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Shadowhunters – The New York Times bestselling series by Cassandra Clare
Set during the declining years of the Tokugawa shogunate, Shadow Hunters details the questionably noble exploits of three ronin who act as "Shadow Hunters". These three ronin are not your normal ornery ruffians who are looking for a drink, a broad, and someone to jab a sword into, but are in fact former samurai who, rather than follow their destroyed fiefs and murdered masters into death via seppuku, have dedicated their combined sword prowess to stopping the government from raping its daimyos for valuable resources.
When gold is found in a remote domain, the shogunate wants it! In fact, they NEED it since the Tokugawa desperately need any form of wealth to fuel their strict rule over the increasingly fractious Japanese archipelago.
Outside of Japan, what makes Shadow Hunters and its sequel attractive is not particularly obvious from outside of a genre standpoint: When he handed in his notice in the late 60s to sow his seeds in greener pastures occurring not long before Nikkatsu moved into the Roman Porno business , he formed his own production company Ishihara Productions, where both episodes of Shadow Hunters were made under the auspices of Masuda, a frequent collaborator from the Nikkatsu days.
Rumor has it that he was losing interest in filmmaking in general and outside of a lame Hollywood outing and some middling films here and there he was increasingly focusing his interests on his enka singing career and sailing. This is evident in the trite and fairly bland performance he delivers as Jubei, the leader of the three Shadow Hunters.
It has the requisite swordplay, ejaculations of blood, the occasional nudity and groaner oyaji humor, too. What else were you expecting from this film? Oh, yeah, politics, right Which is what I started with.
Shadow Hunters (1972) - IMDb
Well, on that front, Shadow Hunters really is plain Jane in its criticism of the government - though by no means bereft. Not mining any new territory and choosing to reserve all judgment to the old "absolute power corrupts absolutely" and the "corrupt will fight to stay in power" school of thinking, the movie shelves any real sense of contemporary political criticism by means of a period genre film for something of a standard story. Love Song of Vengeance does.
That said, the virtually instantaneous sequel Shadow Hunters 2: Echo of Destiny does offer a condemnation of violence in general, though rather as, again, a by-product of simply having more of it than part 1: All politics aside, Shadow Hunters 2 is a super satisfying exploitation sequel that despite narrative shortcomings is well worth a late-night peep. The only thing is that canons and other projectile weapons are forbidden within Japan and, in particular, the violation of a historical object to be made into a greater weapon is an act of treason.
No sooner has he admitted this then the Shadow Hunters arrive. They have been tasked with safely bringing the newly minted cannon back to Saeki castle; a most difficult task due to the seemingly impassable mountainous terrain and the persistent attacks by swarms of ninja female and male.
Perhaps a perfect example of enjoyable exploitation fluff, Echo of Destiny is not reinventing the wheel, but in fact is basically just recycling it. Besides the Wages of Fear plot contrivances, the movie is fundamentally derived from the scraps and trimmings of the spaghetti western - itself an exploitation genre par excellence. The same sets and locations just dressed and shot differently?
But what did you expect?