Shogun Assassin 2, on the other hand, is a direct dubbed translation of the third film in the series Kozure Ôkami: Shinikazeni mukau ubaguruma (literally Wolf with Child in Tow: Perambulator Against the Winds, but probably better known as: Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades). It was credited to its original director Kenji Misumi and its original writers Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima (as opposed to the English-Language adapter/ editors). It also carries its original release year, which is why the second film in the series (which is really the third) has a date of 1972 while the first film in the series (which is really mostly the second) has a release date of 1980. It should be noted that while Shogun Assassin 2 does stand up well as a sequel to Shogun Assassin, this specific order wasn't the intent of director Kenji Misumi. Purists should opt to watch the original six films in order, with Shogun Assassin as a fitting companion piece.
That said, Shogun Assassin 2 is a good film to watch and enjoy. Its biggest drawbacks are in the dubbing and translation, both of which seem to be just on the cusp of doing the Japanese Version (Kozure Ôkami: Shinikazeni mukau ubaguruma) justice, but falling just short. Shogun Assassin had some of the same issues, but managed to turn these into assets, providing for a surreal event that plays so well with the many self-aware films that came after it like Kill Bill and others. Here the dubbing and translation feel just a little off, trading the surreal for the weird, coolness for cartoonishness and Nihongo for dumbed-down English. That may sound harsh and perhaps it is, more than it should be, because even as an English-Dubbed import to the USA, Shogun Assassin 2 is quite a cool film to enjoy, with all the events of the original, uncut. As always, some of the best parts of this film are the silent parts anyway, so sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.
In a world where Ronin and Watari-Kashi (called "Mercenary Samurai" in the English dub) become the bad guys at the drop of the hat when there is no job to be had, the Japanese Countryside is a dangerous place to travel. Nobody knows that better than the Lone Wolf himself, Ogami Itto (Tomisaburo Wakayama) who not only must protect himself, but also his toddler son Daigoro (the "Cub" of the title, still played by the impressive Akihiro Tomikawa) from the dangers of the world. Sadly these dangers remain more serious for the duo than for most, seeing as how both are marked men with Shogun-set prices on their heads.
As in the other entries, there is a questionable nature to what Itto is really all about. For example, along the road through this bleak frontier, three Watari-Kashi and their honorable Ronin counterpart come across a young woman traveling with her mother (who has really bad teeth) and a bodyguard. The three brutally rape the women in one of the more graphic scenes in the film and must therefore face the wrath of their bodyguard (actually the nephew and cousin of the women). The stoic, non-rapist ronin Magomura Kanbei (Go Kato) kills the nephew, then both women, then one of the three rapists (the idea being, the police will believe the story that the dead man killed all three and that Kanbei killed the man out of honor). Honor? Well...
Of course, Itto happens along right around then with Daigoro. More specifically, Kanbei's Watari-Kashi victim falls right onto Daigoro's Baby Cart to die. Itto is forced to dispatch the other two brigands, right around the time that Kanbei challenges Itto to a duel, to leave no witnesses. But Itto refuses, because he sees Kanbei as a "True Samurai"!
Hmmm. I just looked up "Samurai" and Webster's defines the word as "a military retainer of a Japanese daimyo practicing the code of conduct of Bushido". Nothing about murdering innocent rape victims and framing people for it there, so I looked up Bushido. Webster's defines that one as "a feudal-military Japanese code of behavior valuing honor above life". Okay I... still... don't get it... Must be a translation issue. I'll get back to you once I've looked it up in WeBuStaaRu!
However, later that same day when a virgin being sold into prostitution murders the man who bought, is preparing to sell and is attempting to rape her, Itto risks everything to protect her. In fact, he goes as far as he can to save her from both her punishment for the murder and her upcoming life as an unwilling prostitute. To save her from the brothels, he agrees to accept the dreaded buri-buri torture on her behalf. Itto is tied, dipped repeatedly in water and treated like a big-ass human pińata by a bunch of losers who aren't fit to wash his cart. The swordsman takes the punishment with his usual stoicism, never crying out, still remaining scary as hell.
