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The Princess Blade (Special Edition)
The Princess Blade
Special Edition
Actors: Yumiko Shaku, Hideaki Ito, Y˘ichi Numata, Shir˘ Sano, Kyűsaku Shimada
Director: Shinsuke Sato
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Anime & Manga, Animation
R     2004     1hr 33min

Raised by assassins, Yuki is the last of the Takemikazuchi royal bloodline. A deadly weapon in her own right, she learns the gruesome truth about the death of her beloved mother. Turning her back on the assassins that be...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Yumiko Shaku, Hideaki Ito, Y˘ichi Numata, Shir˘ Sano, Kyűsaku Shimada
Director: Shinsuke Sato
Creators: Shinsuke Sato, John Ledford, Mark Williams, Takashige Ichise, Kazuo Kamimura, Kazuo Koike, Kei Kunii
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Anime & Manga, Animation
Sub-Genres: Martial Arts, Indie & Art House, Anime & Manga, Animation
Studio: Adv Films
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 11/09/2004
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 1hr 33min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
Edition: Special Edition
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English, Japanese
Subtitles: English
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Movie Reviews

Amazon's Princess Blade is a cut above
Thomas ODonnell | Illinois USA | 09/27/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"(Sorry for the pun...I couldn't help myself.)
This review is more to describe the quality of this DVD from, than it is of the film content--although, I think some reviewers here have been way too harsh on this film (great bushido action and SFX, good story).
I purchased "The Princess Blade" on ebay and saved a few bucks. What I got was a DVD with no menus in English and absoulutely HORRENDOUS sub-titles. It's like they chose to translate every 10th Japanese sentence and even then, only into English sentence fragments. Despite this, I liked the film enough to order it from
The new copy (from Amazon) has menus in English, an English soundtrack and subtitles so good you can follow the story and even follow nuances of the story.

The lesson I learned is that not all DVD distributions are created equal."
Beware of the Princess Assasin!
P. A Clark | San Jose, CA USA | 11/27/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The Princess Blade is a decent film, and packs a fair punch into the modern Samurai style film genre.The film centers around a young woman, Yuki, who starts off as an assasin for the House of Takemikazuchi.(a clan of X royal guards turned assasins for money) She turns on her house however, when she discovers that her mother was killed by the House years earlier. Yuki's mother had been a royal figure in a disbanded kingdom, which leaves Yuki as the only remaining aire and the title of Princess. (Thus the reason for the flims name) Yuki soon finds herself hunted by her former comrades, and she must battle them to save herself, as well as get revenge for her mother. At one point Yuki is wounded in one of the skimishes, and is befriended by Takashi, a young man who is in an insurrectional movement to overthrow the goverment that funds the Takemikazuchi. Takashi shares Yuki's peril of having a tragic history, which is revealed during the film. He also has a sister who is in a post tramatic state which causes her to be detached somewhat from reality. Yuki hides out with the two for awhile and begins to discover that she can again find happiness in her life. Eventually however, she is tracked down by the Takemikazuchi, and must fight them in one final showdown. The Princess blade was a good film both in story and in character development. The sword fights are well choregraphed, and the actors performances bring a genuine concern for the characters in the story. Also, there are a lot of similarities to Kill Bill, which was based in part on modern Japanese Smaurai style cinema. The film does have a tragic ending however, and leads me to believe that a sequal was in mind when this film was made.(it may not be the ending the viewer is rooting for) Also, like in many Japanese films, the stroy slows down quite a bit during the middle, which left me begging for a few more sword fights. That being the main reason for a 4 instead of a 5 star rating. The film is not as action packed as Versuses, but it's less gorey, and takes itself much more seriously. The tech aspects include both a Japanese and English dubbed language track,(ADV does a nice job on the dub) trailers of other films and that's about it. Overall I enjoyed THe Princess Blade, and would watch it again. But I doubt it's a movie that I would want to watch frequently. My advice is that renting it will suffice for most people, but hard core fans of Japanese cinema and modern Samurai style films might consider purchasing it. It does have it's moments."
This quiet flick about misfits who fight to survive against
Kurt Stallings | Fort Worth, Texas | 10/08/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Yuki Takemikazuchi (Yumiko Shaku) is the last blood member of the Takemikazuchi clan of that family and their associates, a band that has evolved from royal guardians into an independent society of trained assassins who specialize in using martial arts, focusing primarily on traditional Japanese sword craft. She is the "princess blade," the heir apparent by bloodline to assume command of the society at age 20, as did her mother before her violent death when Yuki was a little girl. She has been raised by the clan to wield the sword as swiftly as a thought, and to use her entire body as a lithe and lethal weapon. When the petite young woman is asked about her ability to kill like a wind filled with razors - and why she kills at all - she is puzzled, saying, "My body moves before I can think why. My body just moves." She has never known anything but life as an assassin in a post-environmental melt-down world where people are much more expendable than material resources.

