The Dagger of Kamui
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|The Dagger of Kamui|
DVD cover from AnimEigo.
(Kamui no Ken)
|Genre||Action, Historical, Ninja|
|Written by||Tetsu Yano|
|Illustrated by||Moribi Murano|
|Published by||Kadokawa Shoten|
|Original run||1984 – 1985|
|Produced by||Masao Maruyama|
|Written by||Mori Masaki|
|Music by||Ryudo Uzaki & Eitetsu Hayashi|
|Released||March 9, 1985|
|Published by||Fujimi Shobo|
|Original run||January – March 1985|
The series was adapted in 1985 into an anime film directed by Rintaro and animated by Madhouse. The screenplay was adapted by Mori Masaki, and character designs were created by Moribi Murano, who also illustrated the novel series. Takuo Noda directed the animation, and the music was composed by Ryūdō Uzaki and Eitetsu Hayashi.
It is the Bakumatsu period in Japan. Jiro, a young boy of both Japanese and Ainu descent, was a foundling raised by a kindly innkeeper and her daughter in the village of Sai on the Shimokita Peninsula during the last years of the Tokugawa Shogunate, several years before the start of Japan's Meiji Restoration.
One evening, a lone shinobi, appears out of the darkness and kills Jiro's adoptive mother and sister while the boy was away. When he returns home, he finds their dead bodies, a strange dagger and a whole host of angry villagers who blame him for killing his family. Rather than stay in the village and face a brutal crucifixion for the grave crime of parricide, Jiro escapes into the night with the dagger and meets with a buddhist monk called Tenkai who works for the Shogunate as an Oniwaban (Secret Police). Tenkai takes the boy face-to-face with the man who supposedly killed his family and gets him to deliver the killing blow. Afterwards, his entire village is set ablaze and the villagers slaughtered to cover up the incident. Tenkai then takes Jiro in at his temple on the island of Ezo, and has his subordinates Shingo and Sanpei train him in the ways of Ninja so that one day, he may learn of his father. Tenkai quickly dispatches Shingo to follow Jiro and make sure he stays to the same path as Tarouza, Jiro's late father.
As Jiro travels in search of answers to the mystery of his family line, he comes across a group of Japanese men beating up an old Ainu man. The old man's son, Uraka, implores Jiro's help and he quickly dispatches the punks. The old man dies of his injuries, and Jiro and Uraka escape to Uraka's home village of Shinopirika-Kotan, unaware the old man's assailants are actually agents of Tenkai. At Kotan, the village elder recognizes Jiro's dagger as the Dagger of Kamui. He states that it was originally owned by the previous village chieftain, and as given as a gift to a Japanese ninja who married the chieftain's daughter, Oyaruru. The Elder then tells Jiro that one day Oyaruru returned to Kotan alone, and eventually left the village to live upriver by herself.
Jiro seeks out Oyaruru, and learns she is his biological mother, and of the misfortune Tenkai had wrought on her family. Tenkai dispatched Tarouza to the mountain Kamui Nupuri to find a great treasure large enough to keep the Shogunate in power. Tarouza, however, broke all contact with Tenkai, and married Oyaruru. When Tenkai and his men caught up with them, he slashed the face of the infant Jiro, and sent him floating downriver in the canoe his parents would have used to escape. On the cliff above, Tarouza loses an eye to a primitive grenade, and his sword arm to Hanzou. He falls over the cliff, seemingly to his death. Jiro comes to the horrifying realization that Tenkai had tricked him; the man he stabbed was his father. During their evening meal, without ever noticing, both Jiro and Oyaruru take in a paralysis potion through the food and Oyaruru is killed with the Dagger of Kamui, implicating Jiro in her murder. Imprisoned according to village law, Uraka returns to help Jiro, who finally understands that Tenkai has been manipulating him and the time for revenge is at hand.
Revelation after revelation of Jiro's heritage and family is eventually revealed. Eventually, in 1869, at The Citadel of Hakodate, The Imperial Japanese Navy and Army close in on the last remaining Shogunate rebels. A massive naval bombardment of the citadel commences as Jiro wanders through the rubble and bodies, eventually encountering Tenkai on the outskirts of the Citadel. They engage in battle, during which Jiro kills Tenkai by impaling him through his cranium with the dagger. Jiro takes his leave of Hakodate, as the Imperial forces capture the city, but not before paying a silent farewell to Sanpei and his master, the legendary Imperial General Saigō Takamori.
The movie is very accurate in its depictions of pre-Meiji Japan, Russia, and the United States, and deals directly with historical events such as the Boshin War, and historical figures such as Saigō Takamori, Andō Shōzan, Oguri Kōzukenosuke Tadamasa, Geronimo, and Mark Twain.
- Jiro (次郎 Jirō)
- Voiced by: Hiroyuki Sanada (Japanese); Toby Williams (English)
- The protagonist of the story, and the son of Tarōza and Oyaruru. He was raised by Tarōza's wife, Tsuyu. After an unknown assailant murdered Tsuyu and her daughter Sayuri, the villagers no longer trusted Jiro and chased him from the village. He then began studying the ways of the ninja under the tutelage of Tenkai. As he grew to adulthood, Jiro gathered pieces to the mystery of the disappearance of his father, and he began to devise a trap to snare Tenkai. In later volumes of the novels, he adopts the name Jiroza Hattori (服部 次郎佐 Hattori Jirōza), as well as Gerome Kamui (ジローム・カムイ Jirōmu Kamui), the name based on that of Geronimo, his adopted father.
