GENGHIS KHAN: TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH AND SEA (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
May 3, 2009 by Dennis Amith
“An ambitious, epic and beautiful film showing a more personal characterization of Genghis Khan. Wonderful performances by Takashi Sorimachi, Yusuke Hirayama and more! The Blu-ray high definition transfer captures the action, the violence but yet the beauty of Mongolia through its heartwarming but yet heartbreaking screenplay and cinematography. Definitely, an ambitious and epic accomplishment by the Japanese and Mongolian crew for the 800th Year Anniversary to celebrate the founding of Mongolia. Highly recommended!”
TITLE: GENGHIS KHAN: TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH AND SEA (Aoki Ôkami: chi hate umi tsukiru made)
DURATION: 136 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Dolby Digital English 2.0, English subtitles.
RATED: R (For Violence)
COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment
RELEASE DATE: May 5, 2009
Based on the novel “Chi hate umi tsukiru made: shosetsu Chingisu Han” by Seiichi Morimura
Directed by Shinichiro Sawai
Screenplay by Takehiro Nakajima and Shoichi Maruyama
Executive Producer Ryuhei Chiba, Haruki Kadokawa, Katsuhito Matsuura
Produced by Minoru Ebihara, Yutaka Okada, Akihiko Osugi, Yoshiaki Toutome
Assistant Producer Rika Hayashi
Music by Taro Iwashiro
Director of Photography: Yonezo Maeda
Editing by Akimasa Nakazawa
Ending theme by Mink
Takashi Sorimachi as Genghis Khan
Rei Kikukawa as Bolte
Mayumi Wakamura as Hoelun
Ken’ichi Matsuyama as Jochi
Yoshihiko Hakamada as Quasar
Eugene Nomura as Borchu
Ara as Mistress Kulan
Takahiro Araki as Chimbe
Kachiwo Endo as Todoen Gilte
Yusuke Hirayama as Jamuqa
Naoki Hosaka as Yesugei
The name a legend. The man… Near myth. A soul obscured by his own achievements; Son, husband, father, conqueror. Genghis Khan: To the Ends of the Earth and Sea weaves the saga of one exalted man’s march toward immortality and the battle to unite the tribes of Mongol under one rule.
“Where I go, I conquer… Borders disappear.”
A film that took twenty five years to plan, it was not until 2006 when major music label and entertainment company Avex Entertainment, Inc. along with producers Haruki Kadokawa (“Yamato”, “Kamui no Ken”) and Katsuhito Matsuura took on one of most expensive and ambitious projects ever done by Japanese filmmakers.
The plan was to adapt Seiichi Morimura’s historical fiction novel “Chi hate umi tsukiru made: Shôsetsu Chingisu Hân” to film and for several months, in order to create this epic film, the needed to shoot in rural Mongolia, fly their talent and crew and make Mongolia almost like their second home for four months.
But that wasn’t all, the film would then entail of having over a thousand crew members, over 27,000 extras and 5,000 Mongolian Army Soldiers involved and also to transport a large number of animals and to try and recreate this time from over 800 years ago into film. To base this film around a warrior named Temujin also known as Genghis Khan, the conqueror of Asia.
Many of us know of Genghis Khan from books or films as having one of the largest contiguous empires ever created but knowing that he is also credited for unifying Mongolia and re-uniting China.
As many films have shown the war tactician and his conquering of lands, “GENGHIS KHAN: TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH AND SEA” goes a different route. This time humanizing the ruler by showing him as a son, a father, a conqueror and most importantly, a man who loves his country but wanted peace but in order to achieve piece, he had to unify all nomadic tribes in Mongolia.
Of course, because the film is an adaptation of a novel to film and there is only so much of that history of Genghis Khan that could be included, without complicating things, the factual and complex history (of what was recorded at that time) of Temujin and what is presented on the film is quite different. But the film’s true intention of showing what kind of man Temujin (Ghengis Khan) truly is, is the heart of what the film is all about.
During the time of Genghis Khan (1162-1227), Mongolia had several tribes that were in constant war with each other. Many men were slaughtered and women were the spoils of war (taken, raped and forced to be apart of the new tribe they were being brought into).
The film starts off with one of the nomadic tribes known as the Merkits who are transporting an important woman in their tribe named Hoelun (Mayumi Wakamura).
The tribe is ambushed by Yesugei (Naoki Hosaka), leader of another tribe. With no escape but only death, Hoelun asks the men to leave but to rescue her and the man that is there to protect her, tells her that he would rescue her.
Hoelun has becomes a spoil of war and she counts the number of days, weeks, months and years in hope that her tribe will rescue her but it never happens. But all is not bad, the person who ends up taking her as a wife is the tribe’s leader, Yesugei.
Yesugei makes her his wife and as much as she didn’t love the man at first, she realizes that he is wise and a great leader and cares for his children. She gives birth to a boy named Temujin (named after a Tatar chief killed in battle by his father). Because of a mark on his hand, Hoelun and Yesugei believe that Temujin is special.
The storyline then fast forwards a 12 years later and the war continues but now, Temujin is 12-years-old. Old enough in his tribe to get married.
Temujin at a young age is shown to be a formidable warrior learning how to use weapons and even considered quite advanced for his age. But while growing up, he has also faced ridicule by his other kin because he is not a true blood of their tribe (stories of how his mother was a spoil of war and his blood is part of another rival tribe has people show prejudice towards him).
But his father Yesugei is very much proud of him and hopes the Blue Wolf’s blood is within him and by the time he becomes a teenager, he is to be arranged in marriage. Yesugei introduces him to another tribe (same as his mother) and meets Borte. In that tribe, Temujin meets Jamuqa, the teenager who is advanced in weaponry for his age and for his tribe. During a short contest, Temujin shows his advanced skill, impressing Jamuqa and the two become “adan” (blood brothers) and both discuss their dreams to unite Mongolia and to end these Nomadic wars amongst the tribes.
But Temujin’s joy of getting arranged and meeting a blood brother is short as he receives news that his father has been poisoned by the Tatars. Temujin returns back home and notices his tribe all leaving the area and instead of giving leadership to Temujin’s family, the tribe follows another leader (a friend of his father) who betrays the family and leaving Hoelun and Temujin’s family all alone.
For several years, Temujin’s family lives in poverty, having to cultivate their own food and hunting their own food. But his older brother Bekhter, criticizes Temujin and his mother of having blood of the enemy. This sets division within the family and Temujin and his younger brother Quasar kill Bekhter thus becoming the head of the family.
The storyline then flashes forward several years as Temujin has become a man and is shown to have grown his own tribe. He is able to have Borchu (Eugene Nomura), leader of another tribe join forces with Temujin and their nomadic tribe continue to grow and grow. Temujin decides that its time to get married with Bolte and visits the tribe his father took him to. He finds out that Bolte (Rei Kikukawa) is now engaged to Jamuqa but because Jamuqa holds his brotherhood to Temujin to the highest, he gives Bolte the decision of who she would rather stay with. Bolte chooses Temujin.
The new couple live happy until their tribe is attacked by the Merkits. Bolte is kidnap as revenge for Temujin’s father kidnapping Hoelun. This action leads Temujin to team up with his father’s blood brother Toyril Khan (Hiroki Matsukata) of the Kerait tribe and his own blood brother Jamuqa. Temujin requests 500 soldiers from Toyril Khan to help them attack the Merkits and get back his wife.
Temujin is successful in defeating the Merkits but realizes that his wife Borte has been impregnated (although possibly not factual, his mother’s lover is the person who has impregnated Borte). Months later Borte gives birth to a son named Jochi. Temujin can’t bare the fact that this baby is the son of the enemy but his mother reminds him that his father treated him the best, despite having Merkit blood. And thus, Temujin spares his son.
Meanwhile, at a mission attacking straddlers of other nomadic tribes, he comes in contact with a female soldier named Kulan (Ara) and tells her that he will embrace her as a soldier not as a spoil of war. His goal is to unify Mongolia and so women would not have to be in fear ever again. Kulan is impressed by him that she joins. But at the same time, she finds herself attracted to Temujin and gives him permission to treat her like a woman and eventually the two become involved (in private).
Fast forward many years and we see Temujin’s tribe growing strong, even impressing Ong Khan who tells him that if he wants to grow, he would need to slay Jamuqa. But Temujin can’t. He made an oath that Jamuqa is his blood brother and will support him.