Raised by the Takemikazuchi clan, prized as the last of the family that gave birth to their society, she regards killing as just a job, yet she is more quiet than merely cold. She is restlessly quiet, from which state she erupts with fury when she learns that the clan's principal strategist murdered her parents as part of a scheme to take over the society. Fleeing her clan, she survives repeated attacks from her former associates only by joining forces with Takeshi (Hideaki Ito), a young black marketeer and would-be revolutionary who hates the Takemikazuchi for reasons of his own. Essentially, the movie is a rogue ronin story with black and grey urban combat uniforms substituted for the traditional samurai costumes. The heroine replaces one dysfunctional clan with another that is almost as odd, but which at last gives her a "why" for using her killing skills. Smiling and laughing for the first time since she was a little girl, she dreams of escaping with her new found family to a simple life away from those hunting them -- but the odds are long.

Within the cinematic requirement of heroic displays of skill by the heroine, the martial arts work is realistic with some license; i.e., minimally wireless. It's martial arts for those few - those precious few - of us who prefer to watch credibly sharp fighting to the usual fare. Fights scenes are physical altercations rather than LSD flashbacks. Instead of people flying around like Peter Pan, you see combat with well executed swordplay (and some empty hand technique as well). And you see people make mistakes in the heat of battle -- even Yuki. You see people show fear, pain and injury -- even, and at times, especially, Yuki. She's very good at what she does, but the people hunting her aren't bad either, and by force of number they wrack her body with pain, stain her clothes with blood and put terror in her eyes. Precisely because she is not invulnerable to harm, the tough little assassin retains all her verve and twice the nerve yet still becomes someone you care about -- a daughter fleeing her mother's killers; a twenty year old woman fighting for her life against decades of corruption and violence; a darkened soul who sees one pale chance for a happy life and will use all of her formidable martial skills to win it.

After opening in an arid grassland filled with sun (and blood), the film shifts into a Hong Kong noir look - blue grey colors dominate the clothing, lens filters and moods. Smoke, fog and haze of all varieties frame the action. However, the film exchanges the usual Bladerunner urbanesque of future thrillers for a rural setting that recalls samurai sword adventure classics. Likewise, it adopts the haunting aspects of Japanese magic realism in dream and vision passages in which Yuki communes with her mother's spirit.

Princess Blade forswears the bared flesh that Hong Kong crime films have taken on since NAKED KILLER. If you're looking for nudity, you won't find it here. Believe me; I looked.


With big brown eyes as expressive as most peoples' entire face, Yumiko Shaku is irrevocably cute in a kawaii tomboy sort of way, but apart from a brief behind her bare back flirtation, the camera leaves her clothes on. It's the right choice for the tone of the film, which offers no gratuities in a tight, tense tale. Even that scene has its purpose. As she strips off her ersatz combat kit and shifts into the disguise of an ordinary country girl, it's the first time Yuki seems uncertain of herself. She hesitates, shooting nervous glances over her back; she is more terrified of normalcy than any dozen trained killers.

Opinions vary across the net as to Shaku's performance. A lot of people came to the film believing a pinup girl like Shaku wouldn't really provide one of any note. ("Pinup girl" is still a sort of occupation in Asia, long vanished from the States, although arguably it may have been responsible for the defeat of Nazism in the 1940s. Just kidding, hold off on the flames, all right?)

