I've always been a huge fan of Shogun Assassin, so when the first film came out on Blu-ray from AnimEigo about two years ago, I was pretty overjoyed. AnimEigo has struck again and given some of the most popular films in samurai sub-genre the red-carpet treatment with a Blu-ray release of all five of the films from the groundbreaking Shogun Assassin series - Shogun Assassin (Original), Lightening Swords of Death, Slashing Blades of Carnage, Five Fistfuls of Gold and Cold Road to Hell.
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If you aren't quite familiar with the story of Shogun Assassin, here's a little synopsis: Ogami Itto( played perfectly by the expressionless, Tomisabauro Wakayama) has just had a target put on his head by the evil Shogun. Itto (or Lone Wolf) is one hindrance that obstructs this aging shogun from true domination. That's reason enough for this cranky bastard to send his ninjas to slaughter Itto and his family. The ninjas successfully kill Itto's wife, but fail to kill Itto and his son Daigoro (Akihiro Tomikawa). This proves to be a fatal mistake for the shogun. Itto was a sleeping lion and now he's ready to feast.
The bodies pile up in a ridiculous manner: throats are slashed - with epic amounts of crimson gushing from open wounds.We also get dismemberments galore and numerous sharp objects penetrating through the stomachs of woefully under matched opponents. Daigoro, Itto's loving son, also helps papa in his war against the master shogun while riding in a baby carriage built for maximum carnage. The arterial spray hits the audience like a Gallagher concert
The meat of Shogun Assassin set is comprised of six parts of the popular "Babycart" series - Babycart, Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance, Lone Wolf and Cub: Babycart at the River of Styx, Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell, Lone Wolf and Cub: Babycart in the Land of Demons and Lone Wolf and Cub: Babycart in Peril. Only two of the mentioned titles, are really represented in this combination for the first film - Sword of Vengeance and Babycart at the River of Styx. Prior to watching Shogun Assassin for the first few times, I had never seen this series up until a few years ago. If it's your first trip through these films you're bound to get confused, it's well worth it though.
The extra features consist mainly of the supplements on the Blu-ray release for the original Shogun Assassin. If you don't have that release already you'll have fun with these -
*Exclusive interview with Samuel L. Jackson
*Audio commentary by Film Scholar Ric Meyers and Martial Arts Expert Steve Watson.
*New commentary by Producer David Weisman, Illustrator Jim Evans, and Gibran Evans, who provided the epic voice narration of Daigoro.
*Cast and Crew Notes
One of the more interesting extras on this AnimEigo Blu-Ray of Shogun Assassin is the "restoration gallery". Here you get to see three different versions of Shogun Assassin; the bootleg version, Shogun Assassin on DVD , and of course this new Blu-Ray release. The contrast in picture quality is amazing - even from DVD to Blu-Ray, the detail of what's on the frame that's being shown is remarkably better.
Both of the audio commentaries are ejoyable listens. I especially liked listening to Ric Meyers on the second track. Ric has a true, encyclopedic knowledge of Asian films - right up there with guys like August Ragone. The inclusion of the Samuel L. Jackson interview was also a welcome and surprising addition to the extra features.
Overall this is one hell of a set, with some gorgeous packaging to boot. Without a doubt an essential buy for fans of this fine series. Highly Reccomended!
(Screencaps provided by Rock Shock Pop)