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Chambara Television

General discussion (non-Usagi Yojimbo related) about all things Japan -- Feudal Japan, Samurai, Ninjas, Anime & Manga, Chambara films, Japanese Pop Culture, Otaku, martial arts, history, sushi, giant robots, Godzilla... anything Japan-related!

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Chambara Television

Postby Steve Hubbell » Sat Sep 19, 2015 12:00 +0000

Not too long after I started reading Usagi Yojimbo, I started looking for similar material in comics (Lone Wolf & Cub), books (Shogun, Musashi, etc), and films (Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Sword of Doom, etc) because I was interested in seeing the sources which influenced Stan Sakai, but also because I was really intrigued by the setting and culture. In the years since I started reading Usagi yojimbo, I have accumulated a nice collection of jidai geki and chambara films on DVD, as well as quite a few television series. This genre of films was extremely popular up to the late 60's, which was when television started to become more common and the genre quickly made the jump to that medium. During the 70's and 80's, the samurai flourished on Japanese television, with some series spanning multiple decades and actually running over a thousand episodes.

This is just a brief introduction to some of the series which are available in whole or in part with English subtitles.

TOSHIRO MIFUNE

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Ronin in the Wilderness / Ronin of the Wasteland (Koya no Surronin) 1972

Continuing the tradition of the Yojimbo movies, Mifune Toshiro stars as Toge Kujuro, a wandering ronin searching for his own fame and happiness. With a sense of justice, he travels the countryside, with his motley collection of outcasts - a pistol-carrying ronin, a two-bit con artist and woman seeking revenge, following close behind, unwittingly righting wrongs and protectin the common man. Eleven episodes with subtitles.

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Five Freelance Samurai (Gonin no Nobushi) 1968

In 1560, during the Warring States Era in Japan, a master swordsman returns to his place of birth on a mission to take revenge for the brutal slaughter of his family by the most ambitious warlord in the region. Mifune Toshiro stars in this powerful TV series as the leader of a group of “Nobushi” (Freelance Samurai) who travel about the country righting wrongs and standing up for those oppressed by the unscrupulous leaders who each want to rule the entire nation. Produced by and starring the peerless Mifune Toshiro! Four episodes with subtitles.

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Ronin in a Lawless Town (Muhougai no Suronin) 1976

A wildly unusual story set in the earliest days of the Meiji era. The story centers around a gathering place called The Mermaid Saloon, where scantily clad pearl divers put on a show while two residents of the inn upstairs fight corruption and evil while Japan goes through major changes in order to deal with the world at large. The port city of Yokohama is filled with Western influences as well as money hungry military officers work hand in hand with corrupt merchants in trying to take over the town. The only people who stand in their way are Mr. Dandy (Mifune), a samurai of the old school, complete with sword and kimono and Chidori Gennosuke (Wakabayashi) who carries a pistol and dresses in Western garb (looking much like Bat Masterson as portrayed by Gene Barry in the old US television series). Chidori is suspected of being a government spy, and Mr. D is a man of mystery as well. Surrounded by a number of regulars, this is an exciting series with many twists and turns. Nine episodes with subtitles.

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Epic Chushingura (Daichushingura) 1971

A television dramatization of the events of the 47 Ronin. The first episode aired on January 5, 1971, and the 52nd and final episode appeared on December 28 of the same year. The series featured an all-star cast. The central actor was MIFUNE Toshiro, who portrayed Oishi Kuranosuke. The co-lead in the production (and Oishi's main adversary) Uesugi clan's chief councilor Chisaka Hyobu was played by the great TANBA Tetsuro. Many actors appeared as guest stars in only a few episodes. Among them were many known to audiences outside of Japan. These included: NAKAMURA Kinnosuke as Wakisaka Awaiji-no-kami, SHIMURA Takashi, and superstar KATSU Shintaro as Tawaraboshi Genba (the role that Mifune played in the 1962 Inagaki film).

