death of a 16th Century warlord
in feudal Japan is concealed to fool his
enemies, using a peasant thief to
impersonate him; but being a shadow
warrior is not so desirable when,
haunted by the spirit of the warlord,
war creeps perilously closer in the
historic epic Kagemusha...
THE DEATH OF WARLORD Shingen Takeda (Tatsuya Nakadai) in feudal Japan leaves
the Takeda clan without their glorious leader, making them vulnerable to rival
Nobunaga Oda (Daisuke Ryu) and his strongest ally Ieyasu Tokugawa (Masayuki
Without the strength and courage of Shingen to lead his forces into battle,
Nobunaga and Ieyasu believe that they could take over Shingen's lands. When
they hear that a sniper has shot him, they assume Shingen is dead and plot to
further their ambitions.
recreates the splendour
of feudal Japan and
benefits from magnificent
unknown to his rivals, Shingen has used his younger brother Nobukado (Tsutomu
Yamazaki) as a double and political decoy in the past, and Nobukado has rescued
from crucifixion a common thief who looks remarkably like Shingen to use him
as a Kagemusha 'shadow warrior' for the three years Shingen has requested that
his death is hidden.
Spies sent by both Nobunaga and Ieyasu to find out if Shingen, who was mortally
wounded and died in the Palanquin he was being carried in, is actually dead.
They are fooled by Kagemusha although Shingen's young grandson Takemaru is at
first unsure if Kagemusha really is his grandfather. He soon comes to like him
and Kagemusha becomes attached to the boy.
Shingen's son Katsuyori Takeda (Ken'ichi Hagiwara) had been displaced as the
heir by Takemaru (Kota Yui) and he is angry to discover that an imposter has
taken his father's place. He is desperate for his own victory and his aspirations
lead him to go against his father's wise counsel and his last wishes.
Nobukado has trained Kagemusha to mimic Shingen's mannerisms and behaviour.
Although he has been treated well, Kagemusha cannot resist breaking into a huge,
ornamental jar to see if there is treasure inside. He discovers Shingen's body
and is horrified, and eventually decides to run away.
The jar with Shingen's body is consigned to the Suwa Lake as he requested, but
Kagemusha sees spies witnessing this. Having known Shingen when he was alive,
Kagemusha is saddened by his death. He is haunted by the dead man in a psychedelic
nightmare sequence, perhaps a harbinger of tragedy to come...
Kagemusha informs Nobukado of the spies and offers himself to again be used
as a 'shadow warrior'. It is an unselfish act, but will he have cause to regret
his choice and what will happen when the three years have passed and Shingen's
death is announced?
Emotive and compelling while spectacularly recreating the splendour of feudal
Japan and the pageantry of war, Akira Kurosawa's lavish masterpiece Kagemusha
is an historical epic that is also described as being a meditation on the nature
Deservedly attracting numerous honours in Japan and overseas, Kagemusha
sees Akira Kurosawa return to the Samurai film and a primary theme of his career:
the play between illusion and reality.
The battle sequences are magnificent but traumatic, especially the 1575 Battle
of Nagashino, as the casualties mount up for both humans and horses in scenes
some may find distressing.
Kagemusha also features: Jinpachi Nezu as Chief Bodyguard Sohachiro Tsuchiya;
Hideji Otaki as General Masakage Yamagata; Kaori Momoi as Otsuyanokata, Shingen's
Concubine; Mitsuko Baisho as Oyunokata, Shingen's Concubine; Hideo Murota as
General Nobufusa Baba; Eichi Kanakubo as Uesugi Kenshin, another Rival of Shingen;
and Takayuki Shiho as Masatoyo Naito.
Music is by Shin'ichiro Ikebe; Cinematography by Takao Saito and Shoji Ueda;
Costume Design by Seiichiro Hagakusawa; Produced by Akira Kurosawa and Tomoyuki
Tanaka; Executive Directors for the International Version are Francis Ford Coppola
and George Lucas; Writers are: Masato Ide and Akira Kurosawa; and Directed by
* Akira Kurosawa's historic Japanese epic
masterpiece Kagemusha is released in the UK on Blu-ray on 8 March 2021.
Certificate: 15 | Running Time: 180 Minutes | Japan 1980 | Japanese with English
Special Features: Restored high-definition digital transfer with DTS-HD Master
Audio soundtrack | Audio commentary featuring Kurosawa scholar Stephen Prince
(The Warrior's Camera: The Cinema of Akira Kurosawa) | Lucas, Coppola,
and Kurosawa (19 minutes, 2005): directors George Lucas and Francis Ford
Coppola discuss Kurosawa and their roles as executive producers of Kagemusha
| 41-minute documentary on the making of Kagemusha, part of Toho Masterworks
series Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create | Image: Kurosawa's
Continuity, a new video piece reconstructing Kagemusha through Kurosawa's
paintings and sketches | A series of Suntory Whiskey commercials made on the
set of Kagemusha | Gallery of storyboards painted by Kurosawa and images
of their realization on-screen | Theatrical trailers and teasers | Optional
English subtitle translation | PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by scholar
Peter Grilli and and interview with Kurosawa by renowned critic Tony Rayns.
"Kagemusha is emotive and compelling, spectacularly recreating the splendour
of feudal Japan and benefiting from magnificent battle sequences…" ****
Maggie Woods, MotorBar