From one of the most important forces in Japanese filmmaking, Ito Daisuke, comes the biography of the greatest Warlord in Japan’s history. Tokugawa Ieyasu was a brilliant general who rose through a combination of good luck and better strategies than his mentors and enemies. Having served under the powerful leaders who preceded him, Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, his ambition knew no bounds. How he was able to defeat the forces of the Western Army and seize control of Japan is a story which must be told properly. While Ieyasu’s rise was the basis for James Clavell’s “Shogun” which fictionalized his story using the false name Toranaga, before this film, little was known of Ieyasu before now.
Also Known As (AKA): The Story of Tokugawa Ieyasu
–And here I am to review another historical movie, this time dedicated to the rise to power of a young Tokugawa Ieyasu, yet featuring an exciting rendition of our favourite warlord, Nobunaga!
This 143 minutes-long movie was released on 1965 and directed by Daisuke Ito, who also took care of the scriptwriting.
As we already saw for “The Lucky Adventurer”, the “source” for this movie was another popular novel by Yamaoka Souhachi, “Tokugawa Ieyasu” in fact, serialized from 1950 to 1967 on newspaper; from what I could see, the story stops at the third volume of the novel, featuring the introduction of the Oda clan and ending with the Battle of Okehazama.
Our first meeting with Nobunaga is during the captivity of Ieyasu (named Takechiyo) by the hands of the Oda.
Nobunaga is intrigued by the strenght, smartness and dignity of the little boy and offers him his friendship, sympathizing with the forced distance of his mother.
The actor playing Nobunaga both as an adult and as a youngster is Nakamura Kinnosuke, again, the same actor who played Nobunaga on the above mentioned “The Lucky Adventurer”– So I won’t tell you again about how popular and entertaining this guy is.
This time, I confess you that I didn’t recognize him at all– Sure he changed a lot during those six years… And I’m kinda amazed by how much difference a chonmage and some make-up can do to the facial features of a person!
The portrait of Nobunaga in this movie is quite intriguing.
The difference with the portrait of the daimyo suggested by recent series as Gunshi Kanbee is revealing of the spirit of the times: Nobunaga is a leader so he’s both the politician and the strategist.
His eccentricity has the genuine taste of the strong man, and he’s far from being portrayed as someone who needs someone to take “care of him”.
He’s surrounded by vassals, helpers and assistants but he’s the one putting his men to use and not the opposite.
The first relevant action that Nobunaga did even as a young lad was taking care of his fellow countrymen. In the scene where he got to meet with Otai, Ieyasu’s mother (Ineko Arima), he’s showing as teaching kids to sing and dance so that they can sustain themselves.
After this first meeting with Otai, he did everything to keep in contact with the woman for the sake of Ieyasu.
Behind his eccentricity and roughness he’s actually the caring type –Not sure how historically accurate it may be, but sure it’s a reassuring thing for the audience to assume that they are led by responsible fellows.
Hideyoshi is played by Kei Yamamoto:
It’s an interesting portrait! Instead of being characterized as a bufoon, here Hideyoshi has the vibe of the spy, the information gatherer, almost as a fishy henchman from a noir movie…
Nobunaga used to meet him at the market by Kiyosu’s castle, but later on he’s showed as servicing him as a proper informer: “I know everything in-between Heaven and Hell” is his catchy motto!
In this movie both Imagawa Yoshimoto (Kou Nishimura) and his uncle advisor Sessai (Koreya Senda) managed to get a good deal of screentime, and are immediately portrayed as the shrewd villains of the movie.
Faithful to his nickname, “The Fox of Suruga”, Yoshimoto, advised by his uncle monk, makes sure to secure his lands by keeping his rivals on check with cruel plots.
How he used up the strenght and resources of his “forced allies”, the Matsudaira, placing them on the vanguard of his army to do all the dirty job for him, was pointed out by Nobunaga as a reason to hope for Ieyasu’s support.
Nou-hime was played by Junko Miyazono, and her presence in the movie was not very relevant.
She’s just showed as serving Nobunaga her meal and seeing him off to pray for him on the eve of the Battle of Okehazama.
A dignified rendition, but just worth a note for the sake of a complete review.
On a fangirly note, an actor playing as Iwamuro Nagato-no-kami, Nobunaga’s favourite page during the Kiyosu days– YEEEE!
He’s Koujiro Kawakami and he’s a pretty boy!
I was delighted by the presence of so many pages around Nobunaga in that period, a real treat!
Pages and warriors are also the special feature of the Atsumori of this movie; a real show that Nobunaga presented to everyone, expecially to Nagato, that, as Nobunaga jokes, by now he should be bored to see:
“Sing with me, as this may be my last performance!”
Again, a vigorous, moving performance by our kabuki superstar.
Another interesting bit of this movie that caught my attention is the quick “lucky meal” that takes the place of the usual bowl of rice gulped down while putting up the armour:
Nobunaga takes a bit of each of the three dishes and recites (according to the English subs) “Strike! Victory! Happiness! I will eat the ogre!” before swallowing the treat and washing it down with three cups of sake.
I assume that it’s some kind of ritual to bring good luck (the word “????” is an expression that means “to overcome”)– I assume that it’s also related to the served food… As “katsu” means pork… If you get to know more about this curious ritual, please share your infos!
The Battle of Okehazama is shown while being performed early in the morning and during the famous storm:
It wasn’t accurate and I’m always sad at seeing Yoshimoto dying like a moron, but that’s it– A short bit of a battle in difficult conditions to remark the drama of Ieyasu and the stubborness of Nobunaga.
Long story short, an interesting and original rendition of the facts that I suggest you to watch to re-fuel your imagination on the events.
– Eleonora Nappi.
DVDRip | MKV | 720 x 366 | AVC @ 2000 Kbps | 143 min | 2.16 GB
Audio: Japanese AC3 2.0 @ 256 Kbps | Subs: English (embedded)