->''"To occupy Kyoto, to fly my flags in the capital, has been my long-cherished dream. But... if something should happen to me, do not pursue that dream. Remember: my death must not be made known. Keep it a secret, for at least three years. Guard our domain. Never move from it. Do not move! If you ignore my order and set out to attack, our Takeda clan will be no more. Heed my words! This... is my final wish."''
-->'''Shingen Takeda'''

''Kagemusha'' (影武者) is a 1980 film by Creator/AkiraKurosawa. The title (literally "Shadow Warrior" in Japanese) is a term used for an impersonator. It is set in the [[JidaiGeki Sengoku period of Japanese history]] and tells the story of a lower-class criminal who is taught to impersonate a dying warlord in order to dissuade opposing lords from attacking the newly vulnerable clan. The warlord whom the ''kagemusha'' impersonates is based on ''daimyo'' Takeda Shingen, and the film ends with the climactic 1575 Battle of Nagashino.

Akira Kurosawa returns to the samurai film and to a primary theme of his career—the play between illusion and reality. Sumptuously reconstructing the splendor of feudal Japan and the pageantry of war, Kurosawa creates a [[EpicFilm historical epic]] that is also a meditation on the nature of power.

Portraying both UsefulNotes/TakedaShingen and the ''kagemusha'' is Creator/TatsuyaNakadai, prized theater actor who has been working with Kurosawa as early as ''Film/{{Yojimbo}}''. Tsutomu Yamazaki, another well-known character actor, portrays Takeda Nobukado, Shingen's brother and a former ''kagemusha'' of Shingen himself. Daisuke Ryu plays the younger and more ambitious UsefulNotes/OdaNobunaga.

