A milestone in Japanese postwar social development.
2009 by foxfirebrand
The importance of the Miyamo Musashi saga has been lost somewhat today, even in Japan. These were not just early high-quality color samurai movies, not just great films. They were a nationwide event, and a milestone in Japanese social evolution. The early 50s were a time of postwar healing, and there were unsettled questions about the national character. The Miyamoto Musashi saga used the past to dramatize issues of morality and, even more important at the time, morale.
Japan had no problem westernizing and living under the rule of law under terms imposed by victors in war. The knotty issue was, how much of the past do we keep alive in our daily thoughts and actions, and just how much of the real Japan, the one we remember, will our children and grandchildren inherit, once the aftermath of global war has subsided? Watch these films with such then-important issues in mind, and your experience will be deepened and enriched.
All three episodes are directed by Hiroshi Inagaki and star Toshiro Mifune as Miyamoto-san, in a performance that is perfection. Miyamoto Musashi shows the young samurai aspirant as a hot-headed, imperfect man, neither hero nor monster. But possessed of a fierce dark force that could impel him toward either outcome. The question of women looms large in this trilogy. How to treat them, what kind of woman to honor and what kind to avoid, and just how the diametrically-opposite traits of women work in the world, whether at odds or in harmony with those of men. All these issues are played out without preachiness, in the actions of real people, well-drawn characters whom we meet and get to know before the episode ends in a series of parting of ways.