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And now, the focus on Jin spoilerific section!

As mentioned in my last post, there will be lots of spoilers here, so if you want to maintain some surprises regarding Jin and his performance as Chikara, don't read this post until after you have seen the movie!


Our first sighting of Oishi Chikara is him hurrying into the Ako castle to tell Lady Mika that the Hunting party has returned. The doors open, and he comes through, followed by a few of Lady Mika's maids. He hurries towards her, kneels and says, “My Lady Mika, the hunting party has returned”...or something equivalent. The camera tracks with him, so it's a long, decent shot of Jin and we get a closeup for his line.


The next Chikara appearance is more of a reference. When his Father (Oishi) returns, his Mother (Riku) tells him that Chikara has been training very hard in order to make him proud. Oishi nods. We can see two figures sparring in the courtyard, but there is no closeup on Chikara.


The next Chikara appearance suggested that there was a previous scene that was cut short, or removed completely. After Kai has seen the witch, he goes to tell Oishi. In the film, Chikara is standing beside Kai, almost as if he had escorted him to see his Father. Oishi dismisses Chikara, and Chikara walks away, but is within earshot and thus hears the conversation between Kai and Oishi. He moves towards the camera, and is well lit, so again we get a long uninterrupted view of Chikara in this scene, but he has no dialogue in the released cut in this scene.


We next hear Chikara calling Yasuno's name. Yasuno has been bewitched and is lying on the floor of the tent. Outside, Kai hears Chikara calling Yasuno's name and goes to investigate. As he enters Chikara looks up and moves aside to allow Kai to kneel beside Yasuno. Chikara asks what's wrong with him, and Kai replies he has been bewitched. He tells Chikara to fetch his Father, but Chikara shakes his head and says there isn't enough time. He looks at Kai and then at the suit of red samurai armour. He says something like only a samurai can fight for Ako. The scene cuts to the red armoured Samurai from Ako entering the arena. He is visibly outmatched by his opponent. They are handed swords and the fight begins, and the camera switches to the tents area where Chikara steps out from behind the tent into the light. This is a seriously beautifully lit reveal shot. Chikara is luminous as he watches the fight with a worried face.


After Kai is unmasked, and the Shogun orders him beaten, we see several close up reaction shots from Chikara. He is visibly upset by the beating Kai endures, and you can see he feels powerless to stop it. Very solid use of facial expressions to convey emotion.


The next time we see Chikara is after Asano's death and the imprisonment of his Father. When Oishi is released he is marched through the streets by Kira's men and then dumped in the rain. Chikara runs down the street calling “Father! Father!” He pauses beside his Father briefly, standing as his Father lies in the rain. Riku has followed him, and immediately kneels beside Oishi. She tells Chikara to help her, that they need to get him inside. Chikara and Riku carry him to their home, and in the next scene, we see all three are sitting in the one room, eating a meal together. Chikara holds a bowl and eats from it with chopsticks. Riku tells Oishi that his men have all left Ako, and that Lady Mika's year of mourning is almost over. Oishi asks what happened to Kai, and Chikara tells him that Kira had him sold into slavery on the Dutch ships. Oishi demands three horses, and Chikara puts his bowl aside immediately. He stands, bows towards his Father and leaves – obviously willing and eager to do anything Oshi asks.


Chikara finds three horses and waits outside for his father's next command. Oishi hands him the short sword that Asano used to kill himself, and tells Chikara to seek out all the ronin, to show them the sword and tell them to meet in one week's time, and to go carefully as they will be watched. Chikara nods and mounts his horse, ready to ride.


Chikara manages to gather together some of the ronin, and they are camped waiting for Oishi's arrival. Chikara holds the bridle as Oishi dismounts, and smiles at him, glad to see him. Oishi praises him in a rare moment of paternal pride.


