Magoichi Saga


Director: Kenji Misumi

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Magoichi SagaIn Magoichi Saga (Shirikurae Magoichi, Daiei,1969) Magoichi Saika (Kinnosuke Nakamura) has fallen in love with a woman whose face he never saw. With an apparent foot fetish obsession, he spends the first portion of the film looking for the woman he'll recognize only by her feet & toes. She turns out to be Female Stereotype Number Two, number one being The Harlot, number two the innocent virgin, the Buddhist Princess Kano (Yoko Namiwaka).

She is willing to give herself to Magoichi body & soul, but only if he will first defeat the enemies of the Buddhist temple with his 3,000 gunners. Although this character begins her motivation from the perspective of a devoted Buddhist willing to sacrifice anything, she is too soonafter motivated exclusively by love, greatly undermining her nobility in terms of honor & duty.

Magoichi SagaWhen she gets dressed up as though for battle, her samurai clothing is as appropriate as GI Joe costumes on a Barbi doll. In reality women of this era did fight, commonly as castle defenders, occasionally on the battlefield, & scores of heroic tales of female fighters & female avengers are told in Japanese history & lore. This treatment of Princess Kana, alas, captures none of that glorious history.

Her unexpected presence on the battlefield is nevertheless inspiring to the warriors who she seems to regard as under her command, although the reality is she is only there because she has decided to sleep with Magoichi before he faces the enemy, lest he be slain & she never has the chance.

Since Magoichi is not afflicted with such feminine weakness, he adheres to their mutual oath, & decides immediately to slay the enemy so he can sleep with Princess Kano that very night, but without having to break an oath.

For such a supposedly "strong" female character, Princess Kano is a complete wuss. All women other than Kano are viewed as treacherous by Magoichi, & a viewer might be forgiven for suspecting the misogyny imbedded in this story is mostly from the writer's attitude. Curiously, the film makes reference to a famous wandering priestess, but this potentially colorful figure never turns up in the film.

Magoichi SagaWhile Magoichi is off on the specific errand of killing the Temple's foe, Princess Kano slinks around during the night & gets herself killed, dumbass that she is, without once drawing her sword or without the director allowing her so much as a token pretense of bravery or honor in any context except for her unconsumated horniness for that hotty Magoichi.

Since Magoichi is deeply in love with this wuss, the weakness of her role has the effect of dragging down the character of Magoichi too. For there is little heroic about a man motivated by his pecker, or by the unimpressive death of a virgin who was, ultimately, only a pair of feet to him.

The sad thing is only that director Kenji Misumi never even seemed to realize the script was denying Princess Kano any degree of dignity, expressing neither valor, nor even faith to her own oath taken with Magoichi. Her initial religious motivation is eradicated. Her additional pretense of being the commander of the gunners makes her childishly naive.

The film's failure when viewed through this character is not evident if her presence is not considered. There an impressive performances from Shintaro Katsu as Lord Oda Nobunaga, fun to see as someone other than Zatoichi. Tokichiro Kinoshita is played by Katsuo Nakamura, best known in the west as "Hoichi the Earless" in Mizoguchi's Kwaidan. He's the real-life brother of Kinnosuke Nakamura, & always a charming presence in any film he is in.

The cinematography is impressive, the action swift, & the depiction of civil war & the place of firearms in samurai warfare is all interesting stuff.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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