Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actor: Yoshio Harada
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House
A must-see for any samurai fans, The Mikogami Trilogy follows a lone outcast named Jokichi, whose quest for revenge takes up three action-packed films. The limbs will fly and the blood will spurt as Jokichi wanders the co... more »
Decent Entry Of The 1970's Chambara Genre
Ernest Jagger | Culver City, California | 11/21/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"One of the first things I noticed when I watched my VHS copies of the "Mikogami Trilogy" was the character of Jokichi (Yoshio Harada). It's amazing that he has been around for so long, and having viewed the 2nd film of the trilogy many years ago during its release in Los Angeles, I was amazed at how young he looked while viewing these films recently. Boy, am I getting old. This films protagonist, with his long shaggy hair and rough edges, was a new sort of film breed during its release in the early 70s. Gone were the narrative dramas of the previous samurai flicks, and in came a whole new breed of the exploitation samurai films of the genre. Not that this is a bad thing. Case in point, "Lone Wolf And Cub" starring the bigger than life Tomisaburo Wakayama. [Although there was "Hanzo the Razor"] And while I believe that the ZATOICHI films were the best that the samurai films had to offer during this era, that does not mean these films will not be enjoyed by many.
These films do not have the same narrative flow that one would find with earlier samurai films, as the audiences at the time thirsted for more blood splattering sword play. And the studios were more than willing to unleash a whole new style of samurai flicks. And once again, this is not a bad thing, as I enjoy "Lone Wolf And Cub" quite a bit. And whereas "Lone Wolf And Cubs" very own Tomisaburo Wakayama was a one man army, devastating in his fight against the minions he fought--ALL single handedly--while Katsu Shintaro would strike down two dozen yakuza within a matter of seconds, Jokichi was the sort of protagonist who would need the occasional help and sheer dumb luck to get out of some of his predicaments.
However, for those who savor their samurai flicks with lots of blood, these films [and especially the last] are just the type of flicks you'll enjoy. I too find films of this nature entertaining, and that is what the studios and fans wanted at the time: SATE THE APPETITE OF THE TICKET BUYERS. One of the most important elements of these films [actually there are many] is that they were directed by Kazuo Ikehiro. He was well known for the samurai genre, even doing a couple of the "ZATOICHI" episodes, such as "Zatoichi And The Chest Of Gold" [No. 6 in the entry] and the elusive "Zatoichi's Pilgrimage" [No.14 in the series, and difficult to acquire in the USA---although it is available if you know where to look].
The films first episode is "Trail of Blood." Jokichi (Yoshio Harada) is a great wandering swordsman until one day he meets a woman named Okinu, and decides to settle down for a life of peace. Prior to this, Jokichi has had a run in with a Yakuza clan who vow vengeance on him. Things go great in Jokichi's life as he marries Okinu and has a child. However, while away on business he meets up with the very clan he has offended. What ensues is not very good for Jokichi. Without divulging too much, he will have two of his fingers cut off, and will add something new to the samurai character [refer to "Hanzo the Razor"] with an emphasis on the Razor. Moreover, something terrible happens to his family, and Jokichi will go on the hunt for three yakuza he has vowed to kill. Yet, as the viewer you can sympathize with Jokichi and his revenge. There is not too many sword fights in this episode, as the films narrative gives a more detailed plot on Jokichi and what has driven him to seek revenge. This first entry is very good in fact.
The second installment is "The Fearless Avenger." I saw this one at a theater many years ago in L.A. Most of this film basically deals with Jokichi escorting a yakuza bosses daughter to her home--for Jokichi is doing this in order to get information on one of the men he is after. There is not much in the way of narrative development in this episode, however it does give the viewer the action scenes that are missing from the first episode. Lots of blood and swordplay in this 2nd installment. The final installment is probably the most bloodiest of the three. It is titled "Slaughter In The Snow," and it is a very apt title. Those who like their samurai flicks with a lot of blood will probably like this the most.
Yet, this last episode leaves a lot to be desired. That is not to say others will not like it. I enjoyed the first two episodes more. Also, in this last episode--will Jokichi finally track down the last villain he has been searching for? I will not divulge this. However, one point I would like to make, and that is I REALLY think that this was never meant to be a trilogy. In fact, I think this was actually one of those samurai epics that was meant to continue, but the audience may not have been into a fourth or more episode, and you will see why when the ending occurs. For some reason, it feels like there should be another just so Jokichi can continue his quest. Anyway, I recommend the films, and if you liked the "LONE WOLF AND CUB" series, then you might want to give this set a look. It is well worth adding to ones samurai collection. Also, this new DVD set is offered by Animeigo, which is a good thing, because they do good translations and transfers. If anybody has seen their earlier releases, such as the ZATOICHI films, then you will see that their films more than live up to their reputation: Especially the subtitles. Recommended [Stars: 3.5]"
Zack Davisson | Seattle, WA, USA | 01/21/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Samurai flicks, like all long-running genres, have their eras. The Golden Age of the 1950s and 60s had directors like Kurosawa and Kobayashi telling stately stories of honor and politics, with classical samurai themes and tropes. In the 70s, however, it was all about the crowd-pleasing spectacle of blood and vengeance.
The "Mikogami Trilogy" is a perfect example of the 70s samurai. This is Shaft compared to The Godfather, with Harada Yoshio's (Lady Snowblood - Love Song of Vengeance) character Jokichi slaughtering and swaggering to funky baselines rather than austere koto music. This is all style and fun, without the social themes and bottomless depth of the Golden Age films. And there is nothing wrong with that.
