A young boy named Jiro finds his mother and sister murdered in his home. Falsely accused of the crime, he flees from his village and meets a priest named Tenkai, who has him kill a rogue ninja named Tarouza. After fulfilling that task, Jiro undergoes training to become a master assassin. Many years later, Jiro finds out that he was an orphan and his real father was Tarouza, who had worked for Tenkai until he aborted his mission when he fell in love with an Ainu woman. The young ninja discovers that the Shogunate was to retrieve the lost treasure of Captain Kidd and use it to once again isolate Japan from the rest of the world. Using the clues that Tarouza had kept secret, Jiro—along with the female ninja Oyuki and a slave named Sam—travels to Russia and America to search for the treasure in hopes of using it to extract revenge from Tenkai.
At just over 2 hours long The Dagger of Kamui is a historical epic most people can enjoy, although it will feel a bit more rewarding to those that have experienced a decent amount of anime and manga beforehand and know a few things about the Japanese history and folklore.
The first thing of note is the outstanding soundtrack. It's a unique mixture of electro rock and funky synth tunes, merged with traditional instruments and spoken sound effects. If you've seen Miyazaki's highly acclaimed The Wind Rises, you'll remember the amazing train scene with spoken sound effects. Kamui uses a lot of that and it sounds cool. The music also blends in perfectly - when Jiro is with the Native Americans there's even a pan flute in there.
The second thing that woos the viewer is the animation. There are a number of impressive scenes, but arguably the best ones are the ones where characters and objects dissipate into colorful particles that fly around and glitter like in a kaleidoscope. All of this is not that surprising when we look at the production list. Made by Madhouse - one of the oldest studios that constantly puts out high quality content. Directed by Rintaro, also behind jaw dropping visual masterpieces like the Adieu Galaxy Express 999. Key animation by Kawajiri and Takashi Nakamura, whose hands touched a number of extremely cool and stylish animated works.
The third thing is historical accuracy and here we get to the part that seasoned viewers might appreciate a bit more. By no means is Kamui hardcore accurate, but the environments of 19th century Japan and America are pretty believable. The Ainu and Native American tribes are a bit romanticized of course, but it's quite pleasant to observe their habits and attires and compare them to the Japanese.
Another interesting thing to observe is the clash of ideology, culture and religion of the time. The main clash is obviously between the Shogunate and the rising imperial forces that happened during the Boshin war. A more subtle one is between the Japanese and the indigenous Ainu tribes. This being portrayed at all is kind of a big deal, because the Japanese are a bit shy and embarrassed when it comes to depicting their native tribes, because of the complicated ways in which they were "assimilated" (unlike Americans who like to flash around with the heritage of their natives).
The religious clash is kinda connected to the cultural one - Buddhism VS the worship of local deities. It's a common theme, often present in anime and manga too. If you look closely you can draw the following parallels: Tenkai's face = Buddha = the Devil's incarnate. It's not uncommon to see in Japanese literature the tales of Buddhism spreading from Korea or China and violently trying to phase out the local deities. One of the most fascinating depictions of this clash can be found in the Sun chapter of Phoenix, a most influential manga by Osamu Tezuka.
The Dagger of Kamui is a pretty interesting work indeed, although it's not as well defined and polished as let's say Princess Mononoke, on which Miyazaki worked meticulously to atone himself for Nausicaa (which he was forced to do a quick adaptation when the original manga was just starting out). Neither is it as striking as works like Ninja Scroll, but even action fans shouldn't be disappointed as there is enough slashing and slicing to go around. read more
Seriousley! they DON´T make longlasting anime movie with effort anymore like this one, and wich is partially based on actual history its one of my oldskool fav. I dont care about the runtime of the movie because it started strong en ended very strong! Charac. animation is not too special, more a bit kiddy, an very good background story historical places and char. development really were put potential in there , and good mix of 80´s synth and 18th century japanese interpetation music. Beautiful anime sketches inbetween the movie is what i really miss of 21 century anime! just because u can see the drawing of it partially unfinished, just great!read more
Kamui no Ken, which I saw for the first time in the abridged version entitled "Revenge of the Ninja Warrior" is a historical drama story about a half Ainu, half Japanese boy living in the turbulent period of the Tokugawa era, the Boshin War and early part of the Meiji era. That setting is the backdrop for the story, and it's one of mystery, intrique, betrayal and vengence.
He's framed for the murder of his mother and sister and forced to flee from his village and is taken in by a monk named Tenkai whom gives Jiro the task of training to become a ninja.
The art style is very well suited for the anime and the ninja fight scenes are done quite well. The musical score is truly something else, it's something like a fusion of 80s rock and traditional Japanese music and in a lot of scenes it does a really good job of setting the mood.
Over the duration of the story, Jiro learns about the (then) small world of feudal Japan and the remainder of the modern world. He even meets some significant historical figures along the way.
One of the themes touched on by this movie is the question that the Japanese likely asked themselves during this era.. that is, "If we become a modern nation, will we lose something in the process of doing so?"
If you're into action anime, you'll enjoy this one. If you're into historical drama, you'll enjoy this one.