- Tenkai (天海)
- Voiced by: Tarō Ishida (Japanese); Jack Marquardt (English)
- The top agent for the Bakufu (a member of the oniwabanshū) who was operating in the areas of northern Japan and Ezo controlled by the Matsumae clan. He claims to be an ordinary high priest who goes by the name of Tenkai-oshō. Through his Satsuma spy Tarōza, Tenkai learned of the mystery of Captain Kidd. After having Tarōza chased down and killed by Jiro, Tenkai began scheming to find and obtain the treasure of Captain Kidd. As he is the leader of a ninja clan, he uses many body doubles in order to avoid being killed himself. The character in the anime looks very much like Saigō Takamori, the reason for this is never explained.
- Oyuki (お雪)
- Voiced by: Mami Koyama (Japanese); Carrie Sakai (English)
- A runaway ninja who is chasing after Jiro at the behest of Tenkai. She has the ability to split into four images of herself in order to confuse opponents.
- Andō Shōzan (安藤昌山)
- Voiced by: Ichirō Nagai
- An elderly man who shelters an injured Jiro. Because of his skill in understanding the English language, Shōzan deciphers Tarōza's notes and instructs Jiro to travel to America.
- Chiomapp (チオマップ)
- Voiced by: Mitsuko Horie
- Andō Shōzan's Ainu caretaker. After Jiro boards a ship to travel to America, Chiomapp takes her own life in front of Tenkai.
- Captain Drasnic (ドラスニック船長 Dorasunikku Senchō)
- Voiced by: Takashi Ebata
- The captain of a ship that Jiro boards to travel to America. When Jiro defends himself and a stowaway Oyuki from Drasnic's crew, Drasnic has the two ninjas kicked out of his ship upon arriving in Alaska.
- Sam (サム Samu)
Voiced by: Kazuyuki Sogabe
- Captain Drasnic's slave. Jiro buys Sam from Drasnic and makes him a freeman.
- Chico (チコ Chiko)
- Voiced by: Yuriko Yamamoto
- A Native American who Jiro saves from being raped by outlaws. She learns from her adoptive father Geronimo that her real name is Julie Rochelle, and her father was François Rochelle, a French diplomat who had learned of the treasure of Captain Kidd before he was murdered by Tenkai.
- Geronimo (ジェロニモ Jeronimo)
- Voiced by: Yasuo Muramatsu
- An Apache chief and the adoptive father of Chico.
- Mark Twain (マーク・トウェイン)
- Voiced by: Iemasa Kayumi
- The famous American writer who befriends Jiro. Upon learning that Jiro is Japanese, he references Marco Polo's discovery of Zipangu.
- Tarōza (太郎佐)
- Voiced by: Michio Hazama
- A ninja spy hired by Tenkai to find the treasure of Captain Kidd. During his mission, he fell in love with the Ainu woman Oyaruru, who gave birth to Jiro. Tarōza was hunted down by Tenkai's ninjas, who cornered him before the high priest had Jiro stab him in the heart. With his dying breath, Tarōza revealed himself to be Jiro's father.
- Oyaruru (オヤルル)
- Voiced by: Masako Ikeda
- Jiro's Ainu mother. Upon learning of Jiro's birth, Tenkai scars the infant across the nose before driving him away on a river.
The Kadokawa bunkoban releases are as follows:
- Volume 1, February 1984, ISBN 978-4-04-140318-1
- Volume 2, February 1984, ISBN 978-4-04-140319-8
- Volume 3, Meiji Opens to the World (明治開国編 Meiji Kaikoku Hen), December 1984, ISBN 978-4-04-140320-4
- Volume 4, The Road to the World (世界への道編 Sekai e no Michi Hen), January 1985, ISBN 978-4-04-140321-1
- Volume 5, The Russian Southern Expansion Plan (ロシア南進策編 Roshia Nanshinsaku Hen), February 1985, ISBN 978-4-04-140322-8
The Haruki bunkoban release is as follows:
On October 2, 1987, an American home video company known as Celebrity Home Entertainment released The Dagger of Kamui on their Just for Kids VHS label in an English-dubbed version called Revenge of the Ninja Warrior. This release of the film was heavily edited, removing 22 of the 132 minutes of footage; the resulting cut ran 110 minutes. The uncut dub was later re-released by Best Film and Video Co. in 1995 under the title The Blade of Kamui.
The unedited version, in Japanese with English subtitles and bearing the title The Dagger of Kamui, was later released on VHS and DVD by AnimEigo.
Ryūdō Uzaki's score for the film is notable for combining rock music instrumentation with Balinese kecak vocals.
Helen McCarthy in 500 Essential Anime Movies states that "with Madhouse and a stellar team on animators on board, the art and design are first class". She praises the "clever script", fluid animation and battle scenes, calling the film "a good old-fashioned epic".