We don't see Chikara greet Kai, but Kai and Chikara are obviously separate from the others. They sit together as Chikara cooks a meal of fish and rice for everyone, and Oishi explains that he has a plan to kill Kira, but that it will end in their own death. Chikara stands as he hears the plan, obviously wanting to be a part of it, but his Father does not include him directly, and neither does Chikara ask to be included.


Oishi, Kai, Chikara and a few other ronin go to buy weapons, only to discover that Kira has taken control of the village. Kira's men see through their disguise of being farmers by checking Chikara's hands, which do not look like the hands of a farmer. As the soldier threatens Chikara, Kai attacks them, and kills them quickly and efficiently. He tells the ronin to salvage what weapons that they can, and that they will need more. The ronin look on in shock, including Chikara who stands beside his Father.


The same group goes into the Tengu forest in order to ask the Tengu for swords. The forest is haunted by the spirits of the old and infirm who have been abandoned there to die, as well as unwanted children. These white spirits move in swirls and eddy across the ground, and we see Chikara walking through them. When they reach the temple, Kai says only Oishi may enter with him. The rest of the group remain outside. Chikara stands silently with the group, and looks worried.


Inside the temple is a large statue and before it rows of monks in yellow robes are kneeling, heads pressed against the floor. Kai tells Oishi to wait, and no matter what happens, what he sees or what he hears, he must not draw his sword. Oishi looks around as the other members of the party disobey his orders and enter. As they do, the kneeling monks around them awaken and attack the ronin. They fight back, even as Oishi tells them not to fight, not to draw their swords. One by one, the ronin are injured and killed by the monks, until only Oishi and Chikara are left. As they stand together, the monks attack, separating them, and pulling Chikara away. Chikara fights them, and as Oishi watches in horror, Chikara attacks and is swept up by a monk, pulling him up into the air. Oishi closes his hand on his sword, calling for his son. Chikara begins to fall, the monk threatens him with a sword, then both disappear before they can hit the ground. It was all an illusion.


The party leaves the Tengu woods, and as they walk, Chikara asks his Father what happened in the temple, but Oishi rebuffs him and Chikara doesn't press for answers. This is very quick, but I really liked the fact that Chikara asked.


We next see Chikara after they return to the camp, and Isogai returns and tells Oishi that Kira plans to visit the shrine. Oishi orders the ronin to be ready, that they are about to attack. Chikara says that he wishes to go with them, and Oishi tells him no, that he is to stay there. They lock eyes and share a moment and Chikara nods, obviously unhappy but obedient. Oishi tells one of his ronin to also wait with Chikara. Kai is also standing in the room, he waits for Oishi to leave and then silently farewells Chikara with his own bow, a touching moment where they silently acknowledge each other.


After the failed raid, we next see Chikara bringing Kai a bowl of water as Kai tends Basho's wounds. During this scene, Chikara sits beside Kai, and witnesses Basho's death, but he has no dialogue.


We next see Chikara and Kai as they stand outside, and Chikara is drawing water from a well. They notice a band of performers passing by, and Kai sends Chikara to fetch his father.


Knowing that they will face certain death if they succeed in killing Kira, Oishi shows them a scroll where they have written their reasons for acting as they will. It is a testament as to why they are taking these actions, and taking responsibility for breaking the Shogun's order. He says that this must end in their death as well, so as to end the cycle of vengeance. Oishi signs his name first and then draws his sword, cuts his thumb and pressed the bloody finger print to the document. One by one the ronin come forward, sign their name and do the same. Finally only two remain, Chikara and Kai. Chikara steps forward, and stands before his Father. His Father doesn't protest or give him permission, Chikara chooses freely. He kneels, writes his name and draws his sword. He presses his thumb against the blade, slides his sword home into the sheath, then presses his bloody thumb against the scroll. He then moves to stand with the others as Oishi asks Kai if he will join them.


