Written by: John White on December 16th, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 1972
Director: Toshio Masuda
Cast: Yûjirô Ishihara, Ryohei Uchida, Mikio Narita, Tetsuro Tamba
DVD released: October 4th, 2005
Approximate running time: 89 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Japanese
DVD Release: Animeigo
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.98
Synopsis: Three ronin, Moonlight (Narita), Sunlight (Uchida) and Jubei (Ishihara) are hired by the Kogomori clan to protect them from the whiles of the Shogun’s ninja or Shadows. The Kogomori have broken a long standing pledge to look after an antique cannon and the Shogun is keen to prove their infidelity and to reclaim their lands and wealth. To protect themselves the Kogomori have made a newer better cannon that they hope to substitute for the melted down one. The new cannon needs to be transported from the Gunsmith and his family to the Clan’s HQ. The Shadow Hunters undertake this task and prepare themselves for the dastardly tricks of the ninja and the lady ninja, Kunoichi. On the way they face battles, ambushes and treachery.
The sequel to the original Shadow Hunters film takes a well worn plot from the westerns and transports it to feudal Japan. As in the first film the plot is far from important as this is just a tale of good versus evil. The fight choreography is again wonderful and the spurting of blood reaches new heights! More noticeable here is some great sound design, the sequence where Narita fights off an assassination attempt at the start of the film is wonderful with silence giving way to the crying of the wind and the rain as Narita swishes and makes many widows.
The setpieces which start the film as the ninja attempt to hunt down the Shadow Hunters are wonderful. Jubei fights of a bevy of naked and gorgeous Kunoichi in a spa, Sunlight fights off the advances of a seductress and Moonlight dispenses with a beautiful gambler. The main plot of the film is a much used idea – God’s Gun, the Big Gun – and doesn’t quite live up to the start of the movie. However there is enough bloodletting and gory vengeance to keep your interest and the requisite chivalry from Jubei to give things a bit of nobility. The film apes many Westerns and the photography of the landscape is always interesting if a little ponderous. I am sure a Freudian analyst would make quite a bit about this films’ obsession with guns and fertility, but this is unsurprisingly a bloke’s film I think.
Great comic book entertainment. Further instalments of these character’s adventures would be good but the second film proved to be the last.
The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen and the transfer is magnificent. Again Animeigo have done the film on a DVD-5 so the picture and sound could have been better with a little effort. The sound is not perfect as I have read in other reviews as the female voices are all distorted with some hiss throughout. Particularly the scenes where the Gunsmith’s daughter offers herself to Jubei suffers from this. The extras on the disc amount to trailers for other Animeigo films and a bit of historical background.
The disc is more than acceptable though and to have Shadow Hunters without this marginally inferior sequel would seem a bit of a crime.