Sunday, 18 October 2015

Azumi 2 (4½ Stars)

"War won't disappear. As long as there are people someone will start a war".

"Azumi 2" was made two years after "Azumi", but it begins where the first film left off, no more than a few days after the events of the first film. Azumi is travelling to meet her dead master's friend, Priest Tenkai, to discuss the strategy for assassinating the last remaining warlord, Masayuki Sanada. The priest says that no more assassination attempts should be made, because Sanada is too well defended. He thinks it's better to raise an army, but Azumi rejects this. She wants to prevent a new war at all costs. Why waste thousands of lives in a war when it's possible to prevent a war by killing a single person? However, it's not that easy. Azumi has to kill hundreds of soldiers to get to Sanada, as the picture above shows. (She's the one in the cape). In addition Sanada is protected by a trio of elite ninjas.

The second film has a lot more soul-searching than the first film. Azumi begins to question whether she's right to follow her mission. In the past she has never questioned right and wrong, she only had her mission to guide her. Now she meets others like Kozue, played by Chiaki Kuryama, who also has a mission, the mission to protect Sanada. Is Kozue's mission any better or worse than hers? Can a war be prevented by killing? Isn't killing just an endless cycle? Whenever you kill someone the friends and relatives of the victims come seeking revenge.

A middle path is shown by Ginkaku, a bandit leader who looks identical to Azumi's former love Nachi. Living like a Japanese Robin Hood, he steals from the rich so that he can buy food to feed orphans. He tries not to kill, unless it's absolutely necessary, because he knows that each dead person means there will be another orphan.

Aya Ueto as Azumi

Chiaki Kuryama as Kozue

From what I understand, the second film is closer to the spirit of the comics on which the films are based. In the comics Azumi frequently questions the morality of her path, as she often has to kill good people in order to achieve her final goal of preventing civil war in Japan. In "Azumi 2" the moral ambiguities come to the surface at the end, when it seems that Sanada is a noble man, also seeking peace in his own way.

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