), Yasube in order to keep the peace between the rival schools. It's an honor thing. That very day Yasube falls instantly in love with Chiharu (Maki Chitose), the sister of a man who hopes to hire him. He later learns that Tangé is engaged to Chiharu. These two men's lives intertwine often in the course of the film, but not as angry rivals.

The men exchange favors as time goes by; Yasube takes responsibility for Tangé's accidental killing of a dog, and Tangé defends Yasube against several men seeking revenge for the Murakami Brothers. After the wedding, Tangé must leave Chiharu for a time to conduct his business. Five men who lost in the fight against Tangé decide to take their revenge upon Chiharu. This puts Tangé in a difficult position. He loves his wife, but honor dictates that a violated woman cannot be called a man's wife. If they should separate, the woman would be compelled to commit seppuku (suicide). Since the public believes that she's committed adultery, he should be expected to kill her, but he can't do that. It's a real mess.

SAMURAI VENDETTA is a well-illustrated look onto the minefield that was Japanese society in the early 1700s. Bushido and societal expectations for Samurai and other members of high society were complicated enough that a book larger than the U.S. tax code might only scratch the surface.

Director Kazuo Mori uses interesting methods to illustrate emotion throughout. At a few poignant points, the background changes to an almost cartoonish color to mark the moment. A similar technique is employed during the scenes explaining why it was unwise to kill dogs at the time.

Animeigo includes some suggested reading concerning the tale of the 47 Ronin in which the story is couched. As usual for their films, the subtitles are color-coded for easier reading, and notes are displayed concerning relevant terms or references. The only suggestion I have for this film concerns the audio: there are many distracting pops and periodic humming.
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reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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