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Princess Blade, The (Eastern Star) 
Written by: on May 21st, 2011

Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 2001
Director: Shinsuke Sato
Writers: Kei Kunii, Shinsuke Sato
Cast: Hideaki Itô, Yumiko Shaku, Shirô Sano, Yôichi Numata, Kyûsaku Shimada, Yôko Chôsokabe, Yôko Maki, Naomasa Musaka, Yutaka Matsushige, Shintarou Sonooka, Takashi Tsukamoto

DVD released: April 19th, 2011
Approximate running time: 95 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: NR
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Japanese, Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: English
DVD Release: Eastern Star / Discotek
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.95

Synopsis: An assassin that is the next in line to lead her clan is forced to leave the only life that she has ever known. When one of her clansmen, who is determined to take control of the clan makes her public enemy #1. After she narrowly escapes an ambush, she encounters a trouble young man that helps nurse her back to health. Soon there after she settles into her new life with this young man and just when she is ready to leave her former life behind, it rears its ugly head once again.

The Princess Blade was adapted from a Manga that was created by Kazuo Koike and illustrated by Kazuo Kamimura titled ‘Shura Yukihime’. And in the mid-1970’s Toho Films produced a pair of films that were also adapted from ‘Shura Yukihime’, Lady Snowblood and Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance. And yet despite being adapted from the same source the differences between The Princess Blade and the Lady Snowblood films are vast. With their only common link being a sword wielding female protagonist driven by vengeance.

From it’s opening moments a bloodbath in which the film’s protagonist Yuki and her clan, ambush and slaughter some gangsters. It quickly becomes apparent that this film strongest asset is its solid action set pieces, which were all choreographed by Hong Kong film action star Donnie Yen (Iron Monkey, Ip Man).

On the flip side, the narrative often gets weighed down by the burdens laid forth by this overly ambitious film. Sure there are splashes of back-story about Yuki’s clan that crop out throughout her harrowing journey. And yet there is also many things that simply are not given enough time to fully materialize.
That being said the one area in which this film often excels are the scenes involving the evolution of Yuki and Takashi, the man who helped nurse her back to health after narrowly escaping a trap set by her former clan. And while it is easy to pull for these two similarly trapped characters finding the happiness that has always eluded them. This film is rooted in tragedy, it is also appropriate that this film saves it’s most emotionally charged moment for its finale.
Shortcomings of the plot aside, another area where this film hold ups well are the performances from its entire cast. With the film’s standout performance coming from Yumiko Shaku (Sky High) in the role of Yuki. And what her performance as the more impressive is that for the bulk of her screen time there is a lack of emotion from the character she is portraying. And yet once she finally let’s her pent up emotions out, she does it in an utterly convincing way that it is near impossible to empathize with her. Ultimately The Princess Blade is a satisfying mix of action and melodrama.

The DVD:

Eastern Star presents The Princess Blade in an anamorphic widescreen that retains the film’s original aspect ratio. The Princess Blade has been released in region 1 on DVD twice before and both of those releases where non anamorphic. This new release from Eastern Star mark’s the first time this film has been given an anamorphic enhanced transfer in region 1. And quality wise this transfer improves upon those previous transfers in every way.

This release comes with two audio options, a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in Japanese and a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in English. Both audio mixes do a very good job with the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack. Dialog comes through clearly, everything sounds balanced and robust when it needs to. The main difference between these two audio mixes is that the English dubbed audio mix like so many dub audio mixes is inferior performance wise when compared to the native language audio mix. Also included with this release are removable English subtitles that are easy to follow and error free.

Extras for this release are spread over two discs. Extras on disc one are limited to a trailer for the film (2 minutes 6 seconds – letterboxed widescreen, in Japanese with English subtitles).

Extras on disc two include six deleted scenes (10 minutes 2 seconds – 4:3 full frame / letterboxed widescreen, in Japanese with English subtitles), a collection of outtakes titled ‘No Good Takes’ (6 minutes 7 seconds – letterboxed widescreen, in Japanese with English subtitles), three behind the scenes segments, ‘Behind the Scenes of The Princess Blade’ (19 minutes 48 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Japanese with English subtitles), ‘The Special Effects of the Princess Blade’ (20 minutes 6 seconds – 4:3 full frame / letterboxed widescreen, in Japanese with English subtitles) and ‘The Making of the Princess Blade’ (36 minutes 22 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Japanese with English subtitles), cast & crew interviews (28 minutes 38 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Japanese with English subtitles) and a interview with action director Donnie Yen (25 minutes 30 seconds – letterboxed widescreen, in English). There is a wide cross section of extras included with this release that does a superb job covering the various aspects of this production. Overall Eastern Star gives The Princess Blade its strongest region 1 DVD release to date.

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