Obviously, there are three films in the trilogy, but it seems likely that more were intended. Director Ikehiro Kazuo was a veteran of "series" flicks, having filmed a few Zatoichi entries, like Zatoichi's Flashing Sword and Zatoichi and the Chest of Gold, as well as several "Sleepy Eyes of Death" flicks. It is possible that Mikogami was supposed to be the start of a new series that never really took off, or maybe they just wanted to leave the trilogy open-ended. The series is based on a serialized novel by Sasazawa Saho, and was originally marketed in the US as the "Trail of Blood" series when released on VHS, although the official title "Mushukunin mikogami no Jokichi" translates as "The Drifter Jokichi of Mikogami". For this DVD release, Animeigo has re-titled the series "The Mikogami Trilogy".
The first film "Trail of Blood" (original title "Kiba wa hikiretsuita" or "The Fang has been torn loose"), sets the stage with Jokichi as a bad man reformed by the love of a bad woman. A prostitute loves a killer, and together they vow to leave behind their world of bodies and blood to start a new life in peace. Jokichi's former enemies don't want to let him off so easy, however, and things don't go well for his new wife and child (or for Jokichi, for that matter, who tries to pay his debt the old-fashioned yakuza way). With everything he loved take from him, the path of vengeance is the only road he can walk.
The next film, "Fearless Avenger" ("Kawakaze ni kako wa nagareta" or "The past has flowed away with the breeze from a river"), gives Jokichi a detour from his vengeance. He is commanded to protect the daughter of a powerful ganglord, who will in return help Jokichi find the men responsible for killing his wife and daughter. This almost feels like a Zatoichi set-up, but Jokichi's world is not as kind as the blind swordsman's, and things quickly go from bad to worse.
The final film, "Slaughter in the Snow" ("Tasogare ni senko ga tonda" or "Sparks fly in twilight") finishes off the trilogy, but not in the way expected. Make no mistake, there are buckets of blood splattered across the white snow, and Jokichi gets to do some fine slaughtering, but he has also matured in his quest, and no longer seems to have the drive to revenge. He hooks up with a partner named "Whirlwind" Kobunji and they set off on a different quest. I don't want to give away too many plot points, but this is definitely not the ending I had foreseen.
The "Mikogami Trilogy" is far from the greatest Japanese film series ever made, but it is still a good time and worth checking out. There are some fantastic visuals, my favorite of which is Jokichi's basket-like hat slowly falling apart as the series progresses, showing more and more of his face. The sword fighting is also excellent; Jokichi loses some of his fingers in the first film, and has to adopt a creative style in order to keep cutting his enemies, as well as using his remaining fingers as a lethal claw. As always, Animeigo has put together a nice package, with top-quality subtitles, production notes and some other bonus features.
Great retro-Yakuza Bloodbath!
asugar2 | Seattle USA | 10/06/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Great Bloody retro-Yakuza Action! Typical Yakuza revenge setting. The anti-Hero, Jokichi of Mikogami (Yoshio Harada), a famed wandering lone-wolf, yakuza rescues a girl, Okinu (a teahouse owner) from a gang of Yakuza & scars their leader Kyubei on his forehead. Okinu wants him to settle down & start a family, so they run away, change thier identity & he tries to go straight & puts away his sword & other Yakuza gear. Everything is fine for 3 years & they have a son as Jokichi becomes a wood ornament craftman but then as Jokichi is traveling he runs into Kyubei's men who drag Jokichi to their Oyabun (boss) Kyubei. Jokichi tell Kyubei that he has gone straight & has taken a non-violence vow. Even after he's beaten, thrown into the sewer mud, pissed-on, & has 2 of his fingers smashed & is forced to chop them off off, he still refuses to fight. Jokichi limps back home and finds his wife brutally raped mutiple times and his wife & son both brutally killed, Kyubei clearly having notified the Yakuza world of his whereabouts and calling on anyone in the area to strike out. Needless to say, this drives Jokichi over the edge and in typical revenge Yakuza film fashion, he dusts off his sword, makes some sharpened nail-talons for his dismembered hand, puts on his white Yakuza gear and sets out to kill the three key Yakuza behind the slaughter of his family, Oyabuns (bosses's) Kyubei, Chuji, and Chogoro.
In Fearless Avenger, Jokichi tracks Chogoro down and impulsively confronts him during a gathering of all the Yakuza Oyabun (bosses) of eastern Japan. His head is saved from being killed outright by 100 Yakuza by "Thunder" Juzaburo, the most powerful boss at the meeting, who, despite Jokichi's rudeness, respects the ostracized outlaw's courage. Jokichi's waves, later lead to Boss Umezo asking Jokichi a favor, he wants him to find Juzaboro's 16 yr old runaway/bratty daughter & bring her back to her father. Jokichi initially refuses, he is after all an Yakuza outlaw, banned from both civilized and crime society and, in addition a wanted/hunted man with a huge price on his head (dead or alive), but the prospect of money as well as the good favor to a powerful Oyabun is too much temptation for him to refuse. Naturally, as is the case with Jokicki's life, things turn out quite badly and is hunted by a killer-squad of mercenery Samurai ronin & killer Yakuza.
Slaughter in the Snow being the last film in the Jokichi Mikogami series is the weaker of the trilogy, Jokichi takes a backseat, his character drive is muted while the focus is on knife-throwing assassin and tuberculosis sufferer "Windmill" Kobunji. It is the same technique the Zatoichi series employed, the Fugitive style storytelling (and no doubt indicative of its comic/Manga source as well) where our anti-hero finds himself drawn into the affairs of others. Thing is, Ichi was a lovable scoundrel. Jokichi is just depressing. So, it is the final film, yet there is absolutely no resolution. Well , except for all his friends getting killed in typical Asian\Japanese movie plot. Asians do love a Sad-ending!"