壬生義士伝, Mibu Gishi Den
Directed by Yojiro Takita 滝田 洋二郎
Written by Jiro Asada and Takehiro Nakajima
Starring Kiichi Nakai 中井 貴一 and Koichi Sato 佐藤 浩市
I've always been a sucker for historical dramas. If you add in the Shinsengumi [新選組] and the Bakumatsu [幕末], I'm sold. This is inspired by the story of Yamanami Keisuke [山南 敬助], a member of the Shinsengumi who was from Nanbu (modern day Sendai area). Saitoh Hajime [斎藤 一] is also featured, which is just gravy since Saitoh is my favorite Kenshin character.
This movie is beautifully shot, and deeply tragic. Yamanami is conflicted by his dividied loyalties, to his clan, to the Shogun, to the Emperor, and to his family. The pace is slow, but the movie will reward your patience. Yamanami's fate is inevitable, because he has no place in the new Japan, but his earnest country bumpkin act will grow on you by the finale. Even Saitoh's cold heart melted a little.
This movie came out at the same time as The Last Samurai with Tom Cruise. While it lacks the Hollywood size budget and cast, it is definitely worth a look. The Japanese were enduring a civil war at the same time we were, that was equally decisive for the future path of Japan as ours.
The 1860s were a rough decade. The American Civil War, the Bakumatsu, the Taiping Rebellion, and the War of the Triple Alliance all going on simultaneously. The world really was ending. Maybe Yamanami got the better part of it.