When Ogami Itto's wife Akami is killed, he weeps copious tears as he slays his enemies. When he decides to send his infant son Daigoro to join his mother in the afterlife, he strains with his sword while wailing in horror of a deed he cannot bring himself to perform.
And the famous "select the sword or the ball" scene from this familiar story is not reenacted in this version of Lone Wolf & Child: In These Little Hands (Kozure Okami: Sono chisaki te ni, 1992), though we do glimpse Daigoro's ball in the set arrangement, like a reminder of what we're not getting.
Never before has Ogami Itto been portrayed as the weepy emotional sort. We know he has powerful feelings, but they are kept in check, & he passes this trait to Daigoro. It's one of the chief appeals of the original manga comic book & the six films starring Tomisaburo Wakayama & the television series starring Kinnosuke Yorozuya, that here is a child who, like his father, never weeps.
So we're definitely in revisionist territory for this film version. Many fans will deplore the changes, as well as the fact that this version is slowly paced, without the tense excitement of previous adaptations of the manga series.
There are other changes, too. As played by Masakazu Tamura, this is a younger, prettier Itto, gaunt with long flowing hair, scarsely the same ronin played in the versions starring Kinnosuke & Tomisaburo.
Daigoro, too, lacks his cool infant haircut which had been de rigour for the child actors who've played him, drawing importantly from Daigoro's image in the original manga.
Plus Itto is not an assassin for hire as always before, but a shadow hunter. And perhaps worst of all, for a story widely known as the Babycart saga, Itto carries his son on his back & does not have the babycart.
Yet if it were not for such great past adaptations, In These Little Hands aka The Final Conflict would be more immediately recognized as an artfully photographed, pretty darned good film..
When Itto decides to take Daigoro with him on the road to hell, he reveals the hollyhock mon or crest of the Tokugawas, which the shogunate decapitator has the right to wear, which Itto no longer has the right to wear, but which his attackers dare not soil or damage.
Thus protected by the shogunate mon upon his garment, he begins reaving through those who dare not attack him. He & Daigoro escape with carnage in their wake.
Retsudo the lord of the "hidden branch" of the Yagyu clan, meaning a ninja clan, is Ogami Itto's arch enemy. He is here played by the great Tatsuya Nakadai. Itto sets out as "the shadow hunter" (ninja-killer) to unmask & kill this hidden branch of the Yagyu.
Retsudo is a much more human figure in this version. He even becomes friends with Daigoro. Itto's duel with Retsudo's daughter-in-law is treated as a heroic tragedy. HIs younger daughter Nana-o sacrifices herself for love of Itto's child.
After sundry adventures most altered enough to remain only faintly familiar, the climactic duel is engaged, pitting Itto's sword against Retsudo's spear. Itto's famous sword is actually broken, & Itto's body speared through, but nothing can stop him.
As this is the first film version intended to be told as a single stand-alone movie rather than one in a series, it has a more conclusive ending than formerly, hence the alternate title The Final Conflict.
In all, this version comes off in a minor note, but nevertheless intriguing in its execution & its willingness to dare to get the familiar tale "wrong." I like to think of it as a version told 'round campfires a couple generations after the events, when the specifics of the lives & adventures of Itto & Daigoro have begun to transmute in popular memory.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl