We last saw Ryunosuke Tsukue (Raizo Ichikawa) in Part One of Satan's Sword (1960) running off into the night pursued by members of the Shinsen Group & by Hyoma (Kojiro Hongo) the young man out to avenge his elder brother whom Ryunosuke killed.
As Part Two The Dragon God opens, it is already the next morning. Ryunosuke awakens in the forest having no more idea what happened that previous night, as he'd been drunk & hallucinatory. He is surrounded by corpses & can surmise it's his own handiwork.
It turns out that a heavy fog had hidden Ryunosuke from Hyoma, which, given Ryunosuke's success at duelling, doubtless saved Hyoma's life.
No one is permitted to leave Shinsen Group; & if someone attempts to do so, they would be tracked down by the organization's resident internal assassin, Hijikata, who is as to psychosis as is Ryunosuke. But in this case even Hijikata wants Ryunosuke dead, so Hyoma, the family avenger, is permitted to leave Shinsengumi in order to devote himself to tracking down his enemy.
Hyoma has temporarily lost the scent, but will be assisted by a thief named Shichibei (uncle of a girl whose grandfather was murdered by Ryunosuke in the first film), eventually locating his foe.
A samurai is seeking duels for duelling sake, as part of his training journey. Having detected Ryunosuke's skill, he wants to fight him, & since he's willing to duel to the death, Ryunosuke is perfectly willing.
This samurai is Sakai Shinbei of Sasha. He quickly writes out a notice of the Official Duel on a piece of rice-paper & pins it to a stump with a knife, happy to have a small crowd gathering about to witness what he expects to be his great moment.
Observing from nearby is a Hozoin spearman who recognizes Ryunosuke's "Silent Stance" as a rare Kanto form, & well knows who will win. Hee interupts the fight, inviting both men to his home to drink rather than fight.
The Hozoin spearman introduces himself as Ueda Tango, brother of the abbott of Miwa (an abbott who preaches peace). But Ueda Tango is actually the Lord of Miwa, always in a humble mood. He asks Ryunosuke to stay on a while, & serve as sword instructor to some of his men.
That hallucinatory night at the end of Part One when Ryunosuke battled the shadows of his own guilt would seem to indicate his sociopathic desire to kill for killing's sake had not completely devoured his soul.
Having now found refuge under the fatherly protection of the Lord of Miwa, Ryunosuke feels his life has calmed. He begins to reclaim some of his lost humanity.
He remembers the great swordmaster Shimada's instruction "To study the sword, you must first study the soul." It begins to feel as though our anti-hero might be redeemed after all, though on the other hand, it may mean only that he must now live like a creature tortured, driven to kill by the lust for killing, but unlike formerly, unable to walk away without emotion.
Always the darkness lurks in him, for either an evil mind has polluted his sword, or an evil sword style has polluted his spirit. He should have inherited a famous sword school & lived a respectable life, but his father having banished him from the Kogen Itto Ryu school for corrupting the style his father established, he can be nothing but a pursued wanderer.
One of his murder victims was his common law wife Ohama. Now he meets a woman named Otoyo who looks exactly like Ohama (meaning Tamao Nakamura can return to the cast), but of more generous disposition.
She has a dangerous stalker named Kinzo obsessed with her. Ryunosuke protects Otoyo, seeing in her a chance to make some ammends for his treatment of Ohama.
But Kinzo will not believe the relatonship is one of friendship only, so kidnaps Otoya & rapes her, declaring his great love throughout the assault.
In the first film Ryunosuke became semi-attached to the historical group of radical supporters of the failing shogunate, the Shinsengumi or Shinsen Group who struggled bloodily to stop the bakufu government's freefall. Now Ryunosuke finds himself attracted to another group of killers, the Tenchu-gumi.
A swordsman Ryunosuke nearly dueled (& would've killed had the duel been completed) had his own destiny as the the most famous member of the Tenchu group. He's a jolly upbeat sort of guy, but a killer just the same, & Tenchu group is a notorious band of thirty men who rely foremost on Shinbei for assassinating perceived foes.
Just as Shinsengumi fought to preserve the bakufu, Tenchu-gumi fought to overthrow the bakufu. Shinbei can be a little careless who he kills in this cause, fulfilling every commission without questioning, just so long as it's a fair duel & he can gain some sense of status by the reputation for invincibility.
Ryunosuke feels a certain kinship with him. And he may well be falling back into his old ways, a little too eager for any opportunity to kill, whether or not there is a cause, or no matter what the cause may be. Shinshengumi yesterday, Tenchu today, it's all the same to him.
After some initial successes, Tenchu rebels are routed by the government. Stragglers take to the mountains to hide. Wounded & fearful, this remnant gathers in a hunter's shack & decide on committing harakiri together.
Ryunosuke says he won't kill himself, he intends to live. These men do not realize they are already surrounded by bakufu samurai. Suddenly Tenchu's final refuge is blown asunder. Whoever is not killed outright by the explosives is cut as they stagger injured from the dynamited cabin.
One man they cannot cut down: Ryunosuke. The explosion has blinded him; blood is flowing from his eyes. But the sinister Silent Stance has left him no less invulnerable than before! He stands absolutely still, his head cocked, his sword held at an odd angle. Any motion near him brings his sword forth. Here we have cinema's original blind swordsman!
He is half resigned to perpetual blindness, but still holds out some hope of a cure. As a blind wanderer he arrives on Dragon God Mountain, where he has heard rumors of a priestly healer & a healing waterfall.
The "Sash of Princess Kiyo" has appeared in the sky along with the arrival of Ryunosuke. This is a blood-red cloud which appears over Dragon God Mountain as an ill omen, & the peasants of the area are fretful.
Kinzo & Otoya are in the village, & Otoya makes another attempt to escape from him.
It may well be that for once an ill omen indicates someone other than Ryunosuke as a source of trouble, for Kinzo in his maniac's fear of losing Otoyo sets fire to the whole village.
Ryunosuke will cut down the maniac, saving Otoyo once & for all, so that she now wants to join Ryunosuke & become his eyes.
On the mountain blind Ryunosuke is attacked by a group of samurai whose swords can't touch him. His swordplay has altered as he leans on a blind man's staff & uses his sword one-handed.
When these attackers all lay dead, his nemesis Hyoma arrives, shocked to discover Ryunosuke is blind.
Hyoma has studied, practiced, & striven for this moment, but, well, in the serial novel they don't actually meet, & though the film versions require more action, they also require Hyoma's continous failure & survival, as they share protagonist status.
Duelling on a cliff's edge, Ryunosuke unexpectedly loses his footing. He falls down a sheer drop, a descent no one could possibly survive, except that he is cursed with an unnatural strength. It's a cliffhanger with an actual cliff, as Part Two of the trilogy comes to a close.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl