“Lighthearted and impressive, award-winning Director Hirokazu Kore-Eda brings us a film that deconstructs the samurai era. Where most samurai films are about the Bushido way, revenge and also awesome swordfighting, ‘HANA: The Tale of a Reluctant Samurai’ poses the question of why use your life to focus on vengeance? Why not live life to its fullest? A dark comedy featuring a great performance by pop star Junichi Okada, actress Rie Miyazawa and its supporting cast members. Impressive set design and cinematography.”
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DVD TITLE: HANA: The Tale of a Reluctant Samurai (Hana yori mo naho)
DURATION: 128 minutes
DVD INFORMATION: Japanese 5.1 Surround Sound, English Stereo, English subtitles, 16:19, NTSC, Color
COMPANY: SHOCHIKU/FUNimation Entertainment
RATED: TV PG
RELEASE DATE: 2009
Written and Directed by Hirokazu Koreeda
Executive Producer: Julie K. Fujishima
Producer: Nozomu Enoki and Shiho Sato
Associate Producer: Satoshi Kono
Cinematography by Yutaka Yamasaki
Edited by Hirokazu Koreeda
Production Design by Masao Baba, Toshihiro Isomi
Costume Design by Kazuko Kurosawa
Junichi Okada as Aoki Souzaemon (Soza)
Rie Miyazawa as Osae
Arata Furuta as Sadashiro
Jun Kunimura as Isekan
Katsuo Nakamura as Shigehachi
Tadanobu Asano as Jubei Kanazawa
Yoshio Harada as Junai Onodera
Teruyki Kagawa as Jirozaemon Hirano
Tomoko Tabata as Onobu
Yui Natsukawa as Oryo
Renji Ishibashi as Shozaburo Aoki
Ryuuhei Ueshima as Otokichi
Yuichi Kimura as Magosaburo
Seiji Chihara as Tomekichi
Ryo Kase as Sodekichi
Susumu Terajima as Kichiemon Terasaka
What happens when those charged with taking life begin to cherish it? From award-winning filmmaker Hirokazue Kore-Eda, Hana deconstructs the legend of the samurai with a subtle mix of laughter and emotion.
The year is 1702. Peace has settled over the squalor of Edo and the swords of the once might samurai have been sheathed across Japan. In an era when dogs are more esteemed than the colorful peasants that inhabit the slums, Soza, a young warrior better with books than blades, is on a quest to avenge his murdered father and restore honor to his family name. As the blood debt looms, sensitive Soza must decide – To Kill or not to Kill? Amidst growing love, shattered honor and the simple beauty of the cherry blossom… Hana celebrates the joys of even the most difficult of lives.
Hirokazu Kore-Eda is an award winning director known for his films “Aruitemo aruitemo”, “Wonderful Life”, “Dare mo Shiranai” and “Maboroshi no Hikari” released a film to theaters in Japan in 2006 titled “Hana Yori mo Naho”.
“HANA: The Tale of a Reluctant Samurai” is not your average Kore-Eda film that was a modern take on relationships but a period film that focused on era when samurai’s who were no longer retainers for their lords and some lived in poverty via living in row houses (slums) along with other peasants and can only hope that one day they will find a job with another lord or establishment and leave their life at the row houses.
But for one samurai, Aoki Souzaemon (played by V6 singer Junichi Okada, “Tokyo Tower”, “Kisarazu Cat’s Eye”, “DxD”), despite having the opportunity to live at a nice home with his family, he has intended to follow his father’s dying wish and that was to avenge him by slaying his killer and restore his family’s honor. So, for three years, Souzaemon aka “Soza” has been living in the row houses (slums) of Edo by choice and watching over the man who has killed his father and planning on how he would kill him but in the honorable Samurai way.
But somehow living in the row houses has changed Soza. He meets Osae (Rie Miyazawa, “Blue Canary”, “Hatsu Tsubomi”, “Tasogare Seibei”, “Kita no Kuni Kara 2002 Yuigon”, etc.) and her seven-year-old son Shinnosuke and he finds himself smitten with her and as he spends more time with them, he starts to see life in a different perspective.
Living amongst the poor, he learns about survival but also how the people of the area, despite their social status, they are almost like a new family to him and eventually finds himself wanting to do something bigger for himself. He helps the peasants learn how to write and takes care of the birds in a man-made cage.
In the row houses, he meets the children, the landlord who collects his money but also wants to tear down the row houses and rebuild, a group of peasants and former samurai and other villagers who all work together to make a play and also members of the 47 Ronin live in the row houses as well waiting to exact their revenge against Kira Yoshinaka.
But the main premise of the film is where a samurai is known to get his revenge for his family’s honor, the way of the Bushido has changed in Japan. And aside from his family who wants him to get his revenge, the others in the row houses see no point to it. And to make things worse, Soza is not a good swordsman and is quite weak. Thus his friends convince him not to even try. So, Soza debates whether he should get revenge on the man who killed his father or use his anger towards something more positive.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“HANA” is presented in 16:9 and the picture quality tends to show some differences. Some that try to make the film look aged and then sometimes you get picture quality that is good. But for the most part, picture quality for the DVD is good. Cinematographer Yutaka Yamasaki is able to capture the beauty of Japan but also the grimy and dirty row houses and livelihood of the peasants in the area. The set design in making sure things look quite realistic was really impressive.
As for audio, the film is presented in Japanese 5.1 Surround Sound and English Stereo. For the Japanese audio, the film is primarily dialogue and music driven, so you can expect a lot of the film to be front and center channel driven while certain scenes such as a rain storms utilizing the surround channels. Dialogue is clear and understandable and I did. The English dub is included and I listened to a small part of it and for the most part, FUNimation Entertainment is known to hire good voice actors for their anime and for the most part utilize them for their live action films. Personally, I’m not very into English dubs of Asian cinema but it is offered for those who can not stand films with subtitles.
Subtitles are only in English.
“HANA: The Tale of the a Reluctant Samurai” comes with the following special features:
- Opening Day Stage Greetings – (3:15) The Director and cast is interviewed in front of an audience during the opening screening about the film.
- Original Trailer – (1:46) Three theatrical trailers (in Japanese but with English subtitles).
- FUNimation Entertainment trailers – Trailers for FUNimation Entertainment live action films and anime series.
Lighthearted and entertaining, “HANA: The Tale of a Reluctant Samurai” is a rare samurai film that you will ever see presented in this manner.
“HANA: The Tale of a Reluctant Samurai” is quite an interesting film. Where most samurai films are about the fighting, the bushido way or getting revenge, Director Hirokazu Kore-Eda does things differently and poses the question, why get revenge?
I’ve read on the Internet that Kore-Eda was inspired by the events of 9/11 and with many people, there is this mindset of “an eye-for-an-eye”. In this case, the main protagonist, Soza, who is one of the sons that is asked to exact revenge after his father is killed over a petty disagreement during a game.
Soza knows he must avenge his family’s honor but at the same time, living at the row houses and away from his own family who are very stuck on getting revenge and restoring the family’s name, those at the row houses and were former retainers of their Lord are just more focused on surviving and getting by with what they have. Those who were once samurai’s who killed are now trying to make a living and raising their family.
He questions morality and what has he accomplished in his life. He spent three years of his young life for looking for his father’s killer and yet, he has not lived life. At least his father got to teach him how to play a game of “Go” but now that he has grown close to a family, he wants to give back. But the film also makes the viewer see how Soza who finds his father’s killer, also observe the life he has with his own family and having a newborn and a young boy. And you can tell Soza is tormented because as much as he wants revenge, he also has compassion. Very rarely do you see a film that shows the protagonist’s foe in such a way.
On the pop culture end, Rie Miyazawa has always been a spectacular actress and she’s coming a long way since her younger years and has become one of Japan’s most popular actresses to have in a film. As for the main star, Junichi Okada, it’s quite interesting because I have followed his career as a singer in the boy band V6 (and Coming Century) and he’s always been the more serious of the younger members and his television roles seem to have reflect that. But for “HANA: The Tale of a Reluctant Samurai”, he brings a sense of emotion through his eyes and facial expressions of a confused character. He does a great job of playing the role of Soza.And the film also stars a good number of well-known talent from Japan and even comedians as well.
If there was one thing that some may complain about is the film’s duration. It is a long film at 2:08 minutes and it’s not an action film where the time goes by quickly. So, this is one of those films where you want to make sure you that you are fully alert, wide awake and ready to take in.
The film is very lighthearted in nature and one should not think this is your average samurai movie because it’s not. “HANA: The Tale of a Reluctant Samurai” really deconstructs the legend of the samurai but with good balance of comedy drama makes this film worthwhile.