At the end of Azumi, which I reviewed in ACF 114, the title character and one other assassin, Nagara (Yuma Ishigaki), are the only survivors of the group that was trained to kill three warlords. As Azumi 2 begins, these two are being pursued by forces led by Kanbei Inoue (Kazuki Kitamura), a loyal retainer of the second warlord that Azumi killed. After escaping, the pair meet with Nankobo Tenkai (Shigeru Kohyama), the priest who initiated the mission. Azumi and Nagara decide to continue their quest and assassinate Masayuki Sanada (Toshiya Nagasawa), the remaining daimyo who is loyal to the Toyotomi clan.
They are joined by Kozue, a female warrior roughly their age who has an agenda of her own. Kozue is played by Chiaki Kuriyama, best known for her role as Gogo Yubari in Kill Bill, Vol 1. She also starred in Exte: Hair Extensions, a big hit at the 2007 New York Asian Film Festival.
These three meet a group led by Ginkaku, a young lad who bears a striking resemblance to Nachi, the orphan boy who actually brought Azumi into the group when Ji had passed her by in the first film. Nachi had also been her closest confederate during the years of training, and Azumi feels guilty about his death. These two characters are both played Shun Oguri.
When Nagara and Kozue go off on their own, Azumi, accompanied by Ginkaku and his gang, continues to Sanada's redoubt. But he and his forces have already left to attack Tenkai. Azumi rushes off for a final showdown to save the priest, kill Sanada, and hopefully usher in a period of peace and stability for Japan under the Tokogawa shogun.
Aya Ueto reprises her role as Azumi. Still a teenager when this sequel went into production, she again does a fine job conveying Azumi's inner conflicts. On the one hand she yearns for a "normal" life, perhaps with someone special and even children. This impulse is made stronger by her encounter with Ginkaku. On the other hand, she cannot ignore her duty to complete the mission for which so many of her friends have already died.
Azumi 2 is helmed by Shusuke Kaneko, who has also directed the Death Note movie and its sequel. He does a good job with the material, though he doesn't seem to have quite the panache of Ryuhei Kitamura, the director of the first Azumi, when it comes to fighting scenes.
Indeed, these scenes are a bit of a letdown compared to those of the first film. I mentioned that the climactic fight in Azumi, the one that pits her against Bijomaru, is like a great boss battle in a good video game. In Azumi 2, the main challenges are from three members of the Kogan Ninja Clan, who fight for Lord Sanada. They are more like sub-bosses, and Azumi in some cases needs assistance in dispatching them, instead of handling them one-on-one. Thus she comes across as somewhat less formidable than in the first film.
All things considered, Azumi 2 is a good movie and well worth watching, a decent if not quite stellar sequel to the original. The extra features are rather limited, but that's not surprising when one considers that the two-disc DVD of the first film was packed with extras. Still, interviews with the director and producer, even brief ones, would've been nice.
Overall I give the Azumi 2 DVD, which was recently released by Urban Vision Entertainment, a 3 out of 4 star rating, solidly recommended.
- English 5.1 Surround
- Japanese 5.1 Surround
- Optional English Subtitles
DVD Special Features:
- Through the Eyes of Azumi featurette
- Image Gallery