She’s back. Fresh from her spree of revenge killings in the first film, Yuki returns in a second Lady Snowblood film from director Toshiya Fujita. To recap quickly, for those who don’t remember the first film: A young husband is murdered and his wife tortured and raped by a gang of profiteers. She swears vengeance, but only manages to do away with one of them before she is caught and sent to prison. While in prison, she gives birth to Yuki, who (despite being a girl) takes on the burden of revenge for her, becoming Lady Snowblood: a beautiful yet cold young lady with a sword cunningly hidden in a parasol.
This story begins with Yuki (Meiko Kaji) on the run, hunted by the police (“You won’t get away this time, Lady Snowblood!”) for the killing spree chronicled in the first film. They seem pretty inept, though: occasionally they catch up with her, only to attack her one at a time, rather slowly. One day, however, it all becomes too much: throwing down her sword, she submits to the authority of the government and is sentenced to death for her crimes.
As she’s on her way to the gallows, though, she’s set free by a group of men working for the villainously white-gloved Kikui (Shin Kishida), the head of the secret police. She’s offered her freedom in return for a job that requires her skills as an assassin: she must kill a politically-dangerous anarchist named Tokunaga Ransui (played by Itami Juzo) and recover a sensitive document from him.
Yuki accepts, and joins Tokunaga’s household as a maid, so she can locate the document and watch for a good opportunity to put her skills to use. There. That’s all I’m saying, on the storyline — like the first film, Love Song of Vengeance presents the audience with a number of twists and turns to keep the story unpredictable. The characters are also difficult to pin down: in particular, characters on “the good side” that would be paragons of virtue in a Hollywood film are given vices and prejudices. The evil characters, though, remain thoroughly evil in an interestingly white-gloved, facially-scarred kind of way.
Love Song of Vengeance retains Lady Snowblood’s visual style, as well: most of the sets and costumes are brightly coloured and intricate, with some fine composition (though it didn’t feel as full of starkly arresting images as the first film). Two of the early fight sequences as Yuki escapes from the police are particularly impressive: one’s an extended single-shot chase sequence with Yuki running down a lane towards the camera and fighting off attackers as she runs; the other is on a beach, with Yuki standing alone on the sand encircled by policemen.
I enjoyed Love Song of Vengeance. It’s perhaps not as good a film as its predecessor, but it’s well-made and worth watching if you enjoyed Lady Snowblood’s exploits the first time around.