Episodes 1-52 on 26 DVDs tell the story in its most accurate and artistic way. Each episode has the quality of a full motion picture with intricate stories and heart-stopping action as the leader of the group Oishi Kuranosuke must contend not only with the plots and machinations of the vile Lord Kira and the central government, but he faces much discord from within as the younger members fail to understand the true meaning of what they must accomplish. Similar to a Taiga Drama in the year-long format of 52 episodes, this series is much more than that. Powerful beyind compare, available for the first time ever in its entirety! fifty two episodes with subtitles.
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Re: Chambara Television

Postby jabba359 » Sat Sep 19, 2015 15:05 +0000

I can never get enough Toshiro Mifune.
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Re: Chambara Television

Postby Steve Hubbell » Sun Sep 20, 2015 21:07 +0000

Both Zatoichi and Lone Wolf & Cub have been favorites of mine since discovering them originally as characters in Stan's Usagi Yojimbo stories. Of course the films had to be watched and then the television series. At one point it looked like both series would be released on officialy licensed DVDs but after completing the first season, both series were dropped. :(

ZATOICHI

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A threat is uttered, a blade is drawn, a flash of cold steel and then...a dozen attackers now lie silent, dispatched by the lightning sword of Zatoichi. A humble masseur and gambler, Zatoichi wanders the countryside of Japan, going from town to town plying his trade and rolling the dice. With kind heart and lethal sword skills, he is protector of the innocent and the ruin of wicked men. A pop culture icon since his screen debut in 1962, Zatoichi (played by Shintaro Katsu) was a matinee favorite throughout the 1960s. After a dozen years and 25 films, the blind swordsman transitioned to the small screen in 1974 in the series, "Zatoichi Monogatari".

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LONE WOLF & CUB

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Master swordsman Ogami Itto held the honorable position as the Shogun's executioner. When rivals kill his wife and handmaidens, it is initially believed that it was to avenge a clan lord's execution. However, the ghastly deed was designed by the envious Yagyu Retsudo to disgrace and frame Ogami in the eyes of the Shogun, giving him criminal status and forcing him to forfeit his lofty post. With his surviving one-year-old son, Daigoro, Ogami sets off to live as an assassin-for-hire until he can locate and exact revenge upon the Yagyu clan. Based on the manga by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima, the Lone Wolf and Cub television series began in 1973 and chronicles the journeys and adventures of the fabled duo on their path to vengeance.
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Re: Chambara Television

Postby BuckRogers » Mon Sep 21, 2015 3:51 +0000

All three seasons of the Lone Wolf and Cub series (1972-1974), including the never since released Episode 2 of Season 1 are available on youtube in the USA. Episode 1 and 2 of Season 1 are definitely "R-rated" but the others, with one or two exceptions, are all PG rated.

I just love them and have been watching them at off-and-on at lunch for a year now. I have almost finished all of Season 2 at this point. Great stuff.
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Re: Chambara Television

Postby Hikiji » Sat Oct 03, 2015 14:16 +0000

I need to watch the Zatoichi TV series. The serialized films had a nice continuity that American films are only now catching onto (Marvel films being the most successful at it while taking it to a new level, though there is something to be said for Star Wars). I'm wondering how the Zatoichi TV series compares to the films, that Criterion set is fantastic.

Was there a series based on Dai-bosatsu Toge? I've seen Sword of Doom, and I fell in love with it. Now I want more. Anyone know if they ever translated the novels to English?
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Re: Chambara Television

Postby Angilasman » Sun Oct 04, 2015 17:06 +0000

I really wish the Zatoichi TV series would get an official Blu-Ray set here to match Criterion's fantastic box set for the films.
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Re: Chambara Television

Postby BuckRogers » Tue Oct 06, 2015 5:48 +0000

Angilasman wrote:I really wish the Zatoichi TV series would get an official Blu-Ray set here to match Criterion's fantastic box set for the films.


Yes, that would be great!

The youtube versions are pretty rough quality but I cannot complain as at least I can watch them on my lunch break! :D
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