As to her penalty for defending herself against the rapist, Itto agrees to take on a hit job for the brothel's Madame, Yakuza Leader Torizo (Yuko Hamada) and her father Miura Tatewaki (Jun Hamamura), whom Itto knew from his days in the service of the Yagyu clan. Can you imagine what the job is? We've had two rapes and an attempted rape already, so it comes as little surprise that Torizo and Miura are hiring your favorite Lone Wolf, and mine, to slay the man who raped Torizo's sister.
As you can guess, this leads to yet another enormous body count before the final credits roll. A woman is raped, a revenge killing must happen, so revenge is meted out for the revenge, then revenge for that one, and finally it's Lone Wolf and Cub against an entire army. Hey, here's an idea, folks, it saves all kinds of trouble in the end... DON'T RAPE WOMEN!
It just seems so easy!
The mark is Endo Genba (Isao Yamagata) a corrupt local politician, who is heavily protected by his body guards. But this is Ogami Itto we're talking about here. He's already effortlessly dispatched a whole gaggle of attackers, including, but not limited to, the ubiquitous Ninja that the Yagyu keep sending after him. Can some power-hungry deputy be any match for his ass? If the fact that there are three other films after this entry tell you anything, you realize that Itto's ass remains victorious.
That said, the proceedings of this film are anything but predictable and Ogami Itto's path will not be easy, Shinobi Slashing or no Shinobi Slashing. Speaking of which, a note to you Ninjas out there: The art of invisibility is better practiced when you don't announce your presence by screaming out "Ogami Itto, DIE!" The tagline for this movie was "Then they threw an army at him, and he threw it back... a piece at a time", and we see just what that means as Daigoro and Ogami enter the gates of Hell.
As with all the films in this series, Shogun Assassin 2 (by any name) is an extremely violent film. There are more lost limbs in this movie than in the entire double Star Wars Trilogy! Through the Lone Wolf's many dangers, toils and snares he must engage in numerous sword fights (often against multiple sparring partners at once), Primitive Grenade fabrication, a jury-rigging of that versatile Baby Cart to a new level of James Bond gadget status and even gun fights. Yes, guns are all over this movie to the point that I thought this movie might actually be called "Shotgun Assassin 2". After all, he faces an Army. And let's not forget the one adversary he refused to fight. Kanbei "failed to die" before, but the ultimate showdown has yet to come!
Throughout all this Itto must protect his son without losing his edge. This bullet-proof baby motif can be worrisome to many, especially as Daigoro travels down rivers in his baby cart, towed to the boat his father is in, is present at just about every battle and is even used once or twice as bait against the bad cats. But the fantasy aspect of this story is strong, and in spite of his age, Daigoro proves himself to be as formidable as he is loving to his father. Again there are some touching tender moments between father and son in this film, along with a strong sense of right and wrong (amazingly) and the true meaning of what a Samurai Warrior really is.
In addition to being a quality representation of the acting of both Wakayama and Tomikawa (as well as the rest of the cast), Shogun Assassin 2 is also a great showcase for the amazing directing of Misumi and the beautiful cinematography of Chishi Makiura. The colors, framing and lighting in this film are all picture-perfect. That goes also for AnimEigo's DVD release, which is a painstaking preservation of this quality film. American name though it may have, this is Kozure Ôkami: Shinikazeni mukau ubaguruma, and it looks great.
Three and One Half Stars out of Five for Shogun Assassin 2 (Kozure Ôkami: Shinikazeni mukau ubaguruma)! It's got a lot of hideous and hard to watch parts and is most definitely not for the kids or for the squeamish. There is a lot of graphic violence, graphic rape, graphic torture, graphic dismemberment and graphic jets of spewing blood. But to focus on these things would be missing a good deal of the point of this movie. This is a quality film, any way you slice it, with, or without, your LIGHTNING SWORDS OF DEATH. There is no substitute for the originals, and as long as you're fully aware of what this film is, there's no reason not to watch Shogun Assassin 2: Lightning Swords of Death! The wolves are coming. See you in the next reel.
All these Japanese Words and everyone's puzzled over "Perambulator"!
It means "Baby Transport", usually abbreviated to "Pram".
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Shogun Assassin 2: Lightning Swords of Death (1972) reviewed by J.C. Maçek III
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Which strictly follows a Code that can't be broken.
It was forgotten long ago, but I'm pretty sure it hasn't been broken or anything.
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