Kamui (2009)

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Released 11-Aug-2010

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Eastern Eye Trailers
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2009
Running Time 115:06
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Yoichi Sai
Studio
Distributor
Shochiku
Madman Entertainment
Starring Ken'ichi Matsuyama
Koyuki
Kaoru Kobayashi
Kôichi Satô
Hideaki Ito
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Tarô Iwashiro


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Japanese dts 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
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

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Plot Synopsis

     Kamui (Kamui gaiden) is based upon a popular manga comic created in 1964 by Sanpei Shirato but those unfamiliar with the manga will have no problem with the plot. Kamui (Kenichi Matsuyama) is a ninja who has tired of the killing and murderous ways of the ninja. He seeks to move on, but no-one is allowed to leave the ninja life. Ninja hunters abound, killing those who seek to quit and so Kamui is forced to run, and kill, and run some more. On his travels he meets the fisherman Hanbei (Kaoru Kobayashi) who has just killed Lord Gumbei’s (Koichi Sato) best hunting horse, so Gumbei wants his head. Escaping they meet again in Hanbei’s village on the seashore where Kamui meets Hanbei’s wife Sugaru (Koyuki) and his children, including 14 year old Sayaka (Suzuka Ohgo). Sugaru herself also has a ninja past and fears that Kamui has either come to kill her or will reveal her secret. When one is on the run, who can you trust?

     When Hanbei is betrayed by another villager and captured by Lord Gumbei, Kamui and Sugaru mount a successful rescue. Kamui is accepted in the fishing village and tries to put his past life behind him, fishing with Hanbei while Sayaka falls in love with him, despite her mother’s cautions. The idyllic existence is broken by the arrival of a shark-hunting pirate ship captained by Fudo (Hideaki Ito). But is shark all he is hunting? As the ninja hunters of Lord Gumbei circle, Kamui must decide where his loyalties and values lie and determine just who is trustworthy, and who is not. His own life, the survival of the villagers and the lives of those he has come to love, will depend upon his decisions.

     Kamui has an old fashioned feel and the summary does not really do it justice. This is a multi-layered film about honour, loyalty, friendship, betrayal and trying to escape one’s past. For an action film (which it is) it has a number of quiet, intimate reflective moments, especially within the idyllic village life as it follows the relationships between Kamui and Hanbei, Kamui and Sugaru and, especially, Kamui and Sayaka. These intimate moments are aided by the stunningly beautiful cinematography of the village along the shoreline, the sea, the islands and the sunsets. Indeed, in all its aspects the film looks spectacular. In addition, the emotional score very effectively utilises Japanese wind instruments and orchestra to enhance the mood. The action sequences are a mixed bag, depending on your tolerance for excessive wire work and CGI as ninjas fly through the air, swoop amid trees or run up cliffs. Even the CGI fish and sharks fly through the air! However, when the fights become one on one, and especially at the climax, they are very good with impressive fight choreography that makes the conflict brutal and believable.

     The story of the lone ninja / swordsman / gunfighter trying to escape their violent past is not new and in that sense Kamui is quite old fashioned. However, amid a glut of mindless action films Kamui is a very beautiful looking film with attractive leads, appealing characters, reflective moments admit the mayhem, an emotional score and enough fight good sequences to make it well worth visiting this territory again. If you like the genre, you will enjoy Kamui. I know I did.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Kamui is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the original theatrical ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced. It looks absolutely stunning, a wonderful print.

     Colours throughout are bright and vibrant; the blue of the sea, the green of the forest, the reds and yellows of some of the costumes leap from the screen like the leaping fish. Contrast and brightness are stable, skin tones natural. The sunsets are spectacular, the blacks solid and the shadow detail, such as the village after dark with the ripples of the water showing clearly, exceptional. I did not notice any film or film to video artefacts except for minor motion blur.

     English subtitles are in a yellow font and appear to follow the dialogue closely. I did not notice any spelling or grammatical errors.

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

Audio

     Audio is a choice of Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at 448 Kbps or Japanese dts. I listened primarily to the dts track. It is a good enveloping track; dialogue is clear and centred while effects such as the sea or wind and music occur constantly in all speakers. The surrounds are constantly in use and while the sub is not called into action a lot it supports the music, storm at sea and the fire effects when needed. I only sampled the Dolby Digital track. It was recorded at a lower level than the dts; it has a nice enveloping feel but does not have the subtleties, or the bass rumble, of the dts. Listen to the dts if you have it.

     Lip synchronisation was fine.

     As noted, the score for Kamui by Tarô Iwashiro is an emotional combination of Japanese wind instruments and orchestra that wonderfully compliments the mood of the film.

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

Extras

Original Trailer (1:23)

Eastern Eye Trailers

     Trailers for other films from Madman: The Grudge White Ghost Black Ghost (1:13), Love Exposure (2:12), Goemon (2:18), Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl (1:14) and Chaw (2:01).

R4 vs R1

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

     Currently I could not find a Region 1 US edition. The Region 2 UK edition has as extras a press conference (15:25), a premier screening (14:00), approximately an hour of various of cast and crew events around Japan, a trailer and teaser trailer. The UK Region B Blu-ray is similar. There are a couple of Region 2 Japanese DVD versions, and a Region A Japanese Blu-ray with similar extras to the UK version, but without English subtitles for the feature or extras. Clearly, these versions have the extras that our Region 4 does not; if you like this press conference stuff the other regions are superior; nothing of this is a “making of” or “behind the scenes” however, so to many they may be of limited value.

Summary

     Kamui is a very beautiful looking film with attractive leads, appealing characters, reflective moments amid the mayhem, an emotional score and enough good fight sequences to make it well worth watching. The video is exceptional, the audio very good. A trailer is the only extra. If you like the genre, you will enjoy Kamui.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42inch Hi-Def LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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