Set during Japan's Shogun era, this film looks at life in a samurai compound where young warriors are trained in swordfighting. This is a fascinating film about the danger of beauty : to sum it up, a young "ephebe"'s ethereal beauty spreads like a plague, infecting a whole company of iron hard men in the process. In this film the forbidden subject of homosexuality among Samurais is tackled and I can't even imagine how traditional people perceived the film.
After a strenuous scrutiny, Tashiro, a low-ranking samurai and Kano , an effeminate 18-year-old rich man's son, join the conservative samurai military unit loyal to the Shogun. Deceptively demure at first, the boy Kano quickly proves his acumen for killing when ordered to execute a wayward samurai. Tashiro, struck by Kano's feminine beauty and odd power, seduces him and they become talk of the group although they are never shown together. Kano's silent, almost frail, pretty-boy ways conceal demonic intentions. He knows when to lose in combat, when to avoid and when to insinuate, but for reasons beyond matters of physical strength or skill, he cannot lose. Other men in the unit are also taken with Kano, and soon their bodies start piling up, murdered by a not-altogether-unknown assassin. The trick is to find who is doing these murders. The end fight is when Tashiro and Kano indulge in a sword fight and Kano kills him but some of the questions for the viewers are never answered and they are left for open interpretation.
The film was done very beautifully. A very interesting take on the extent to which beauties are responsible for all kinds of things, even in Samurai unit. It was definitely very surprising to see the open-ness with which homosexuality was discussed and also sort of accepted amongst the community. There are a few other characters whose details I have not mentioned in the plot but they were of utmost importance to the story, The head of the military and his commander-in-chief and other couple of people. The movie is drama but there are enough doses of comedy as well with a very suspense part to it. It is pretty nice.I believe, culturally, there are many things that i could not understand or make a head or tail out of it and I wonder if I could watch this film who could give certain explanations while watching this. Excellent performances and direction.
I would have given much higher rating to the film had I understood some of the cultural references and samurai code of conduct. Nevertheless, it still is a beautiful film. (6.5/10)