The reluctant warrior is a familiar hero, but petty samurai Seibei Iguchi (Hiroyuki Sanada) may be unique: a harried widower with two motherless daughters and a senile mother, a quiet man with dicey grooming habits who works as a basketweaver to supplement his modest stipend and incurs daily ridicule for going straight home after work rather than join his fellows drinking. Behind his back, his brother samurai derisively call him "Twilight," an ambiguous nickname that seems also to evoke the period, the 19th-century decline of the samurai era.
Seibei hardly cuts a dashing figure; even his weapon of choice, the short sword, provokes contempt rather than respect. But his duties these days call for clerical work rather than swordplay — until his best friend Iinuma (Mitsuru Fukikoshi) is threatened by a former brother-in-law, the ex-husband of Iinuma’s beautiful sister Tomoe (Rie Miyazawa), whom Seibei’s known since childhood.
Narrated in retrospect by Seibei’s then-grown daughter, Twilight Samurai is a deeply humane tale of love long deferred and grim occupational hazards long avoided. There is very little onscreen romance or violence, but the possibility of either haunts the protagonist, a man who hardly dares to hope for the one and has a healthy dread of the other. It’s a bittersweet, eloquent tribute to a man who is bent but not crushed beneath the weight of his various competing duties, some institutional and moribund, others living and personal.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.