BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL: Takashi Miike Unleashes Bloody Brilliance for his 100th Film [Blu-review]

The Manga comic gets a very worthy adaptation that goes down as one of Miike’s finest efforts

Japanese director Takashi Miike has had a memorable career, marking his debut in 1995 with the film The Third Gangster, but it was the Shinjuku Triad Society late that year that drew plaudits. The twisted romance Audition in 1999 really ignited his cult following in the West, something solidified with the notorious Ichi the Killer in 2001 and the highly regarded epic 13 Assassins soon after. Making 100 films is no mean feat, and he marks the event with an Manga adaptation into which he poured his own unique style. Previously limited to the festival circuit and limited theatrical runs, it is now available on Blu-ray.


Samurai Manji has taken a lot of lives, both innocent and guilty, and now lives life in feudal Japan as a criminal. After being cursed with immortality until he kills enough evil men, Manji meets a young girl who enlists him to be her body-guard. Swearing loyalty, protection and vengeance against the group of sword fighters who slaughtered her family, the unlikely duo set on a remarkable quest to make right against those who did them wrong.

Blade of the Immortal tells of Manji (Takuya Kimura), a samurai wandering Japan, cursed with immortality by an old woman named Yaobikuni as a punishment for his killing of his master and 100 other men, an act of vengeance for the murder of his sister. Fifty years later, Manji is sought out by a young girl named Rin (Hana Sugisaki), whose father was killed by the “Itto-ryu,” a group of warriors intent on conquering every dojo in the region. She soon recruits his skills and immortality to help her mission of revenge.

Blade is first and foremost a blast, a thrilling combination of action and humor that gets the blood pumping, and in many instances gushing. An adaptation of a Manga comic, those cartoonish origins feel infused into the film, giving it a playful vitality. As you’d expect from Miike, he doesn’t skimp on the morbid humor and twisted visuals, putting his own distinct stamp on the whole bloody affair. The film deals with notable themes resonant in Japanese culture: conflict between good and bad, heroes and villains, and above all else codes of honor and paths to redemption. Their presence raises the film above being gratuitous or overly indulgent in terms of violence. Tempering also comes from comedic moments. Some are heartfelt, stemming from the (tragically sibling-like) relationship between Manji and Rin, and others are more morbidly comical. Manji is indeed immortal, but he can be hurt, cut, and dismembered, only to put himself back together again. Needless to say, this is milked for all it’s worth.

The action scenes showcase impressively choreographed, imaginative, and often beautiful fight sequences, with battles moves that stir and elicit cheers. There’s plenty of character to the fighting styles as well as those villainous hordes and individuals that Manji faces too. Wide-shots are favored over closeups, reducing the frenetic feel that can often swallow action, instead opening up its scope, nuance, and impact. The occasional use of hand-held cameras is a little disorienting though. The film runs 150 minutes, and you can feel it — a little overindulgence at times, lack of editing at others. There is a little redundancy, but for the most part Miike drops in something new or interesting to keep things moving as repetitiveness starts to creep in. It’s hard to deny that the exultation and elation brought about by the excellent finale, which also comes with an exhalation of relief. It’s a small grievance that takes little away from an impressively crafted affair.

The Package

The film presentation is solid on this Blu-ray release. Good detail and contrast, with colors that are bold but natural. Natural grain is evident; the transfer is free of any artifacts, although some of the aforementioned hand-held shot scenes lose a little definition. Special features are:

  • Manji Vs. 300: A featurette that delves into the shooting of the impressive final fight sequence that brings the film to its climax.
  • Poster Gallery
  • Trailers
  • Cast Interviews: Some short interviews and behind the scenes footage with the cast.
  • Takuya Kimura Interview: The star of Blade of the Immortal discusses working on the film and with Miike in particular.

The Bottom Line

Takashi Miike marks his centenary of films with one of the best of his career. Blade of the Immortal delivers a fantastical tale with flashes of Miike’s twisted sensibility, which moves at a hell of a pace despite the lengthy runtime. A work of bloody brilliance from Miike that gets a fine treatment on Blu-ray.

Blade of the Immortal is available on DVD, Blu-ray & Steel-Book from February 13th, 2018.

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