Aka - Onmitsu Kenshi
Aka - Spy Swordsman
The English translation of the title to Detective Fencer seems a bit off
since there is no detective in our sense of the word and fencer seems much
too polite. Spy Swordsman is closer to the mark. But if I had come up with
an English title it would have been Ninja vs Ninja,a Samurai and a Boy. Ninja
films were a big craze in Japan in the first half of the 1960s - some classics
like Shinobi-no-Mono and Samurai Spy are pretty well known but most are not
outside of Japan - many of them were shot in black and white and are not
easy to track down. This film is Ninja infused - they are everywhere - you
go to the bathroom and you have to expect a ninja on the ceiling ready to
kill you when you have your pants down. They pop up out of nowhere and vanish
just as quickly like Republican politicians avoiding answering questions.
Nearly every ninja device you see in future ninja films are used here - so
many deadly stars being tossed around that there must have been a sale at
the Ninja store, blow pipes, acid mist spit in the face, jumping up into
trees, fire surrounding defense, fog attack, the old face replacement trick,
listening in from underneath the floor and so many more. Literally from the
opening scene and through much of the film it is ninjas attacking ninjas
and the Samurai and his son (no, not Lone Wolf and Cub). It is a lot of fun,
a lot of death and not a lot of laughs. The way a ninja film is meant to
This film comes from a very popular TV series that ran from 1962 to 1965
of the same title but translated simply to Samurai when it was syndicated
to Australia where it was such a hit that when the star came to visit he
was met at the airport by crowds. The star of the TV series is the same star
as in this as is his righthand man. It was on DVD with subs or dubbed at
one point though now Amazon says Unavailable. A few episodes seem to be up
on YouTube. I think the makers of the film assumed audiences had some background
in the story and characters because I initially found it confusing as hell.
And even by the end I was still puzzled by what just took place exactly.
There were good guys and bad guys - Ninja clans thankfully in different colored
ninja outfits - and they kill each other but what exactly was the purpose
of the mission was not clear to me.
The Koga Ninjas dressed in traditional black ambush a Lord in his procession
and have it well planned out at they use arrows, stars, bombs and a collapsing
bridge to kill all his protectors and then him. The Shogun's - 200 years
it says into the Tokugawa era - advisors think they know who is behind this
assassination and others but need proof and so they get their Ninjas - the
Iga - to find a scroll of the contract between the Owari House and others
to overthrow the Shogun, who is a young boy at this time. The Iga against
the Koga is based on history and shows up in a number of films and TV shows.
The Iga sadly for them get stuck having to wear gray which is not nearly
During their mission the Iga come across a Samurai peacefully fishing with
a ten year old boy when an Iga Ninja comes out of the water with his dying
words. The Samurai Shintaro (Koichi Ose) is then attacked by the Kogas and
handles himself surprisingly well. He is the hero of the film and the TV
series. Turns out that he is the older - much older - half brother of the
Shogun and was born to a concubine. He ends up leading the Iga on their mission
- with the Koga 13 against the Iga 13 - along the way they start killing
each other off. The leader of the Iga's is Tonbei (Maki Fuyukichi ) who is
with Shintaro in the TV series. Along the trip to Owari in which Shintaro
inexplicably brings the boy - they meet a lady in distress - needing to visit
her sick mother - played by the great Junko Fuji. Of course it is a deception.
She is Ninja! Watch your back!
In the TV series from what I have read Shintaro and Tonbei roam the country
putting out plots to overthrow the Shogunate. That sort of helps explain
the film but not entirely. Ose is not the most masculine of Samurai - he
looks more like he is going on stage in a Kabuki play with his soft face
very pale and his mannerism and facial expressions rather feminine. Junko
was not a star at the time but she soon would be.