Granted, she was recruited to her first lead role in a feature film for her looks, which are especially appealing in her own country. Another reviewer has called her "idoru" cute, which is very apt in Japan with all the cultural baggage it involves, and works elsewhere provided you add adjectives like "incredibly" or "extremely" and perhaps a descriptive phrase like "hot as a five dollar pistol." I freely grant that her martial arts knowledge seems minimal. Note the shallow right sidehorse she throws in the scene where the old man in the woods surprises her: cute she is, but she is no Michelle Yeoh. It's a credit to Shinsuke Sato that the director was able to shoot the film leaving you with a vivid sense of competence on her part; the scenes were very carefully constructed. She simply had to respond with proper choreography and she did.

I believe she did quite well providing the emotional content of her part. Indeed, what's surprising is how well the pinup girl does as an actress. She doesn't overplay the part; she comes across quite believably as a cold, confused little killer who is just looking for a little peace after her entire world crumbles upon the truth being told.

This was not Hideaki Ito's first time front and center and it shows. Ito's performance is evocative of Takeshi Kaneshiro whose "Mo" in 1997's classic THE ODD ONE DIES, another story about a misfit couple in which the girl was tougher but the guy was more sensitive and wiser, that one set in the contemporary Hong Kong underworld.

Ito does a wonderful job conveying a young man of substantial talent determined to survive despite the odds. He's smart enough to know the odds are absolutely against him; he's even smart enough to realize the odds are absolutely against Yuki. His love for the broken-winged bird who lands in his home (deadly little Yuki) and for another broken-winged bird (no spoilers here) are what turn the film from competent to human, touching and well worth watching.

Kimberly Dilts (who dubbed Yuki's dialogue in English) and Adam Sultan (who dubbed for Takeshi) deserve full cast credit in the English version for bringing nuance, tone and exactly-fit emotion to their dialogue. In fact, I don't recall any film so well dubbed, from minor characters up through the leads. You have to pay attention to realize this film was not shot in English. Lean back and enjoy it, because the dubbing is well above the usual phoned in efforts of Asian martial arts movies brought across the lake. In part, this is because the film itself is translated rather than just the dialogue. Flip back and forth between the Japanese language / English subtitle feed, and the English dub, and you see lines that were altered to keep the narrative significance of the Japanese dialogue, rather than simply the literal words, and allowed for the dub to match the time that the characters mouth moved.

Do not watch this movie if you're looking for the "feel good picture of the year." It lacks Hollywood sensibilities; it doesn't assaults them so much as shrug them off in a fit of realism. In its theme of three people (yes, three - no spoilers, please) who are scarred, scared and trying to find simple normalcy and happiness, it is far too levelheaded about the power of evil, violence, lust, greed, and hatred to pretend that these things don't, in the end, tend to slice through good intentions and simple decency like a katana edge splitting silk.

THE PRINCESS BLADE is not a masterpiece (I think THE ODD ONE DIES is, by the way), but it is a very good little film, and it's well-balanced enough that you will watch it more than once if any of the several elements appeal to you: wireless martial arts, misfits fighting the system, tough girls learning to smile and cry again while keeping their hard-earned edge, tough boys rediscovering true purpose -- and a future world so bleak it appears prescient in light of recent events."
Fresh take on martial arts movies
Thomas ODonnell | 11/30/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I bought Princess Blade as a blind buy, and overall I really liked it. I think what really made it feel original to me was the way they showed the futuristic setting. There weren't a lot of dumb costumes or cheesy touches to overemphasize the fact that the characters are in "the future". There was one amazing shot of a super high-speed train speeding by the construction of a huge Orwellian statue of some kind of "supreme leader", and there were a couple of radio broadcasts giving us similar hints of a dystopian future setting, but it was all very subtle. Also, I liked the fact that although it was a futuristic setting, most of the fight scenes took place out in the forest. The action choreography (almost completely consisting of swordfights) is quite well done and not as fantastical as a lot of 90's Hong Kong wire-fu movies---there's very little use of wires or undercranking. The story, casting and acting are quite good, although the film suffers somewhat from an obviously limited budget. Also, although there is some blood, the movie is not excessively gory. Unfortunately, the ADV DVD picture quality is not very good for such a recent movie---it's non-anamorphic, and there are some compression artifacts evident. Overall though, I thought the swordfight scenes were very good, the performances and story were touching, and the setting was unique and subtle. A very enjoyable, fresh and stylized take on martial arts movies."