The Twilight Samurai (Tasogare Seibei) (2002)

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Released 25-May-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Menu Animation & Audio
Storyboard Comparisons
Gallery-Photo-15
Theatrical Trailer
Teaser Trailer-2
Trailer-Eastern Eye Promo Reel, Violent Cop, Ong Bak, Inuyasha
Trailer-Studio Ghibli Collection
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 123:40 (Case: 129)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (65:09) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Yoji Yamada
Studio
Distributor
Shochiku
Madman Entertainment
Starring Hiroyuki Sanada
Rie Miyazawa
Nenji Kobayashi
Ren Osugi
Mitsuru Fukikoshi
Kanako Fukaura
Hiroshi Kanbe
Miki Itô
Erina Hashiguchi
Reiko Kusamura
Setsuko Tanaka
Kii Mizuno
Yuuki Natsusaka
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Yousui Inoue
Isao Tomita


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Japanese dts 5.1 (1536Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Placid and contemplative are two words that you wouldn't normally associate with a Samurai film, but Yoji Yamada's Twilight Samurai is an exception. While there are some great examples of sword-fighting action (it wouldn't be a Samurai film otherwise), the film focuses on simple routines and family life, providing a snapshot of Japanese culture we so rarely see on film.

    Seibei Iguchi (Hiroyuki Sanada) is a low ranking Samurai working as storeman for his clan, stockpiling non-perishable food and supplies for use during times of war or famine and hardship. We meet Seibei as his ailing wife is succumbing to a long battle with consumption and he is left to care for two young daughters and a senile mother. In situations such as this it is easy to neglect one's self and he has become smelly and dishevelled, the butt of many jokes from his workmates. He doesn't go out for drinks or social activities after work - he just goes straight home to attend to his family and do chores. His 'early to bed, early to rise' lifestyle earns him the nickname Twilight.

    Obviously his friends and family are aware of his predicament - heavily in debt and without anyone to help around the house, their attempts to pair him up with a new wife have been unsuccessful. A bloke in his situation can't afford to be fussy, but his luck turns around when he hears of Tomoe (Rie Miyazawa), a childhood friend who is recently divorced and escaping a violent marriage. She is radiant, great with kids and adept at doing the laundry so she offers her help and the vibe in the household changes the instant she arrives. Her drunken former spouse is still lurking about and in an effort to defend her Seibei accepts a duel, taking on her sword-wielding ex-husband with a stick, much to his embarrassment. He successfully establishes himself as her hero but when the time comes for Tomoe to decide on a husband he turns the offer down for fear of their difference in class. Regret builds within him like a sickness until his senior retainer learns of his short sword skill and dispatches him to dispose of a renegade who refuses to commit Hari-kari, barricaded in his own house. He is very reluctant to accept the mission and fears he has lost the nerve to kill, but great financial rewards are offered that could alleviate his problems. Will he risk his life to help his family?

    Director Yoji Yamada has made a staggering number of films, this being his 77th. According to my research, the film is based on a novel by Shuhei Fujisawa. The story is told with a narrative from Seibei's youngest daughter and although the timeline jumps a little the tale is seamless from beginning to end. The performances are fantastic all round and the photography is first class. This is one of my favourite Japanese films of recent years.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This video transfer is a genuine PAL effort, although there are recognisable similarities with the Region 3 NTSC version I have on hand for comparison. This PAL feature's runtime is 123:40, whereas the NTSC equivalent is 129:00 (note that the NTSC runtime is mistakenly listed on the DVD cover). Both transfers have an equal amount of detail visible and suffer from a boosted brightness level. This issue is most recognisable during the film's opening credits which include white Japanese characters on a black background. When at their full exposure the characters are blooming and undefined, but as they fade out they become sharper.

    This transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and is 16x9 enhanced. I believe this film was screened theatrically at 1.85:1, which would mean the matte has been opened a little for the DVD transfer.

    Overall sharpness and fine detail is good, but not great. The detail in the shot where Seibei points out the blooming Azaleas at 28:04 is a good indicator of the flaws in this transfer - the detail of the foliage against the bright sky is a mess. There are a great many dark scenes in the film and they are carried adequately, although the depth of black is hindered by the elevated brightness I mentioned above. There was no low level noise evident in the transfer.

