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Hana: The Tale of a Reluctant Samurai
Hana The Tale of a Reluctant Samurai
Actors: Yoshio Harada, Katsuo Nakamura, Teruyuki Kagawa, Yui Natsukawa, Susumu Terajima
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama, Anime & Manga, Animation
PG     2008     2hr 7min

What happens when those charged with taking life begin to cherish it? From award-winning filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-Eda, Hana deconstructs the legend of the samurai with a delicate mix of laughter and emotion.The year is 1702...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Yoshio Harada, Katsuo Nakamura, Teruyuki Kagawa, Yui Natsukawa, Susumu Terajima
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama, Anime & Manga, Animation
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama, Anime & Manga, Animation
Studio: Funimation
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen
DVD Release Date: 06/24/2008
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 2hr 7min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 5
MPAA Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

3 Stars: Living a Happy Life may sometimes be the Best Rev
Woopak | Where Dark Asian Knights Dwell | 06/22/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"HANA: Tale of the Reluctant Warrior is more commonly known as "Hana Ebi Mo Nao" in Asia. The film follows the formulas that made chambara films famous with a bit more humanity and satire. Hirokazu Kore-Eda's take maybe a rethread of all the similar trappings, such as revenge and honor but he has subverted its execution to a "coming of age" film. The film's backdrop takes place in the 18th century when the samurai ideals are slowly beginning to fade. Yes, the film may be another revenge tale but it also takes an interesting twist with a very unorthodox style.

A young samurai named Soza (Junichi Okada) arrives in Edo with the intention of tracking down his father's killer. However, despite all his training and upbringing in the samurai ideals, Soza isn't much of a warrior. His skills as a swordsman is lacking and his tracking abilities are even worse. 3 years past, and he isn't any closer in finding his father's killer. He spends his time in the slum, surrounded by an array of neighbors that can barely make ends meet but for some reason they are happy with what they have. Soza meets a comely widow and has developed a liking to her. Soza begins to doubt the very ideals drilled into his brain. Here in the real world, these philosophies seem diluted and hollow as he witnesses his brother`s life become meaningless after he had taken over his father`s dojo. His family pressures him to complete his mission, as the deed would fetch them a hefty sum of money in these peaceful times.

Much like Yoji Yamada's "Samurai Trilogy", "Hana" takes a tone full of elegy. Chambara films tend to celebrate the samurai lifestyle but Hana subtlety casts it aside. It executes its storytelling with a lot of warmth, light-heartedness and cleverly dispersed bits of satire throughout. It is so subtle in its message that you may not even notice what Kore-Eda's trying to say. The film's focus on Soza as a young man bent on revenge and slowly finding the fullness of life among simple peasants is inspiring. If you remember the old adage; "Living a good life is the Best revenge" then you will have a good idea as to how and why Soza would have doubts about his mission.

The director may not be critical to the Samurai lifestyle as much as Masaki Kobayashi's films, when in fact, he also sees the beauty of it. The story of the 47 Ronin is also told in this film as many of those Ronin actually live in the same town Soza does. These men are plotting their own revenge to avenge their Lord who was forced to commit Seppuku, and they are also offended by Soza's lack of commitment and they worry that their devices maybe uncovered. To those of you unfamiliar with the story; the story of the 47 RONIN is among the most praised tales of Samurai Honor and commitment. These men have taken meager jobs and have kept a low profile for many years until the right moment has come to strike and take vengeance on the Lord who has wronged their clan. (See Chushingura)

While these men are plotting and bickering among themselves, Soza becomes involved in the community. Joining the townsfolk in their everyday routine, acting in a local play, and teaching children in a small pre-school he had opened to keep himself busy. The 47 Ronin are brooding and calculating ways to exact revenge and how to die honorably, while, Soza is drawn to a happy life, full of warm tenderness and friendship; he also finds himself slowly falling in love with a beautiful widow named Osae (Rie Miyazawa). Soza is not a coward, he is committed to his goal but unexpectedly, the young man seemed to have found peace and contentment in his life.

Kore-Eda has assembled a very colorful cast of characters and are further more accentuated with its performers. The director introduces each one to the audience by giving us glimpses of their lives. The film does become somewhat hampered by this move, since it diverts our attention from Soza but I rather enjoyed it. It never hurts when you have a wonderful cast made up of Rie Miyazawa, Jun Kunimura, Yoshio Harada (Azumi), Tadanobu Asano (Party 7) who plays Soza's intended target, who is more than what Soza was expecting. This is actually the film's main strength and the manner of which everything falls in place is impressive and at the same time humorous.

"Hana" is a powerful moral tale that exhibits warmth and its message of non-violence is crystal clear. People expecting swordplay and action will be very disappointed. Samurai aficionados may not care for its moral stance but I thought it was reflective of real world applications. The music adds a lot of energy and the costumes and set designs are very accurate. It may have more melodrama than I particularly care for but the warm humanity it emulates is inspiring. It may not follow the traditional tale of chambara period films but courage and honor maybe a matter of just how one looks at it.
Sometimes, moving on with your life is the best revenge.

