Blade of the Immortal Blu-ray Review
Sanjuro meets Oldboy, bloody Takeshi Miike-style
Legendary director Takashi Miike celebrates his 100th movie in style, with a memorable adaptation of the Samurai Manga, Blade of the Immortal.Based on the first two out of four story arcs in the popular Japanese comic book (previously adapted as an anime series), Miike's Blade of the Immortal is an epic samurai actioner, the likes of which you're seldom - if ever - likely to get the chance to enjoy on the Big Screen. For such a prolific filmmaker, Miike still manages to celebrate his century in style, perfectly choreographing a swathe of stunning predominantly sword-based action sequences attached to a surprisingly rich narrative core.Within the first few minutes alone the body count threatens to hit triple figures, with an extended black and white prologue which is so damn good that Miike spends much of the rest of the movie attempting to top it. The samurai equivalent of a John Wick movie, Blade of the Immortal is rich with the feverish style and colourful characters from the comic book source, constructing an impressive blend of familiar samurai tropes and more unusual fantasy elements.
Picture QualityArrow deliver up Blade of the Immortal on a Region B-locked UK Blu-ray complete with an excellent 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1 widescreen.
Miike is a very stylish director and this is never more evident than in this highly stylised production, afforded a superior black and white extended opening sequence that is so rich and impressive that you almost wonder what the whole film would have looked like in noir.
A tremendous video presentation.
Detail is excellent, with fantastic textures picking up on all of the nuances of the period settings - the trees and countryside - as well as the period costumes and the intricacies of the faces and hair. During the opening sequence the superior contrast and outstanding clarity affords near-perfect observation of all of these finer details, whilst the colour footage brings vibrant tones and vivid colours to play in the suitably period environment dominated by lush green foliage and rich wood browns. The body horror is graphic, and perhaps the only fleeting fault in the image, with somewhat lacking CG almost making you wish they'd stuck to practical effects. Nevertheless blood reds are authentic, and black levels rich and deep, allowing for excellent shadow detail that's marred by only a slight hint of banding, and rounding out an otherwise tremendous video presentation.
Sound QualityArrow's UK Blu-ray release of Blade of the Immortal sports an excellent DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and thankfully drops the US release's unnecessary English dub. It promotes all of the core elements - the dialogue, thrashing effects and punchy score - with aplomb, and is accompanied by a solid subtitle track too.
An excellent track, delivering on all fronts.
Whilst dialogue remains firmly prioritised across the frontal array, it's the effects and score that stand out. Effects lap up the frequently incessant violence, slashing and chopping its way across your living room with excellent surround usage that puts you right in the thick of the seemingly endless army of soon-to-be-corpses as they get hacked to pieces. The score is punchy and vibrant, with strong drum tones thrumming beneath and giving a percussive heartbeat to the whole enterprise. It's an excellent track, delivering on all fronts.
ExtrasArrow's UK Blu-ray release transcends the preceding US release by Magnolia Pictures on the extras front, delivering a solid selection of exclusive extra features headlined by an Audio Commentary by Tom Mes, the author of several books about Takashi Miike, who provides an English-language reflection on the project. The Arrow-commissioned Interview with Takashi Miike on Blade of the Immortal spends 25 minutes with the acclaimed and prolofic director, talking about the grander manga franchise, and bringing it to life here.
A solid selection of exclusive extra features.
There are also a couple of shorter Featurettes focussing on the shooting of the opening battle, Manji vs. 100 and the finale, Manji vs. 300. The Cast Interviews are extensive, with almost a dozen contributors featuring all the main and supporting players, including of course Takuya Kimura (Manji) and Hana Sugisaki (Rin). The disc is rounded off by a Stills Gallery and Theatrical Trailer.
Blu-ray VerdictWhilst Miike's forte is clearly bloody action, he bends impressively to the vibrant world of the comic book source.
Whilst Miike's forte is clearly bloody action - as seen in both the brutal one-on-one fight sequences and the epic one-on-a-hundred battles - he also bends impressively to the vibrant world of the comic book source. Many modern productions could benefit from just one of Blade of the Immortal's memorable action sequences, and it has so many.
Arrow's Region B-locked UK Blu-ray release affords prolific and acclaimed director Takashi Miike's 100th production an impressive Blu-ray bow, complete with excellent video and audio, and a solid selection of exclusive extra features. Whether you pick up the standard Amaray or the Steelbook alternative, it's worth hunting it down.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £14.99
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