His son Jochi is now a teenager and wants to be by his father’s side during battles but because his father’s distaste of his son not being his “true” son, he sends Jochi (Ken’Ichi Matsuyama) on a suicide mission to fight in the North. Jochi is happy that his father has acknowledge him and has given him a chance to prove himself in battle.
Meanwhile, Jamuqa notices many deserters from his nomadic tribe switching to be part of Temujin’s tribe. This furthers his jealousy towards Temujin. He knows that the two cannot survive together and he is willing to break their blood brother code. He sends his brother to join Temujin’s camp and to pretend he has deserted but to get close and assassinate him.
As Temujin talks to Jamuqa’s brother, while his back is turned, Ara stops the assassination attempt and kills Jamuqa’s brother. Temujin now knows that Jamuqua has broken his oath and that the two will now fight.
The battle against Jamuqa begins and through an intense battle for several days, Jamuqa’s forces are defeated. But Jamuqa has one trump card, he allies himself with Temujin’s friend Toyril Khan and convinces him that the growing popularity of Temujin will lead to their destruction and that Temujin is now wanting to be the only leader alive and thus the two plot immediately to go to war against Temujin and his tribe (who have not rested since the battle against Jamuqa’s forces).
Meanwhile, Jochi wants to fight alongside his father but Temujin sends him to the North. This causes problems as Jochi now feels his father is disgraced that he is not his blood and that he is sending him on another suicide mission. He refuses to go but because of their tribe’s rules, Jochi leaves to fight in the North.
This sets up one of the largest battles between Temujin and his former friends and now rivals and will eventually make the popular leader become Genghis Khan, the conqueror.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“GENGHIS KHAN: TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH AND SEA” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16×9). The film was shot in Mongolia and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. The scenery is so beautiful as you see the clouds and mountains in the horizon that I had to rewatch several scenes to find out if they looked as if certain elements such as the background were added in post production but after watching the special features, you realize that these outdoor shots of Mongolia are as is. Just a beautiful location and was absolutely moved by the cinematography.
Of course, to create something so epic with hundreds of warriors, there was a bit of post production in CG work to making the armies look so vast. But overall, the high definition transfer of the film was absolutely beautiful. What was captured on film was definitely a sign of how large the production was for this film and how expensive and challenging it would be.
Overall, picture quality was well done and I found “GENGHIS KHAN: TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH AND SEA” to be a beautiful film. Blacks are well done, I didn’t see any scratches or dust or any major form of artifacting. Absolutely beautiful picture quality!
As for the audio quality, I was quite surprised to hear my home theater setup being utilized. From the drums to the armies moving, you hear the low rumbles through your subwoofer and also utilization of the rear channels during the action scenes as well. The film utilizes a lot of dialogue but you do get a good sense of the action scenes through the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio (in Japanese). For an epic film like this, I chose not listen to the Dolby Digital English dubbing via 2.0 channel at all.
“GENGHIS KHAN: TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH AND SEA” features a good amount of lengthy special features which were presented in 480i Standard Definition and in Dolby Digital Japanese 2.0. Special features included are:
- Filming Journal – (43:00) A wonderful featurette in which we see how things were behind-the-scenes. The utilization of so many crew and volunteers but also the challenges of transporting the animals, having to deal with the constant changing weather (it rained once a day) to another major snafu in which all the trained horses escaped while the crew were sleeping and thus delaying the film process. Also, how the fighting scenes were choreographed and how blood was used in the film. Also, behind-the-scenes of the various talent and the Japanese and Mongolian crew working together despite the language difference.
- Peek Behind the Scenes – (4:18) This segment features the Mongolian extras (thousands) of being fitted in costumes and preparation for the ceremony scene in which Genghis Khan is introduced.
- Great Plains of Mongolia – (9:48) This is a video scene of Mongolia landscapes and the beauty of the rural lands accompanied by beautiful music.
- Premiere on Stage Greetings – (15:52) This segment features the Japanese onstage screening which took place after the screening and the Direct, producers, author and talent greet the viewers and talk about their character roles and the film.
- Premiere Screenings – (33:42) This segment features the elaborate premiere in Mongolia, interviews and press conference, world premiere screening and the Hong Kong premiere screening and press conference.
