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The Dai-bosatsu toge trilogy is based on Kaizan Nakazatos unfinished long series of novels (41 books, written from 1913 to 1941). Set in the last period of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Daibosatsu Toge tells the story of Tsuke Ryunosuke, a nihilistic swordmaster who doesnt hesitate to kill anyone, bad or good. Despite the authors explicit refusal, the series were later made into plays and movies several times. This trilogy stars Raizo Ichikawa: Daibosatsu Toge (Satans Sword: Great Buddah Pass) [1960, directed by Kenji Misumi], Daibosatsu Toge: Ryuujin no Maki (Satans Sword: The Dragon God) [1960, directed by Kenji Misumi], Daibosatsu Toge: Kanketsu Hen (Satans Sword: The Final Chapter) [1961, directed by Kazuo Mori]
The second entry in Misumi’s Daibosatsu Toge trilogy starts where the first one left off. We see the aftermath of Ryunosuke Tsukue’s duel with Hyoma Utsugi, both of whom have survived and lots of bodies litter the ground. The rest of this 88 minutes chapter takes us on a journey through central Japan as Ryunosuke escapes from the duel and tries to settle down as a teacher in a dojo before he becomes involved with the Tenchu Group, a small group of rebels that the Tokugawa Shogunate is hunting down. In the meantime he gets emotionally involved with a woman that bears an akin resemblance to his deceased wife Ohama, we also find out what happened to his son Ikutaru, and we watch Hyoma hunt down Ryunosuke to extract his just revenge. Eventually his actions will lead him to seek refuge in the Dragon God Mountain where he will once again face off with his sworn enemy. That’s the plot in a nutshell.
Revenge is the main motivating factor that pushes the story forward here, but what provides the acute dramatic punch is Ryunosuke’s tragic fate. Plagued by the bad kharma he brought upon himself at the start of the first Daibosatsu Toge, his acts seem to lead nowhere but down. There’s no rise and fall for this guy. Just fall. Even when he tries to settle down in a dojo and begin life anew, there’s bad luck lurking around the corner. Can a man such as himself be redeemed in the end? He doesn’t seem to think he even deserves it. He’s not one to wallow in self-pity, although his monologues have a tinge of hopelessness and resignation, but he’s more determined to keep pushing deeper in his own hell.
Kenji Misumi’s direction is again adequate as a stepping stone to his early 70’s masterpiece that is Lone Wolf and Cub. There’s no arterial sprays here though and the swordfights lack the energetic quality of those films. They’re more akin to the works of Kurosawa and classic jidai-geki, although the swordfighting leaves a lot to be desired in terms of technique. The set pieces and cinematography are very good, occasionally hampered by the use of studio sets. Comparisons to the 1966 masterpiece Sword of Doom (which is essentially a remake of the first Satan’s Sword) are inevitable and one cannot help but think what Kihachi Okamoto’s planned sequels to that movie would have looked like. There’s dramatic potential here as Ryunosuke’s story unfolds and action scenes that would have made a Sword of Doom 2 a definite masterpiece. Sadly, they never materialised.
Overall if you came all the way here to read this review, you’re probably a chambara fan so Satan’s Sword 2 will be right up your alley. This is also a must-see for fans of Sword of Doom that wanna find out what happens to Ryunosuke after the very abrupt ending of the ’66 movie. Just don’t expect a mind-blowing masterpiece and you’ll be fine. Not a classic by any means, but a worthy addition to any fan’s collection and entertaining throughout.
Original title 大菩薩峠 竜神の巻
IMDb Rating 7,0 82 votes
TMDb Rating 7