Using the performers arrival as a disguise, some of the ronin including Oishi, Chikara and Kai enter Kira's castle. Chikara is dressed in a very traditional blue uniform with a black hat that has a tall black curl. He stands beside the first cart as the guards search, and allow them to enter.


They set up for their performance, and as the troupe performs, the rest of the ronin use the distraction of the play to covertly enter the castle, killing sentries and taking their places. As the drums start the performance, we see Chikara inside kneeling and he turns towards the camera at the signal. From his position inside the castle, Chikara shoots arrows to silently take out the inner courtyard sentries. Kai stands behind Mika and Kira while the play goes on, and Oishi is disguised on stage, ready to seize a hidden sword when the time is right and kill Kira. The ronin attack, and are on the verge of winning when one sentry takes longer to overcome. He shrugs off his attacker and takes aim at Oishi on stage. Chikara sees this in horror and looses an arrow towards him. The arrow stops him, but not before he has fired at Oishi. The arrow clips Oishi and he falls off stage, losing his disguise. Kira realises he is under attack, and retreats into the keep dragging Mika with him, as the ronin surge towards them.


Kai and Oishi manage to make it into the castle behind Kira and Mika, but the rest of the ronin are kept out. They battle with Kira's men including his huge silver armoured champion. Arrows and swords are used as they battle it out. Chikara is part of this battle, he starts the battle armed with his bow and uses it to keep Kira's men at bay, but eventually he switches to his sword. There are a number of close up shots where he fights with the bow and sword.


When Oishi carries the head of Kira out of the castle, and holds it aloft, the fighting stops, as Kira's men realise he is dead, and they kneel before Oishi. The ronin look up at the head and realise that they have won, that Kira is dead and that soon they will be too. There is a closeup here of Chikara, as he looks up at his Father holding Kira's head.


Oishi carries Kira's head through his province back to Ako, leading the ronin back home. Chikara is part of this procession. When they enter Ako, the streets are lined with people waiting for them. Riku is there waiting, Oishi passes without acknowledging her as they had agreed. She sees Chikara and he stops in front of her. They exchange silent glances and she embraces him, and he her. She pulls back and strokes his face, realising that she has now lost her son as well as her husband, and Chikara can't say anything to comfort her. Without saying anything he walks away, and rejoins the ronin and Riku falls to her knees and cries.


The ronin are called before the Shogun, who says that they should be hanged like common criminals as he forbade them from attacking Kira. Oishi asks that his men be treated with respect as they are the bravest he has ever known. The Shogun acknowledges that although he forbade them from attacking Kira, in avenging Asano's death they were following the oldest and most honourable form of bushido. He says that he only sees samurai before him. The ronin are therefore allowed a samurai's death; they will commit seppuku together. During this scene, Chikara kneels with the other ronin, behind his Father.


The final time we see Chikara is in the second last scene, when the 47 ronin are shown in the courtyard, dressed in pure white kimonos, and hair tied up. The Shogun, Mika, Riku and the court watch as they bow, and kneel in their places.


Together, they offer their final letters and place them neatly beside their short swords.

They open their kimonos, freeing their shoulders.


As the Shogun has ordered, they commit seppuku. The camera focusses on Kai to represent the death of the 47 Ronin, we don't see anyone else die, or their bodies. The camera then switches to Mika and two tears roll down her cheek.


So there you have it, one spoilerfic summary of the times that Chikara appears in the movie. I think I remembered to include all of the scenes Chikara appeared in, if I missed any, I will amend the summary after a later viewing. For those who have seen the movie, please think before you comment, please? As I mentioned at the end of the extensive spoilerific summary of the movie, those of you who have seen the film will know that I have summarised most of the dialogue and here I have included most things, but there is one or two things I haven't concentrated on...for reasons. Seriously. You know what I am talking about. Think about not spoiling that for people yet to see it, yes/yes?


My thoughts on Chikara and Jin's performance.


