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MAY 26, 2012 10:09AM

The Sword Of Doom (Clarity In A Grey World)

Rate: 3 Flag
[NOTE: As always, I write only for myself. But this is even more so, intended solely for my own edification of an enigmatic but very choppy movie. There is no Western style resolution to it and to watch it while expecting that one misses the overall theme of the Sword's journey. Here, I put it into perspective with some interpretation of what perhaps was sometimes meant if not exactly executed by the filmmaker.]

"The sword is the soul.
"Study the soul to know the sword.
"Evil mind, evil sword."

It all started at the mountain peak of Daibosatsu Pass: Revelation. He had become Sword, the last of the Human gone. Upon doing so, his vision far surpassed the confused wandering souls who happen to cross the arc of his path. How clear this fearless world! He saw not their kindly bowing faces, but their True Faces, for ill or for good. The Lying Fools.

Like a ghost he walked, as if in a vivid dream, passing through dimensions following the unerring light of katana steel. The clarity of the sword providing answers in a Grey World where false prayers blew as dandelions across the prairie and false desires bound hearts in unbreakable cages. The Sword makes no such missteps, its path given over to the clean karmic guidance of the universe.

These discoveries he must share! And so it came as no surprise when he reached the top of legendary Daibosatsu Pass to find a Grandfather praying for death, a seeming burden upon his Granddaughter he bemoaned to the small shrine. The Sword acted without hesitation, sending him into the void in one skillful stroke. The Sword was alive, channeling energy he'd suspected but never before harnessed. As he watched the old man tumble dead he felt his aim so sure he could have cut the wings off a fly, the most natural thing in the world.

On his way back down the mountain he passed the Granddaughter he'd orphaned, she crumpling in wailing tears upon heartless discovery, denied the presence of this unfailing devotion for the rest of her days. What price love in a world ruled by ghostly steel?

Tomorrow, a competition match, the best swords in the province in attendance. Already a lauded master but as the Sword he had yet to display his otherworldly power. Exuding an air of magnetic mystery, a Pleading Wife appears in his doorway the night before. "Lose the match," she luridly begged, "and my brother [actually her husband] will be named fencing instructor by the overlord." Her life would be set, paradise found. For this she would give anything.

He took his gift in a dirty mill down the road, rolling her in dirty hay until she succumbed to dirty delight. A lingering look and he was gone. She stared achingly at the empty doorway.

In the morning, she was divorced by her Fencing Husband, furious at what he saw as her belligerent betrayal. The tournament no longer a simple competition - a match to the death it would be! He'd strike down the Sword no matter how vaunted his skill! Jealous rage dripped as burning blood on seething tatami mats.

"Something is wrong...," cautioned a whispering spectator. The two circling men on stage were in a fight for their lives, death heavy in the air. Sensing disaster the judge quickly declared a draw - but a fraction too late. The Fencing Husband charged a manic thrust only to be fatally parried by the Sword. A fractured head dripped lifeless blood onto the mat.

The Fencing School the Fencing Husband was to have led was outraged by the killing. Not because it was unfair but because they worshipped a lesser god than the Sword and this revelation as misled fools twisted their minds in mad fury. The Sword must pay! But it was they who paid, littering the ground, believing a righteous stance undefeatable.

On the this day the Fencing Husband's brother vowed revenge, soon traveling to the Edo capital seeking the finest swordsmanship school. The evil Sword must be stopped.

Over the next two years, the karmic wheel turned in its usual blind indifference to human conditions, be they foul or fair. The Granddaughter had been handed over to her Pimping Aunt who placed her as a luring servant in the Virgin Overlord's palace. "A beauty such as you is sure to be noticed," she sickly purred to her niece. From one tragedy to another befell Granddaughter on her road in life. Perhaps there is only Doom after all.

The world moved on as well, the ancient Shogunate cracking and fissuring at the edges with talk of restoring the emperor to full power as was a thousand years before. The samurai would be stripped of power, a ruling class no longer trusted by a grumbling populace. This gave rise to Political People, snakes of the human race. Late night clandestine meetings percolated across the countryside with the growing discontent.

The Virgin Overlord was not virgin by choice but by frustrated spirit, often reviled by even his own samurai. But his emotionless life gave him clarity of sight to lead by, despising bumbling fools chasing illusions of power or dreams of envy. When he rebuffed a clumsy attempt by the Anti-Shogunates to join them, his character was assassinated without mercy.

"How dare he talk like a man when he can't even make advances to a woman!"

In attempted foreplay to the luscious Granddaughter, the Overlord lashed out his sword at his frightened prey, menacing her as he was menaced by her unreachable beauty. Only by a few fortunate inches did she keep her life safe from his cutting blade.

