Written by: Michael Den Boer on June 6th, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 1989
Director: Yasuo Furuhata
Writers: Hiroo Matsuda, Sadao Nakajima
Cast: Sonny Chiba, Ken Ogata, Hiroki Matsukata, Tetsuo Tamba
DVD Released: July 5th, 2005
Approximate Running Time: 111 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo
DVD Release: Adness/Ventura
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.99
Tachechiyo is the shogun’s eldest and the next in line to the throne. He is summoned by his father to return to Edo to participate in a rites of passage ritual that marks his transformation into a man. Seven samurai are assigned to protect Tachechiyo for his long treacherous journey to Edo. The leader of these Samurai’s is Igo Gyobu (Ken Ogata) whose wife left him to become one of the shogun’s mistresses. In pursuit of Tachechiyo is Iba Shoemon (Sonny Chiba) who happens to be one the shogun’s vassals. Who wants so desperately to kill Tachechiyo and why are so many of these men connected to the Shogun?
Yasuo Furuhata has spent most of his career working as a director for Toei pictures. Besides their collaboration on Shogun’s Shadow Yasuo Furuhata had worked previously with Sonny Chiba once before on the SciFi film Gyangu 11 a film which also starred Tetsuro Tamba. Sonny Chiba would choreograph of the stunts and action sequences featured in Shogun’s Shadow. Shogun’s Shadow despite coming at the tale of the Edo picture genre holds up better then ninety percent of these films that were crank out in the late 1970’s and 1980’s.
Even though the genre by the time this film was released had seen better days Toei still put a lot into the production making it most likely one of their last epic productions. The sets look authentic and the costumes are equally impressive. The idea of having seven samurai’s in a film isn’t exactly original and this ends any comparisons to Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai ends. Shogun’s Shadow’s seven samurai’s also possess other powers that are usually associated with another Japanese icon the Ninja. This film like many of the other Edo films revolves around a family member who wants to rule but another is in the way. Despite the fact that this type of plot has been done many times before Shogun’s Shadow manages to keep things interesting by throwing in twists that slightly change the direction of the story. Another staple of most of these movies is the use of heavy metal power ballad style music that usually plays during a battle scene. Shogun’s Shadow is blessed with its very own metal masterpiece that would even make the most talented hair band envious. This film is blessed with a strong script and a talented supporting cast lead by the incredible Sonny Chiba who has a rare turn as a villain. Sure Chiba has played a bad guy before and in a few films he played by sides, still in the end he has never played a heavy like Iba Shoemon. This is the most un-heroic and cold character he has ever played which makes it extremely hard to ever feel anything for him. Shogun’s Shadows greatest strength is its brilliantly staged fight sequences and it is only fitting that Chiba’s character Iba Shoemon gets the best fight scene in the movie when he faces Igo Gyobu in a duel. Overall Shogun’s Shadow perfectly mixes high adventure and action for thrill ride that you won’t soon forget.
Adness presents Shogun’s Shadow in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the films original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The colors are vibrant through out and flesh tones look natural. The black levels are solid through out and there is an exceptional amount of detail present in every frame. There are no problems with compressions, artifacts or edge enhancement. Overall Shogun’s Shadow couldn’t ask for a better transfer to make it debut in North America on DVD. This DVD comes with only one audio option the films original Japanese language track presented in a Dolby Digital Stereo. Dialog comes through crisp and cleanly. The action sequences sound surprisingly robust considering the limitations Dolby Digital Stereo. There are no problems with Hiss or distortion and the audio like the video is in amazing condition. English subtitles have been included that are easy to follow and understand. Extras this time around are slightly different then pervious release form the Sonny Chiba collection. Extras include the films original trailer as well as trailers for other Chiba titles including Karate Bullfighter, Karate Bearfighter, Karate for Life, Shogun’s Ninja, The Executioner and The Executioner 2: Karate Inferno. It is nice to see some new trailers added into the mix and some really cool titles are slated for release in the near future. Unfortunately one minor change with this release verses the previous titles released in the Sonny Chiba collection is the omission of any liner notes written by Patrick Macias who is always entertaining and full of knowledge about Sonny Chiba. Adness comes through once again with another fine release as they keep the Sonny Chiba gravy train rolling with another exemplary addition to their ever growing collection of Sonny Chiba titles. Shogun’s Shadow is one of the best examples that the Edo period genre has to offer and it also features Sonny Chiba’s best performance in nearly twenty five years, Recommended.