This was a minor role, with a lot of reaction shots and presence in key scenes. Chikara was not given a lot of dialogue to work with, but I think Jin did a very nice job of keeping Chikara aware of his surroundings, and showing appopriate emotion. Two of my standout scenes for this are his reaction shots to when Kai is being beaten, and the scene with his mother when he returns to Ako. In both of these scenes, he had no dialogue, and all the acting was done through expression alone. It was lovely to watch, and he did a great job. Dialogue delivery was also done well, he was clear and effective, and really in the moment. The line when he asked to go with the ronin to attack Kira was done very well, a perfect mixture of respect and hope. Chikara wanted to be with them to avenge Asano, but he also knew his Father would make the final decision.


Chikara is very young in this movie...it's not addressed directly in the movie of course, we only know that Chikara is young, not yet a samurai, and trying to impress his father. The biographies say that he is sixteen, but he is a mature sixteen – trained in combat, cognisant of family honour and social responsibility and even capable of cooking enough food to feed a number of hungry ronin! He is capable, responsible and considerate. He watches, he observes, he considers what is needed. For example when Oishi needs 3 horses, Chikara leaves immediately to get them. No further questions, just obeying orders, like a good soldier, but also more importantly he recognises that his Father would only ask if they were necessary. He is a young man trying to be recognised as a samurai, and he is also a young man who wants his Father to be proud of him. I think Jin does a good job of portraying that tension. I would have liked there be some more Chikara/Oishi interaction, but what there was in the movie was quality. The moment when Oishi praises him for gathering the ronin was lovely. In the scene after the Tengu temple when Chikara asks what happened inside, and Oishi doesn't answer, it would have been out of character for Oishi to have dropped everything for a heart to heart with Chikara, or even to have hugged him, but I would have liked a little softness there that Chikara could see. Although the audience could see it as they had seen the choice Oishi almost made when Chikara was in danger, Chikara obviously doesn't know. Even though the Ako samurai are now ronin, Chikara still treats them as if they were samurai.


I don't think there is any doubt by the end of the movie that Oishi is proud of Chikara and considers him to be a samurai alongside him. In the traditional version, Chikara was in charge of attacking the rear of the castle, and while the frontal assault didn't succeed, Chikara did. That obviously wouldn't have worked so well in this movie, given Chikara's standing as an untried combatant and Oishi refusing to let him go on the earlier attempt on Kira's life. The fact that after the failed attack and Chikara watching Basho die, leads Oishi to make the decision to include Chikara, in my opinion. Oishi realises that Chikara has chosen to stand with them, that he understands and recognises the risks and that he wants to be there. A little scene where Oishi says Chikara could return to his mother (given Kira thought that they were all dead it would have been a reasonable escape option) and Chikara saying no, would have sat nicely alongside Oishi's silent acceptance of Chikara's signature of the scroll.


This brings me to what I wish there was more of in this movie, and that is the Chikara/Kai friendship. I hate to say it, but it's really not present in this cut of the movie, and if someone who saw the 3 hour LA cut could confirm if there was more in that cut, that would be great. Most of the pre-publicity material that we saw and heard, Jin's character was described as Kai's friend, one of the only ones who understood him, etc etc, and there is not a lot in the movie as it stands to support that. I can see how it could once have been true in the script or in shooting, so I imagine at one point it was a lot clearer. As this movie stands, Chikara and Kai are colleagues and possibly friends – they obviously know each other, and due to their social situation they are often placed next to each other in the ex-samurai now ronin meetings. They don't have a conversation where they discuss anything though, their dialogue exchanges are reaction/action moments, such as “Chikara Fetch your Father!” or “'What is wrong with him?' 'He's bewitched.' ”


Obviously, I am happy that they did have dialogue together, but I would really like to have seen some exchanges that were of the two of them talking. I think there is hope that things like that were filmed... the scene where Kai comes to Oishi to tell him about the witch was obviously shortened in the movie...it would make sense for Kai to tell Chikara why he needed to see his Father, or even just that he needed to speak to his Father immediately. Chikara does also need to be there so he is unsurprised at Yasuno's bewitchment, but the blocking of the scene lends itself to more dialogue. Likewise, Chikara and Kai outside when Chikara is drawing water from the well, this could have additional dialogue.