-Mongolia Premiere Screening and Interviews
– Mongolia Premiere Screening and Press Conference
– World Premiere Screening
– Hong Kong Premiere Screening
- Uncut Battle Scenes – (32:08) these are the extended battle scenes, unedited in their full glory. These were intense scenes featuring so many actors and volunteers. For scenes that were so epic, it was great to have these uncut battle scenes included. The scenes do include English subtitles but the time stamps are included on the video.
– Merkit Raid
– Borte’s Rescue
– Battle Against the Tatars, Their Sworn Enemy
– Battle Against Jamuqa
– Jochi’s Battle in the North
- Original TV Spots – (5:02) The original TV commercials promoting the film.
- FUNimation Trailers
I really enjoyed watching “GENGHIS KHAN: TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH AND SEA”. The film is so epic, well-written, well-acted and just gorgeous to look at.
What is more interesting is that it’s not solely an all Japanese film but a film that utilizes Asian talent for this large scale production. The film is about unity and behind-the-scenes, various ethnicities united and gave their part for the creation of this epic film.
Japanese crew and talent teaming up with Mongolian crews and also utilization of Korean performer (and J-Pop singer) Mink and Korean commercial queen Ara, this was a production that I have not seen in this scale before. I was very impressed with the final cut and then to watch all that transpired behind-the-scenes via the special features.
I first had the pleasure of learning about the film “Aoki Okami” (The Japanese title of the film) through my review of the CD single by Mink titled “Innocent Blu~Chi hate umi tsukiru made”, the theme song for the film. I was touched by the beautiful melody and how it showcased the female talent in Mongolia. Beautiful cinematography and then it led to the two Japanese trailers for the film.
Immediately, I wanted to watch this film but because of its high level of Japanese dialogue, I knew that my knowledge of the Japanese language would not suffice in terms of enjoying a film this epic in production without English subtitles. Almost two years later, I was very happy to find out that FUNimation Entertainment would be releasing this film on Blu-ray and I absolutely loved the film!
With my review leaning towards the positive, I did find one negative. The only thing that caught my attention immediately is how small the menu’s were. I have a 51″ HDTV and this was the smallest type I have seen on a menu and had to use the back of the DVD case to read the menu. But that was it. Everything about the film and the Blu-ray coverage was absolutely positive. As for others, perhaps those who want a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English dub may have problems that they are getting a Dolby Digital English 2.0 track but I’m not the type to watch a Japanese live film with an English dub. If anything, I was happy to find a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Japanese track.
I’ve only read about Genghis Khan in books and typically, those books tend to tell of his warfare intellect and his conquering of lands. So, if anything, this film really opened my eyes to the human side of Temujin as a son, father, the leader and conqueror. In the special features, even Mongolian and Japanese crews stated how they were glad to see a different perspective, a positive portrayal of their country’s founder
I was amazed to see one of my favorite Japanese actors, Takashi Sorimachi in the lead role. He definitely made the character of Temujin much more charismatic but well-liked. In Mongolia, Genghis Khan is just revered as a national hero for his accomplishments and with so many films and books that described him as a deadly conqueror, the film portrays him with a man of faults but at the same time, ideals to unify the Mongols and what better to celebrate the 800th Year Anniversary of the founding of Mongolia through this film.
I felt that each talent from Mayumi Wakamura’s Hoelun, Rei Kikuwa’s bolte to Yusuke Hirayama’s Jamuqa and Naoki Hosaka’s Yesugei, each and every talent made this film feel quite special with their level of emotion and making us believe but also hooking us in with the beautiful cinematography, direction, storyline and the acting.
Typically when we think large scale Japanese films, we think of a classic like “RAN” and when you think of historical films, there have been quite a few produced in Korea and Hong Kong but to see a Japanese co-production with Mongolia utilizing so many people, staff and even animals, it was something I would never expect.
But I’m glad it did happen because “GENGHIS KHAN: TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH AND SEA” is one of those special films that manages to grab your attention and appreciate it.
And I have to admit, watching this on Blu-ray really made me enjoy this film much more. Beautiful picture quality, clear and subwoofer trembling audio and lengthy special features definitely makes me give high recommendation for this Blu-ray release. I can only hope that FUNimation Entertainment continues to bring more Japanese live-action films stateside.
Final judgment: “GENGHIS KHAN: TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH AND SEA” is highly recommended!
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