When Jiro was thirteen he came home to find his mother and sister killed, with the murder weapon, a mysterious dagger still left behind. Blamed for the crime, he found refuge under the tutelage of Tenkai, a Buddhist monk, in exchange for killing a rogue ninja. Years pass and Jiro has been trained as an assassin. Through a series of events he learns that the ninja he killed was his birth-father who defied Tenkai in order to stop him from finding Captain Kidd’s treasure, a treasure worth enough to empower the shogunate and avoid the Meiji restoration. Using the clues left in the mysterious dagger and with Tenkai and his minions hot on his trail, he devotes himself to travelling the world in search of a Kidd’s treasure and a means in which to take revenge on his master.
summary by Two-Twenty
Highs: Jiro and Oyuki grow on you; some wicked fight scenes.
Lows: Cut and paste storyline; too long; music has not aged well.
I’m quite proud that I managed to make that summary somewhat comprehensible because this anime sure as hell wasn’t. The story took so many twists and turns throughout its two hour duration that it made creating a brief and informative yet spoiler-free plot outline pretty difficult.
The movie starts abruptly with an action sequence featuring Jiro in mid-battle with another ninja who has some sort of emotional attachment to him. This was so jarring that after about a minute I had to press stop and check to see if I actually rewound the tape properly. From then on, it’s a two-hour opus of coincidences and painfully blatant plot twists. The story takes us from Japan, to Russia, even to the US to pay Mark Twain a visit. It’s clear the movie was meant to be an epic, but these developments come across as if they were more for the sake of it, rather than it being a natural progression of the story. There are also several underdeveloped subplots that really should have been left on the cutting room floor. They do nothing to propel the story to its conclusion and just stretch the movie out to a needless length. Director Rintaro would’ve benefited greatly from a script that had gone through a couple more edits. On the aural side of things, the OST is very 80s and it hasn’t aged at all well. It sounds like training-montage music for a cheesy action film, so there were no surprises on this reviewer’s behalf when one actually showed up.
This is an up side to all of this though. I’ve got to admit that Jiro grew on me. Even though the progression of the story was fractured, I found myself looking forward to the ending, not because I was bored, but because I was really gunning to see how Jiro’s extraordinary adventure was going to conclude. Worth a mention as well is Oyuki, one of the secondary characters. She was one of the few that were actually given the luxury of sincere depth and development and, for what it’s worth, she made Jiro’s journey a lot more interesting. Also to its credit, the fight scenes were very cool. Some of the powers of the characters were truly wicked, like something right out of a bad acid trip.
Once upon a time, The Dagger of Kamui was a classic in anime cinema, but unfortunately it just hasn’t stood the test of time. Don’t go out of your way for this anime, but if you do happen to come across a copy, watch it, but just make sure your finger doesn’t wander too close to the stop button.
The Dagger of Kamui can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.