It is also my impression that Chikara does understand Kai's feelings towards Mika. He may not be a confidante, but given his tendency to watch and observe, I think it's likely. Oishi definitely was aware of her feelings for Kai as well. I could imagine Chikara telling Kai what he knew of Mika's situation over the year he had been enslaved.


What I am really hoping is that the DVD release might have some additional/deleted scenes with this type of material. I am thinking additional conversations, or even scenes where they sparred; I really want to see more Chikara in fighting action. Those type of scenes wouldn't be heavily CGI reliant, so could be transferred fairly easily. Chikara's character was one of only a few that showed any change/growth over the course of the movie, and most of that was shown by situation and expression from Jin, rather than dialogue so it would be nice to have some more of that growth shown in the footage. It would make the film more nuanced and the characterisations more complex, which to be honest was my biggest complaint about this movie. There is not a lot of character/change growth in the main characters. Kai doesn't really change – yes some of the ronin come to accept him as a good man/colleague, but that's obviously going to happen. Kira and the witch – well the bad guys are always bad. Mika may grow a little more hard/aggressive due to her change in circumstances but that's all. The storyline is so well known that the inclusion of the Kai/Mika romance and the supernatural elements were a clever and fairly respectful way to broaden the appeal of the film and increase the storytelling capacity. I do think more could have been done with that, but as always the tension between quiet characterisation/development and the spectacle of an action movie is hard to maintain. So...I have no answers beyond, Jin was really good in what we saw!


So all in all, while I was predisposed to like and admire Jin in this movie, I am happy to report that he was actually quite good in this movie, that he did a good job portraying the change from Chikara being a young idealistic son wannabe Samurai, to a mature, battle ready son willing to stand by his Father to avenge their Lord even if it will lead to their deaths. The movie itself is lovely to look at, and plot wise is engaging, the acting is well done, the effects are good. I am very proud of everyone involved, as against the odds they have turned a troubled and questioned production into an engaging and decent film, which I think a lot of people would find enjoyable. If Carl Rinsch wanted to share this story with a wider audience, I think he has succeeded quite well. It could have been a terrible mess, and it isn't. So kudos to all involved, and lets hope that the eventual DVD release will bring deleted scenes, possibly an extended directors cut, or dare we even hope for actor commentaries? (Do they even do those any more?!) If anyone (cough Carl cough) needs suggestions, I would refer them to the extended editions of Lord of the Rings for what would be great for DVD extras!

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
our_scars
Dec. 9th, 2013 11:05 pm (UTC)
I reluctantly decided to read your review, but I have no regrets, whatsoever. Made me more eager to watch the movie :-)
Love your reviews, hope you manage to send them to Carl-san, because they're very constructive.
islandgurl84
Dec. 10th, 2013 06:06 am (UTC)
great review again, glad Jin got good marks from you. by all means tweet to Director Carl, he wanted reactions from viewers after all. thanks.
zvemi
Dec. 10th, 2013 05:40 pm (UTC)
Saw it tonight (while Jin was doing his show in a club literally next to the cinema >.<) and what I expected to be a terrible mess actually turned out to be a decent movie.

I definitely agree with you that it was lacking in introducing the Kai/Chikara relationship, and not only because we could get more Jin. :) Generally more character development wouldn't hurt, but there are so many characters and it's not the focus of the movie anyway, so I guess it does kind of make sense.

I was a bit confused at times (for example, in the end, what was so special about the swords? Except them, you know, being swords), but overall dfinitely not a waste of time/money even for non-Jin fans. :)

Thanks for the reviews! The amount of detail is incredible. :) and... reasons.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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