RECOMMENDED! [3 ½ Stars]

No squirting blood here
Mokadi Jook | pt richmond, CA, USA | 08/16/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"If you're looking for a sword-swinging, blood squirting, action tale with fainting geishas and glowering samurai, then you'de better go elsewhere. However, if you want an interesting story, interestingly told - then come on in!
The things I liked best about this film were the sets, (think: Kurosawa's "Lower Depths," but in color) the music - interesting choices, especially when "the boys in the band," (a group of unlikely performers with a mission) get going, and the plot's meandering twists.
I'm not going into the plotline. That has been adequately dealt with by others. I bought this film knowing nothing about it, and enjoyed it thoroughly for not being primed to expect one thing or another.
Just buy it. You might not like it as much as I do, but then you can be a swell person and donate it to your local library, which undoubtably needs additions to its "foreign" film section."
Hana: The Anti-Samurai Movie
Fulminata | 02/16/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This movie follows a young samurai as he goes from strict adherence to the samurai code by seeking vengeance for the death of his father to a dawning realization that there's more to life than simply an honorable death.

As others have mentioned, there's very little action in this movie. Only two very short sequences, neither of which follows the classic samurai sword fight scenario. Instead, there's a great deal of comic dialog and situations.

It's a good film. Although somewhat long, the only place it really drags is during a rather long digression that focuses on a secondary character. I believe the director is trying to use the digression to show that the role of peasants in the era was not always as simple and lacking in tragedy as the rest of the film portrays, but it mainly serves to interrupt the main story and further slow the pacing.

Still, an entertaining film well worth watching."
Lighthearted and entertaining, "HANA: The Tale of a Reluctan
Dennis A. Amith (kndy) | California | 09/15/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Hirokazu Kore-Eda is an award winning director known for his films "Aruitemo aruitemo", "Wonderful Life", "Dare mo Shiranai" and "Maboroshi no Hikari" released a film to theaters in Japan in 2006 titled "Hana Yori mo Naho".


"HANA" is presented in 16:9 and the picture quality tends to show some differences. Some that try to make the film look aged and then sometimes you get picture quality that is good. But for the most part, picture quality for the DVD is good. Cinematographer Yutaka Yamasaki is able to capture the beauty of Japan but also the grimy and dirty row houses and livelihood of the peasants in the area. The set design in making sure things look quite realistic was really impressive.

As for audio, the film is presented in Japanese 5.1 Surround Sound and English Stereo. For the Japanese audio, the film is primarily dialogue and music driven, so you can expect a lot of the film to be front and center channel driven while certain scenes such as a rain storms utilizing the surround channels. Dialogue is clear and understandable and I did. The English dub is included and I listened to a small part of it and for the most part, FUNimation Entertainment is known to hire good voice actors for their anime and for the most part utilize them for their live action films. Personally, I'm not very into English dubs of Asian cinema but it is offered for those who can not stand films with subtitles.

Subtitles are only in English.


"HANA: The Tale of the a Reluctant Samurai" comes with the following special features:

* Opening Day Stage Greetings - (3:15) The Director and cast is interviewed in front of an audience during the opening screening about the film.
* Original Trailer - (1:46) Three theatrical trailers (in Japanese but with English subtitles).
* FUNimation Entertainment trailers - Trailers for FUNimation Entertainment live action films and anime series.


Lighthearted and entertaining, "HANA: The Tale of a Reluctant Samurai" is a rare samurai film that you will ever see presented in this manner.

"HANA: The Tale of a Reluctant Samurai" is quite an interesting film. Where most samurai films are about the fighting, the bushido way or getting revenge, Director Hirokazu Kore-Eda does things differently and poses the question, why get revenge?

I've read on the Internet that Kore-Eda was inspired by the events of 9/11 and with many people, there is this mindset of "an eye-for-an-eye". In this case, the main protagonist, Soza, who is one of the sons that is asked to exact revenge after his father is killed over a petty disagreement during a game.

Soza knows he must avenge his family's honor but at the same time, living at the row houses and away from his own family who are very stuck on getting revenge and restoring the family's name, those at the row houses and were former retainers of their Lord are just more focused on surviving and getting by with what they have. Those who were once samurai's who killed are now trying to make a living and raising their family.

He questions morality and what has he accomplished in his life. He spent three years of his young life for looking for his father's killer and yet, he has not lived life. At least his father got to teach him how to play a game of "Go" but now that he has grown close to a family, he wants to give back. But the film also makes the viewer see how Soza who finds his father's killer, also observe the life he has with his own family and having a newborn and a young boy. And you can tell Soza is tormented because as much as he wants revenge, he also has compassion. Very rarely do you see a film that shows the protagonist's foe in such a way.

On the pop culture end, Rie Miyazawa has always been a spectacular actress and she's coming a long way since her younger years and has become one of Japan's most popular actresses to have in a film. As for the main star, Junichi Okada, it's quite interesting because I have followed his career as a singer in the boy band V6 (and Coming Century) and he's always been the more serious of the younger members and his television roles seem to have reflect that. But for "HANA: The Tale of a Reluctant Samurai", he brings a sense of emotion through his eyes and facial expressions of a confused character. He does a great job of playing the role of Soza.And the film also stars a good number of well-known talent from Japan and even comedians as well.

If there was one thing that some may complain about is the film's duration. It is a long film at 2:08 minutes and it's not an action film where the time goes by quickly. So, this is one of those films where you want to make sure you that you are fully alert, wide awake and ready to take in.

The film is very lighthearted in nature and one should not think this is your average samurai movie because it's not. "HANA: The Tale of a Reluctant Samurai" really deconstructs the legend of the samurai but with good balance of comedy drama makes this film worthwhile."