Friday, October 28, 2016

Yagyu Secret Scrolls:Two Secret Scrolls aka Ninjutsu II (Yagyu Bugeicho: Soryu Hiken, 1958)

What's the good word folks?! Hai! Karate returns with a new flick, one that we promised a little while ago - Toshiro Mifune getting his ninja on in Yagyu Secret Scrolls Part 2! Directed by Hiroshi Inagaki, the film also stars Koji Tsuruta, Yoshiko Kuga, Mariko Okada and Jotaro Togami. Without further delay, let's get down to dissecting this sequel from Toho Studios.

When the first film ended, it ended with Tasaburo(Mifune) and Princess Yu(Kuga) somehow extricating themselves out of a raging river after being chased there by Yagyu forces. In their possession? Two of the three Martial Chronicles, secrets that could destroy the Yagyu family and rattle Japan. Yagyu Secret Scrolls Part 2 begins a short while after these events, and opens with the remaining Yagyu members trying to find Tasaburo and the rest of his clan - as well as the scrolls. Meanwhile, Tasaburo and Princess Yu are living a tranquil life in the woods. Both have made it a point to give up the shinobi life and be with each other happily. But of course, THAT can't happen no matter how many embraces they both share. Why? Because not only are the Yagyu nearby, Senshiro(Tsuruta) is hovering around still on mission to get the well as another set of ninja.

Added to the mix is the son of the Yagyus who left home not wanting to be part of their deception and tyranny, and in the process of seeing his journey he stumbles upon a street dancer and singer in a town in the country. The dancer(Okada) reminds him of Rika, the maiden who tended to him and who he fell in love with in the first film - who he left behind. The singer invites Matajuro to travel with them. It isn't until they get to a local inn for the night where the singer reveals that he is a powerful and villainous monk, Hogen Tondo and that he has put Rika under a spell to control her. At that point, Senshiro infiltrates the inn and confronts Tondo. Meanwhile, Jubei Yagyu(Togami) is hot on everyone's trail. These parties all find themselves on a collision course to gain the ultimate power...

Yagyu Secret Scrolls: Two Secret Scrolls on a whole does drop off a bit from the first one. One significant improvement is the level of action. The fight scenes stick out mainly because of the attention to detail. Ninjas being ninjas, yo, Fire attacks? Got 'em. Magic monk wizardry? Got it. Reversible gear? Man listen. This is an Inagaki film, so you better believe that the sword duels will be laid out in thrilling fashion. The major group battles can be a little bit helter skelter, but it does work in the overall scheme.

Toshiro Mifune as a ninja is still an odd sight. This is the same cat that is a legend in film. Here, he seems to waver between being relegated to the background and then taking a commanding presence. It could have been due to schedule(he was already signed to do another Inagaki film, The Rickshaw Man later that year) or the script. Still, he was prominent enough to be the draw for the picture. Mariko Okada does steal the show in her role - her beauty and her acting in the "damsel-in-distress" role sticks to the lane but is imbued with a bit of stoicism. If you're looking for something slightly different, I would recommend checking out both films at once since they're fairly short. As an aside: these films would lead to spinoffs being made in both movies and television series, and would further cement the ninjutsu craze in addition to the Shinobi No Mono series that was being released around the same time. Yagyu Secret Scrolls: Two Secret Scrolls is available on DVD. RATING: 3 OF 5 DRAGON PUNCHES

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