"Don't run! I won't be able to do this much longer. We samurai are finished, our time has passed."

Had he stood in a public square and made such a statement with the same honest conviction and certainty of knowledge a political firestorm would have erupted for exposing the truth. But his words never reached the light of day just as he wished nothing personal of his to come to light. But Granddaughter's Beloved Uncle passed through in his wandering ways of thievery shocked to see his Niece in the clutches of such a twisted Overlord, urging her to run from the castle permanently. And so she did.

Above the feuding fray, the Sword too stayed outside the grind of the political wheel which gathers and scatters so many lives into disarray. But the initial magic had worn off, too alone in his special world where only he could travel. The Pleading Wife, now his, bore him a son yet still complaining bitterly of her paradise lost on the fateful day of the match. The Sword saw things differently.

"It was you who killed your husband, driving him mad. I too fought with your taste in my mouth. You say had I never come into your life it would be bliss on this day. But if you had not come to my hut that night your husband would still be alive - and you still bitter on having lost the match and his fencing position. You speak of self-sacrifice but never sacrifice your selfishness!"

An Anti-Shogunate group recruited the sword to its political ends, swapping monetary support for death’s dividend the Sword was sure to deliver. As yet it had not come to light the Sword shared not their convictions - only their money - and bitter division lay on the horizon as with any politician scorned. His interests lay elsewhere.

Vengeful Brother was summoned by the Sword's Father after the killing match. He complained of his son's evil sword, urging Vengeful Brother to increase his skill to match the Sword's. "Only after he's dead can people live in safety." But though he may have called his son evil, both Father and son shared the same ultimate belief in the sword as The Answer to man's ills. Father never came to realize this blindness he passed on was the basis for the Sword's "obsession" as Father expired in the night a week later.

When the Sword and Vengeful Brother did meet, it was by accident. Ever seeking to further the name of his blade, the Sword asked for a match with the Master at the greatest fencing school in Edo. It was granted, but first the Sword must battle his number 1 pupil: Vengeful Brother (each face unknown to the other). Having observed Vengeful Brother earlier, the Sword remarked: "You have a magnificent Doh attack!"

Magnificent to an ordinary swordsman perhaps, but not to the Sword. As part of his plan he always gave confidence to his opponent. He'd draw back his blade into the "surrender" of his Silent Form. Retreating, waiting for his opponent's lunge, trusting his blade to parry and then slice his prey once drawn in. Few were those prepared for such a unique strategy!

As expected, Vengeful Brother was defeated. But this was only by the wooden swords of the school, allowing him to keep his life. But when the Sword then demanded to fight the Master, the Master simply smiled and replied: "That will not be necessary. I'm no good at Doh attacks." The Sword left showing a contemptuous sneer not to be missed by the Master's students. He thought to himself: It's true! No one can stand against me!

The Anti-Shogunate group whom the Sword used for money had a plan for assassination. Not content to let the changing winds of the times sweep away the Shogun, justice would not come to the world without their first killing the Lords who supported him. "Tonight you can exercise your Silent Form, Sword!" Like all political creatures, they trusted nothing of Nature, only that wrought by their own two hands - or hands they could buy!

The snow was heavy that night, a time for normal beings to stay indoors, keeping warm by a family fire. But outside double-bladed assassins were sneaking through the dark, hounds on the hunt. But when they found the shrouded palanquin they'd hoped to carry their target they found instead the Master, displaying outrage by their intrusion, demanding a deep apology. But his unyielding anger incensed the samurai so they decided to teach the Master a lesson.

But it was the dozen samurai who were taught the lesson. One by one, bodies and body parts were dispatched into the snow, a dark crimson stain spreading from a severed hand. Even though "forced to kill against my will", the Master's sword was no less perfect in its precision. But what of the Sword? He stood transfixed at the dazzling display of skill. His religious obsession had brought him far, giving him the edge he needed, but this man...

The Sword was stared down by the Master whose blazing eyes asked if he were ready to do battle. The Sword turned and walked away shaken into the night.

From the village of the Sword and Vengeful Brother moved a peasant to Edo. It was he who gave word it was in fact the Sword whom Vengeful Brother had dueled in the school. The Master explained now was the time to strike while the Sword's confidence trembled. Word was the Anti-Shogunates were headed to Kyoto for their next self-seeking act of political vendetta. The Sword would follow for his money. Vengeful Brother immediately fled to Kyoto. Justice at last!

But the Sword did not immediately follow, paralyzed by doubt. Should he put his sword away? Was it still his ultimate savior in this world? But then word reached the Sword it was Vengeful Brother who he defeated at the Master's school. He smirked when giving the news to Pleading Wife. "Soon I will have killed both brothers!"

