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Pure Samurai Action Entertainment!!!

  • Dec 20, 2008

AZUMI (2003) is based on the manga (Japanese comic) which was a massive hit in Japan. Remember that gut-feeling that tickles you in a delightful way when you are watching a film that is really enjoyable and entertaining? AZUMI delivers that feeling; Director Ryuhei Kitamura (Aragami, Versus) is the right man for the job in this JIDAI GEKI swordplay spectacle. Kitamura has given a very delightful movie watching experience that I ended up with owning both the 128 minute theatrical release and the very expensive (region-2) 143 extended director's cut. I followed the series up to AZUMI 2 in 2005. 

In 19th century war-torn feudal Japan, a master samurai (Yoshio Harada) takes on the task of raising ten orphans and training them to be assassins. Their ruthless purpose: to do the bloody work of the state by silencing rebellious warlords. After a decade of inconceivably harsh training and discipline, Azumi (Beautiful Aya Ueto) and her comrades are ordered to assassinate the powerful warlords Nagamasa Asano and Kiyomasa Kato. But burdened with a cruel assignment that means killing friends and enemies alike, Azumi begins to question herself, her master's--and her country's--objectives. Still, Azumi remains determined to see her mission through to the bloody end.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to read the manga so I cannot disclose the accuracy of the film from its source material. What I can tell you is that AZUMI has become one of my favorite Asian films. The film is truly amazing; from the beginning of the film up to its climactic climax. The film boasts one of the most amazing camera work I've ever been privy to (I don't want to spoil this). Tarantino would have done well consulting Kitamura when he made Kill Bill. Azumi can be called the epitome of the ultimate "girl next door who can kick @$$". Every character has their opportunity to shine, with Kitamura's excellent direction; the man definitely knows how to utilize his casts' strengths and avoid their weaknesses.


AZUMI's strengths lie in its excellent swordplay choreography. Some people may argue that the slicing and dicing may get repetitive but the film is a fighting melee. Footwork is done very well with the sword-swinging that every shot looks like it is poetry in motion. Again, Kitamura is to be praised that he manages to make 19-year old (at the time of production) Aya Ueto a convincing female assassin. It was like Ueto is so refreshingly pretty to look at until she holds her katana, that transforms her into a cold, accurate assassin. As I've mentioned that the action sequences is Azumi's main draw. Highlights include the killer 3rd act sequence where Azumi takes on 200+ samurai foot soldiers and mercenaries and the very creative duel with Bijomaru with the gruesome climax that features one of the most memorable beheadings ever shot on film. The swordplay action in Azumi gets an "A" for its jaw-dropping choreography.

The film isn't your typical chambara period film, the hyper-kinetic action sequences and the music sounds like a cross-breed between Japanese traditional music mixed in with techno and rock and roll. Even Azumi's colorful attire and the Sajiki Brothers' armor to Bijomaru's outfit seem to have the anime-manga infuence. People who are looking for the traditional chambara film will be better off watching Zatoichi or "Lone Wolf and Cub" instead. Who cares? The film still managed to impress the heck out of me.

10 Original students

While close to perfect, the film does have its weaknesses. Some of the supporting characters in the film need acting lessons. Thankfully, Yoshio Harada takes most of the burden; he plays the older sensei with convincing charisma that is both powerful and very effective. Jo Odagiri (Shinobi Heart Under Blade) plays the eccentric and creepy swordsman with a rose. Odagiri is like a chameleon, this actor morphs into the role he plays and is barely recognizable. Same with Tak Sakaguchi (Versus) who makes a brief appearance. People may also argue that the extended cut played a bit too long for an action film but I rather thought the added footages complement the samurai ideals regarding loyalty, duty and honor.



The print of the Japanese/Korean version is a bit superior to the U.S. release. The color palette leans towards earth colors.
The Differences between the 142 minute director's cut and the 128 theatrical cut are:

1) First encounter with Kanbei. The extended fight scene was edited down. It is missing the significant scene wherein Kanbei observes Azumi in action, he sees her superior skill in combat. Explains in a way how he became obsessed and a little intimidated with Azumi.

2) Some scenes overlap to the next scene. Dialogue gets carried over to the next.

3)The scene(memory) with Nachi and her friends; this scene strengthens her resolve to complete the mission.

4) The Japanese version is bloodier than the U.S version with most action sequences noticeably extended.

          Even odds at worst.

             Death in a blue cape.

AZUMI is a triumphant blend of awesome swordplay-action, humor and raw emotion that may well be Ryuhei Kitamura's crowning achievement. Think about it, the man manages to pull off the terrific "ARAGAMI" in 7 days as part of the Duel challenge project against 2LDK and the almost no-budget cult hit "Versus". Imagine the man directing a film with a larger budget such as AZUMI. Ryuhei Kitamura is poised to become one of Japan's prominent International directors. Azumi is PURE fun and enjoyment; Kitamura has given his fans more than 2 hours of great film-making!

Note: The Japanese region-2 version is the one to get! It has 20 minutes more footage of extended fight scenes and character depth.



  Not un-hot.
Japanese Original Movie Poster/ Region-2 Dvd cover Promo poster scene 10 Original students promo Promo poster

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March 10, 2014
These are fantastic action pictures. The Samurai themes are very popular! The You Tube sword play is engaging too.
November 09, 2010
Sounds super cool! Adding it to my queue to watch!
November 13, 2010
Thanks, Adri! Me and Trashie used to spread the word a lot about this underrated film. You'll like it!
November 14, 2010
We just got a copy. Not sure when I will be able to watch it, though, because I'm busy with GRE tests and school applications. Everything needs to be submitted by December, and then I will have more free time again!
July 27, 2010
You got it so right WP, this is one of my fav's in the collection. And just like you said, gotta love that swordplay.
November 09, 2010
review, bro....REVIEW it! I need company!!
December 22, 2008
Damn, it feels good to have the old Amazon group reforming away from the taint of the consumerist interests of Amazon. I hope that both of you guys will invite as many of our "old" buddies as you want. Great review Woo. I'm still embarrassed to say that I haven't seen this film. But I will, I will.
May 16, 2010
so have you seen it yet?
May 16, 2010
Nope, I still suck. Actually, our local rental place sucks, but I feel obligated to support them since Netflix is hurting their business and our town is already economically challenged.
More Azumi reviews
review by . September 08, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
Azumi is a nice action flick with a B-movie feel to it. Yeah, it gets boring in some parts, but it delivers kick a.. action, a beautiful lead and samurai swordfights, which are always welcomed and fun was amused by the story. Nothing too simple, nothing too terribly difficult. Pretty straight forward plot. (Read the synopsis on the main page). It was enough to keep me entertained and, in these kind of movies, if the plot doesn't hold up, the action will keep you in you're seats.    This …
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About this movie


Was edited by a half hour for it's international release.

Orphaned as a little girl, Azumi (Aya Ueto) is raised in the forest with a group of ten children by their master (Yoshio Harada), who trains them to be peerless assassins. Azumi and Nachi (Shun Oguri) are the strongest of the fighters. When the group comes of age, the master gives them one final test. He tells them to team up with the person to whom they feel closest. Then he tells them to kill that person, explaining that an assassin never gets to choose whom to kill. The teens reluctantly fight to the death. Then the survivors are brought out of the woods to begin their work, assassinating the corrupt warlords who are preventing peace in the land. The assassins, particularly Azumi, perform their missions with flair, but complications arise. One of the teens (Takatoshi Kaneko) is poisoned by a ninja's blade, one (Kenji Kohashi) falls in love with a circus performer (Aya Okamoto), and Azumi begins to question her desire to live the violent life of an assassin. Meanwhile, one warlord (Naoto Takenaka) cleverly escapes their blades, and together with his bodyguard Kenbei (Kazuki Kitamura) and a "monkey-faced" ninja, Saru (Minoru Matsumoto), they find Bijomaru (Jô Odagiri from Bright Future), a violent madman, release him from prison, and unleash him upon the young team of assassins. Azumi, based on the manga by Yu Koyama, is the first of cult director Ryuhei Kitamura's (Versus) films to be made within ...
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Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller, Drama, Adventure, Fantasy
Release Date: May 10, 2003
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Runtime: 142 minutes
Studio: Amuse Pictures
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