This is the first film I’ve seen that starts with a nipple. I’ve mentioned this fact to a few people, and the response has overwhelmingly been “So what?” No-one else has been at all impressed, and it seems that I’ve been watching all the wrong films. Apparently it’s nipples-a-go-go out there in cinema-land, and everyone’s off to see the latest Kurosawa Nipple Retrospective, leaving me alone in my nippleless wilderness.
Be that as it may, the aforementioned nipple works well as an opener. The camera pans back to show us the tattoo around the nipple, and that the nipple is attached to a fearsome female fighter stripped to the waist, despatching a couple of blokes with her flashing blade. This is fairly uncommon behaviour even now, and I for one was all aquiver to see what came next. Why the tattoo? Why the flashing blade? Why was she flashing her nipples about, if for any other reason than that she was mighty proud of some fine tattoo work?
Yes, dear reader, we do indeed find the answers to these questions, and more. The fearsome female in question, Oyuki, is bent on revenge after her honour was sullied, and had herself tattooed to put fear into the hearts of her enemies.The sullier is the son of a noble family whose head hired her to teach martial arts skills, and Oyuki keeps herself occupied carving up his minions, and waiting for the man himself.
Enter Itto Ogami, our baby cart-pushing hero, who gets hired by the family to put an end to Oyuki. In his quest to find her, he visits the tattoo artist, and we’re treated to a fine display of traditional Japanese tattoo art. He also visits her father, who tells the sad story and throws himself on Ogami’s mercy, in a subtle and entirely unstated (to Western eyes) way. Our poker-faced hero now has to fulfill his commission to kill Oyuki, and still somehow stay within his own code of honour.
How he manages this, and the eventual fate of Oyuki, I shan’t reveal, save to say that it brought a tear to my eye. I didn’t get long to savour that moment, however, as Ogami is beset by about a hundred minions of the Yagyu clan, who were responsible for his fall into outlawry. At this point, he loses his poker-face, and actually shows some emotion. Well, does some grimacing and shouting, which is probably justifiable under the circumstances.
Overall, this is a film that has blood, sweat, and tears, as well as a baby in a box and a fine set of nipples.