Azumi-2-2005-01

Azumi 2: Death or Love (2005) is a Japanese samurai/action film directed by Shusuke Kaneko for Toho Studios. Written by Mataichiro Yamamoto and Yoshiaki Kawajiri. Starring Aya Ueto as Azumi, Chiaki Kuriyama, Shun Oguri, Yuma Ishigaki, Kenichi Endou, Toshiya Nagasawa, Shigeru Kohyama, Kazuki Kitamura, Reiko Takashima, and Mikijirō Hira. Azumi 2: Death or Love is the sequel to Azumi (2003). Based on the manga series by Yū Koyama. Distributed on DVD in North America by Urban Vision.

To keep the fragile peace in feudal Japan, a team of assassins was raised for the sole purpose of eradicating anyone who poses a threat. Azumi, the strongest of this elite team, has lost nearly all of her companions while successfully taking out two of three targeted warlords. Now, the two remaining assassins, Azumi and Nagara, pursue their final target, Masayuki Sanada. However, Sanada knows they are coming. He has hired the Koga Ninja Clan, masters of stealth, infiltration and fighting, to kill Azumi before she can complete her mission. Hot on Azumi’s heels is Kanbei, the failed retainer of Kyomasa Kato, the last warlord Azumi assassinated with her own sword. He seeks revenge, and will stop at nothing to get it. The whirlwind chase of the hunters and hunted rages – who will be left alive?

Not rated. 108 minutes. Japanese language. Watch the trailer here …

Azumi 2: Death or Love, like Azumi, is considered a “jidaigeki” (or “period drama”) film. However, it is really more like a “chanbara” (or “sword fight”) film. Chanbara, a sub-genre of jidaigeki, is more action oriented.

Azumi

My thoughts… Azumi 2: Death or Love was directed by Shusuke Kaneko who also directed the awesome ’90s Gamera reboot trilogy [Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995), Gamera 2: Attack of Legion (1996), Gamera 3: The Revenge of Iris (1999)], Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001), and the brilliant live-action Death Note adaptations [Death Note (2006), Death Note 2: The Last Name (2006)]. Azumi 2 also co-stars Chiaki Kuriyama who is best-known in the West for her role as Gogo Yubari in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003). So I probably would’ve loved the film even if it had sucked! Luckily, it didn’t suck. Azumi 2 is a fun sequel to Ryuhei Kitamura’s amazing Azumi and a worthy addition to Shusuke Kaneko’s wonderful filmography! Azumi 2 begins with an obvious tribute to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), then quickly settles into an action-fest with ninja villains inspired by Futaro Yamada’s influential novel The Koga Ninja Scrolls (1959). Aya Ueto, of course, is excellent, once again, as the cute but deadly assassin Azumi; but Chiaki Kuriyama steals the film as Koga ninja spy Kozue! When she reveals her true identity and kills Nagara using his own skill – which he shared with her – against him, it is chilling! The only question I have with Azumi 2 is… where was Azumi keeping her battle gear?

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