Written and directed by Takanori Tsujimoto, the same man who made the Hard Revenge Milly films a few years ago, 2013's Bushido Man begins when a martial arts expert named Toramaru (Mitsuki Koga) returns to the dojo of his teacher Gensai (Yoshiyuki Yamaguchi) and Gensai's cute assistant Denko (Ema). He has retrieved the scrolls that Gensai has requested of him by defeating various warriors, each a master in his own unique fighting style. As he sits with his master, Gensai tells him ‘you can learn a lot about your enemies by what they eat.'
From here we witness a series of flashbacks that show us how Toramaru first ate the style of food he knew his foes would enjoy before challenging them to combat. First up is a Chinese martial artist (Yuan Jian) skilled in kung-fu, followed by a stick fighter and then a master of the nunchaku. From here, Toramaru challenges a blind swordsman named Muso (Kazuki Tsujimoto) who teaches him a valuable lesson. Toramaru winds up in a fight on the beach with a knife wielding Yakuza, and then finally a fight on the beach with a knife wielding Yakuza. This leads to an encounter with a gun master named Pistol Bill (Kentarô Shimazu) which leads to a run in with a woman referred to only as M (Miki Mizuno in a role that fans of the director's earlier pictures will appreciate) before everything comes full circle. And yes, before he battles these opponents, he enjoys the cuisine of their respective backgrounds as Toramaru inevitably learns the true meaning of Bushido.
Briskly paced with an emphasis on action, action and more action Bushido Man was obviously made with a really low budget but manages to (mostly) overcome that with some interesting and inspired moments of bizarre creativity and some excellent fight choreography. The combat scenes here are all done the old fashioned way, there's no wire work and no obvious CGI (one scene involving heavy gun play being an exception) but instead just rock-solid fighters going at it using skill in place of digital trickery. The fight scenes are shot in a mix of close up and medium shots, occasionally pulling back to show off a really impressive move now and then. Things never get too close so as to ruin the action and many of the hits in this film carry with them some pretty serious impact. Some of this stuff looks like it really hurts!
The scenes in between the fights, which are either scenes of Tomamaru eating or Tomamaru talking to Gensai about eating, sometimes fall a bit flat and bring the movie to a noticeably slower pace but they do serve to bridge the story together so that the ending actually winds up meaning something. The humor in these scenes is pretty hit or miss but the movie does make good use of some effective physical comedy. We won't spoil the over the top ending, as it really comes out of left field in the best possible way, but in the first scene Tomamaru and the kung-fu expert that he's battling let their fight come to a halt so as not to inadvertently injure an innocent turtle that crosses in front of them. This has unexpected consequences as to how this fight plays out and it's quite amusing to watch.
Performance wise, nobody here is really going to win an Oscar but they all fit their respective roles well enough. Mitsuki Koga (who got his start in Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.) carries the film well. He handles himself deftly in the action scenes and has some good leading man charisma. Yoshiyuki Yamaguchi is also enjoyable here, looking ridiculous with his huge (and obviously fake) moustache prying Tomamaru for more details about the food he sampled along the way. Kazuki Tsujimoto, who worked with director on Hard Revenge Milly and who appeared in both Azumi movies steals the show as the blind swordsman, his character an obvious nod to Zatoichi.
Bushido Man debuts on Blu-ray form Shout! Factory in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.78.1 widescreen. This was shot on digital video and with what we can safely assume was a pretty modest budget and on top of that the image has been contrast boosted here and there for artistic effect. The end result is a fairly artificial looking picture but that look is not entirely at odds with the tone of the movie, which goes for a sort of over the top comic book aesthetic. Detail is better than standard definition would allow for but a little on the soft side while color reproduction is accurate in the eating scenes and the scenes in which Toramaru talks to Gensai and intentionally tweaked in some of the flashback fight scenes. This isn't a reference quality picture by any stretch but it would seem to be true to source and an accurate representation of how the movie should look given how it was shot.
The Japanese language LPCM 2.0 Stereo track with optional subtitles is the way to go, but if you're into dubbed tracks you get your choice of English language LPCM 2.0 or DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio. All three tracks are well balanced, crisp, clean and clear with good depth and range. The 5.1 mix spreads out some of the score and the effects nicely but the original language mix obviously suits the movie better as it features the actual voices of the performers. Even the two channel mix features some pretty good front end channel separation though, decent bass response too.
Aside from menus and chapter selection, the only extra on the disc is an eleven minute featurette that follows the filmmakers as they tour with the film to the Fantasia Film Festival for a screening and a Q&A. After this footage they sit down for a more formal, albeit quick, interview about the stunts in the movie.
Bushido Man is a lot of fun. It's a bit repetitive at first and not all of the humor works as well as you might want it to but the second half more than makes for the flaws of the first and the ending is something else. The Blu-ray from Shout! Factory looks about as good as the movie realistically can and features pretty decent audio too. There aren't a ton of extras but the brief featurette is at least interesting. Not a movie for the masses but for those who appreciate quirky, low budget action movies this is worth seeing and comes recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.