    There isn't a lot of bright colouring to speak of in this film given the impoverished era in which it is set, but skin tones and the like appear to be consistent.

    I didn't note any MPEG compression issues at all. The video bitrate is highly variable and encoded with an average of 6.9Mb/s, often peaking towards 10Mb/s. The transfer is absolutely clean and free from any film artefacting such as dust, dirt and scratches.

    English subtitles are activated by default and consist of an easy to read yellow font. I noticed a minor grammatical error at 108:16, but the stream is otherwise well written and accurately paced with the dialogue.

    This disc is dual layered, with the layer transition visible during the feature at 65:09.The pause is situated in a silent moment between scenes and is minimally intrusive.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are two soundtracks available; both Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s) and full bitrate dts (1536Kb/s) options in the film's original Japanese language. The default soundtrack is Dolby Digital 5.1. I listened to the default soundtrack first and returned to the film a second time to sample certain scenes in dts.

    The dialogue is always clear and prominent in the soundtrack, while the differences between characters is easily discernable. I speak very little Japanese, but the ADR sync appears to be perfectly accurate.

    The surround channels are used mainly for atmosphere but the effect is great for such a mellow, dialogue driven film. At 22.50 gunshots can be heard clearly ringing out in the rears and the score regularly envelops the viewer. Rain and thunder are brought across well, with plenty of depth and realism. Voices are generally confined to the front centre channel.

    Obviously, with a full bitrate the dts has greatly increased depth, particularly noticeable in the drums and score. The dts soundtrack is much more enveloping and my first preference without question.

    The film's score is strictly traditional and light, with a percussive feel that is completely Japanese. The film's theme titled Fixed Rhythm is by Yosui Inoue.

    The subwoofer is used to add depth to the score and drums. The LFE channel also augments gunshots in the soundtrack.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    All of the content on this DVD is 16x9 enhanced, with the exception of the Madman propaganda.

Menu

    All menu pages are subtly animated with excerpts from the film and are accompanied by a clip from the score.

Storyboard Comparison (5:50)

    Two scenes are explored here; the duel with Tomoe's ex-husband and the final fight with Zenemon Yogo. The clip from the film is played on the right with English subtitles while a storyboard scrolls through frames on the left. This is a very nicely constructed feature.

Still Gallery (15)

    These are a simple series of stills taken from recognisable scenes in the film,  to scroll through using your remote.

Trailers (3)

    Here we have two teaser trailers and one theatrical trailer. Only the theatrical trailer is subtitled. The first teaser is a little deceptive in my opinion and makes the film appear too action-like.

Eastern Eye Trailers (5)

    We get the usual Eastern Eye Promo Reel and trailers for Takeshi Kitano's brilliant debut as director, Violent Cop, Muai Thai extravaganza Ong Bak, the somewhat childish Inuyasha and the Studio Ghibli Collection.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 disc is in widescreen but lacks 16x9 enhancement. Reviews of this title are not positive at all.

    The Region 2 UK release by Tartan is an NTSC conversion and includes some trailers.

    The Region 2 Japanese release (NTSC) includes English subtitles with the feature and doesn't appear to suffer from the brightness issues inherent in the Region 4 and 3 transfers. This Japanese edition includes:

    I'm not sure if the extra material is subtitled, but I'm prepared to award this to the Japanese Region 2 based on screen captures I have seen. Their image is sharper and far superior, despite it being NTSC.

Summary

    Twilight Samurai is a unique and thought provoking glimpse into the life of a low-ranking Samurai. Our release in Region 4 would appear to be far superior to the Region 1 and Region 2 UK discs. If you enjoy Japanese cinema, I recommend it highly.

    The video transfer is good and the subtitles are removable.

    The audio transfer includes an excellent full bitrate dts soundtrack in the film's original language.

    The extras are few, but the storyboards are interesting viewing.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Sunday, July 17, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3910, using DVI output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2802 Dolby EX/DTS ES Discrete
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora lll Mains (bi-wired), Rears, Centre Rear. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Centre. Mirage 10 inch sub.

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