As with most chambara movies, weak-willed men can be manipulated by beautiful strong-willed women, while strong men have the heart of a good woman behind them. The film also touches on the corruption of authority figures and their selfish material needs. This makes our lead characters much more interesting, as Toyokawa and Ikewaki play their characters as people with needs that express their pureness of heart. I suppose the story wanted to show a theme that good people do exist behind the glamour and lie of the Bushido code; that their loyalty is all that defines such a code despite being alienated from it. This is something that can truly be heart-breaking, one’s own sense of loyalty can lead to one’s ruin and hardship. The direction strongly weaves this element into its screenplay in a subtle way.
As with most chambara movies modern or classic, “Sword of Desperation” has a gorgeous display of sword play that is both beautiful and bloody. The sword fight between Minami and Obiya was simple, and yet beautiful in its simplicity. It was an expression of pure technique rather than something that wallows in bloodshed. The final encounter yielded a gorgeous display of swordsmanship, as Minami stays true to his character; he only kills when pushed to and would rather steer clear of violence. The blood effects have the familiar arterial spray that defined samurai films, albeit the swordplay was built more for the expression of realism than for showmanship as with Ryuhei Kitamura’s Azumi
. The final encounter was brutal but was necessary to express the desperation of such a struggle.