That night, Pleading Wife drove herself mad at the thought of the Sword having killed both her husband and his brother! Compelled, she rushed the Sword's sleeping room only to miss him by inches with her dagger. He chased her out into the nighttime cold where she soon begged to be killed.

Always one for mistaken self-sacrifice, she returned to her pleading ways. "Kill me! Kill me so in return Vengeful Brother may strike you down. I exchange my life for his! The gods will hear me!" Then the Sword fulfilled her part of the bargain.

The thieving Beloved Uncle sipped tea with his niece Granddaughter in a small Kyoto hovel. The Pimping Aunt had sold Granddaughter into slavery in Kyoto as punishment for escaping from the Virgin Overlord's castle. A visitor from Edo announced himself: Vengeful Brother, having recognized Granddaughter from his time in Edo. After comparing notes they soon realized they had the common enemy of the Sword.

"Take a look at this!" beamed Beloved Uncle, partially revealing a revolver. "I often trade in valuable merchandise and must protect myself. When the time comes I can use it on the Sword. No need for Foolish Rules!"

But Vengeful Brother was samurai. "I need those Foolish Rules or my life has no meaning!" In a few short years the Meiji restoration will take place putting the Emperor back in power and any pretense of samurai honor will vanish as a passing season, such fancy words to be even more useless than during this sunset of the age.

When the Sword did arrive in Kyoto he found a splintered group. Seems no honor among thieves or political operatives. The clan Leader begged the Sword to kill his rival while his rival made plans to kill both the Leader and the Sword. This unholy cabal claimed to serve the Emperor but bragged during the night's celebration they were here to "make a name for ourselves!" But at the celebration Granddaughter was a servant, and when her eyes met the Sword's eyes she could not hide her quivering truth of facing the man who killed her Grandfather.

Alone in a backroom she explained. "We were pilgrims to Daibosatsu Pass. I could see endless mountain ranges fading into distant clouds. It was a sight I had never seen before or since. When I came back with water Grandfather had been struck dead."

"He was praying to die, to pass from the world. My blade has killed no one who has not asked for death or challenged it in battle." But she was not of the sword or political agenda. She expressed that family alone was her desire.

The Sword had an answer for that. "When I fight I have no family." She had defeated him.

Suddenly a cold wind invaded the room despite all openings shut tight. Shimmering shadows moved along the rice paper in shapes of the victims the Sword had dispensed into the nether world. They had returned but this time untouchable by steel! Moans of pity filled the ears of the Sword, compelling him to strike back the only way he knew how: cutting the papered room to shreds.

Heaving and exhausted, the Sword stood defeated by the shapeless demons of his dead. Was he leading the sword or was It leading him? Confusion. Anarchy. Darkness. His formula which works so well in a bent and corrupted world fails him when faced with life itself. How foolish to have lost his saving humanity! Sleep would never be safe for him again. Having once believed himself Smartest he stood naked before the world as Dumbest.

But then...the demons took human form. His political bedmates who hated themselves for the folly of their ill fated agenda surrounded the room. Their only answer to their failings: kill the one among them who did not share their folly. To them the Sword held a higher morality and if they were to achieve and maintain political power he must be eliminated before he could expose them as moral frauds.

But now with something physical to strike the Sword soared in relief! 5, 10, 15, 20 - they kept coming, he kept killing. Bit by bit they weakened him: a cut here, a gash there, his forehead dripping red. The Sword staggered and stumbled, sometimes blindly striking out in moments of absolute weakness. But he fought on feeling his chosen path newly justified in the face of his fellow idiots.

The clouds my vision...but no matter!...SLASH!, SLASH! STRIKE!...I don't need my full vision to sword sees for me...magnificent!...SLASH! STAB!...This is where it pays superior dedication - SLASH! - I'm fighting on a different plane...they reach up to me as I float upon a cloud...SLASH! SLASH! SLASH!...Even as I diminish I win...95%...85...80...who can believe it! Look at what my sword can do! Hahaha!...STRIKE! STRIKE! STAB!...Fools! Don't play a game you cannot win!...Why must you deceive yourselves?...I trust only my sword in this world!

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Trust is the sword of life, cutting both ways.
How do I leave a comment on this Harry??
You are a master indeed friend.
God bless you if you suffered through this entire piece, Mission :)
Wow I don't know what to say and yes I did have to skip through a bit but this was still powerful so the movie must be pretty amazing.
Thanks, LL. With my Western eyes I missed the karmic undertones when I first watched it, seeing only the plot lines. It wasn't till later when I read about the Sword never killing anyone who didn't asked to be killed or attacked him was I aware of that point. They all seemed like senseless killings at first blush. So here I tried to connect the dots.