It really helps to go into these films with some
background about the character and history of Tange Sazen or it will be
easy to have the same incorrect expectations that I did. All I knew was
that he was a one-armed – one-eyed samurai and when it comes to Asian action
the loss of body parts only makes you stronger. So I went in anticipating
a typical chambara bloodbath with red stuff spurting like the Tivoli fountain.
Though the films do have a few short quick bursts of swordplay, action
is not really the primary purpose of the films and takes a backseat to
story and character.
The Tange Sazen character is a very famous one
in Japan going back to 1927 when Hayashi Fubo first published a serial
in a newspaper with Tange as one of his characters. Later in the 1930's
it became a popular manga from Tezuka Osamu and then was made into a series
of films – the most famous being directed by Yamanaka Sadeo in 1935 titled
“The Pot Worth a Million Ryo” which is still considered a classic today.
Apparently when Fubo saw his creation on the screen he was quite upset
with the comic interpretation the director had taken and complained to
the production company, Nikkatsu. In all, over 30 films about Tange were
made until 1966 when Hideo Gosha made the last one for over three decades
– “Secret of the Urn”. Over the decades nearly all the major film
studios have taken a shot at this character with differing degrees of success.
Now Tange is back again not only in "Sazen" but there is a television
series about him as well.