Creator/IshiroHonda directed the 2nd unit and coordinated the production. The production was also internationally aided by Creator/GeorgeLucas and Creator/FrancisFordCoppola, admirers of the Japanese master. The film was described by Kurosawa as a dress rehearsal for ''Film/{{Ran}}'', which was released five years later. (Nakadai and Ryu would later reunite as father-and-son Lord Hidetora and Saburo, respectively, in ''Ran''.)
!! ''Kagemusha'' provides examples of:
* AlwaysSomeoneBetter: Nobukado mentioned to Kagemusha how, when he was serving as Shingen's ''kagemusha'' himself, how he wanted to be his own man, but knows he can never dare subvert or surpass his elder brother:
--> '''Nobukado''': ''I often [[DareToBeBadass wanted to be myself, to be free]]. [[SubvertedTrope But now I think it was selfish of me]]. [[TheRemnant The shadow of a man can never stand up and walk on its own]]. [[HappinessInSlavery I was my brother's shadow. Now that I have lost him... I don't know what to do]].''
* AmbitionIsEvil: Shingen comments he would be capable of doing anything to become the ruler of Japan, and he [[CardCarryingVillain describes himself as evil]].
* AntagonistInMourning:
** [[spoiler: When the death of Takeda Shingen is finally revealed, his rival Oda Nobunaga]] sings a song of mourning.
** The Criterion Collection's restored DVD edition reinserts a scene cut out from the original release, showing another daimyo/warlord in Buddhist outfit visibly distraught and praying for his soul, most likely UsefulNotes/UesugiKenshin. ([[FriendlyRivalry Shingen and Kenshin's amicable rivalry]] is [[TruthInTelevision well-documented in Japanese history]].)
* ArmorPiercingQuestion:" I only stole a few coins. A petty thief. But you've killed hundreds and robbed whole domains. Who is wicked, you or I?"
* BadassGrandpa: Shingen at age 51 is an undoubted badass, but special mention goes to Masakage Yamagata who is older than Shingen, yet still has the stones to try and talk sense into Shingen, his feudal master.
* BigBad: Oda Nobunaga is the primary enemy commander shown.
* BodyDouble[=/=]IdentityImpersonator: The thief is offered the role of warlord Takeda Shingen, in exchange for sparing his life. EmergencyImpersonation variety.
* BoxedCrook: The thief's life is spared in order to act as a top-secret double for an identical-looking feudal warlord.
* CharacterTics: Among many of Shingen's mannerisms, his handling of a resting table and fondling his mustache was most iconic, so much that ''kagemusha'' takes much time in perfecting these to convince Shingen's household.
* CurbStompBattle: The Battle of Nagashino.
* DownerEnding: [[spoiler:The kagemusha and the Takeda generals that personally led the attack at Nagashino in the final battle are all killed, and the Takeda army [[CurbStompBattle is clearly utterly crushed]]. It seems the generals who were back at the command post fled, and it's quite likely the Takeda clan will be no more as Shingen predicted.]]
* ElCidPloy: The death of Takeda Shingen brings all sorts of DecapitatedArmy related misfortunes for his clan, so the impersonation scheme is set in motion. DoubleSubverted as after the initial evaluation the thief is deemed unfit for the task and the clan leaders are about to reveal the truth, but this changes again when the thief fully commits to his role.
* ForegoneConclusion: Anyone familiar with the Battle of Nagashino in 1575 knows most of the movie's ending already...
* GeneralFailure: Played with, in tandem with GloryHound; initially defied as Katsuyori's audacity pays off when his risky attack forces the other Takeda leaders with a more experienced judgment to support him against their will and the clan succeeds in taking a fortress that Shingen himself never was able to take. In the end [[spoiler: Takeda Katsuyori disregarding the defensive strategy set by his father and the other generals leads to catastrophic results]].
* GoryDiscretionShot: [[SubvertedTrope Subverted]]. As the Takeda companies charge in the Battle of Nagashino, them being devastated is only implied by the horrified expressions of their commanders looking on. After they all attack, ''then'' the next few minutes displays the shattered blood-stained remnants of the companies writhing and struggling among a field of corpses.
* GrayRainOfDepression: Kagemusha's last scene in the clan compound, [[spoiler: when he is refused a goodbye with his "grandson" and expelled]].
* TheHeroDies: [[spoiler:Kagemusha is shot by Oda gunners while observing the ruination of the Takeda clan. He dies as he attempts to grab the [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F%C5%ABrinkazan Fūrinkazan standard]] floating down a stream, and floats with it.]]
* HistoricalDomainCharacter: UsefulNotes/TakedaShingen, UsefulNotes/OdaNobunaga and UsefulNotes/TokugawaIeyasu among others.
* IdenticalStranger: The reason they figure the soon-to-be kagemusha could pull off the task, of course.
* JidaiGeki: Japan, late XVI century.
* JobTitle: Roughly translates to "impostor."
* KillThemAll: [[spoiler: The Takeda clan perishes under [[GloryHound Katsuyori's]] poor leadership in the final battle. Kagemusha dies too. It's implied some of the leaders [[ScrewThisImOuttaHere fled in time]] however.]] Serving as TruthInTelevision as well, as the Battle of Nagashino was the pivotal battle heralding the downward spiral of the Takeda clan. The Takeda would be finished off seven years later at the Battle of Tenmokuzan.
* LeaveTheCameraRunning: One of Kurosawa's trademarks; long, silent shots of soldiers riding horses, generals lost in contemplative thought, and [[spoiler: battlefields strewn with dead bodies.]]
* LossOfIdentity: Implied to be the tragedy of the ''kagemusha'' (as discussed by Nobukado above in AlwaysSomeoneBetter): in performing the role of Shingen so well and internalizing what he represents to the Takeda, [[spoiler: his dismissal after his status as a fake was discovered left him without anything to cling on to]]. Watching the Takeda get slaughtered at Nagashino [[spoiler: pretty much made him snap, pick up a spear and futilely charge at the Oda camp's gunners, [[MoreDakka where he was riddled with bullets]]. His last scene of trying to save the now-tattered [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fūrinkazan banner of Shingen]] from floating to the river (before succumbing and floating downstream himself) is truly TearJerker stuff]].
** This is probably why [[spoiler:Kagemusha tried to ride Shingen's horse which would end up ruining the impersonation. He was so sure of being Shingen that it didn't occur to him that the horse, established as refusing to ride anyone but Shingen himself, would have disagreed.]]
* NoNameGiven: [[EverybodyCallsHimBarkeep The thief/kagemusha]].
* NotSoDifferent[=/=]InsultBackfire: The thief resents being called scum by Shingen and remarks that a bloody warlord has no right to claim the higher moral ground. Shingen concedes the point.
* OffingTheOffspring: Shingen mentions he killed his son, and also [[TheExile exiled]] his father.
* OneWordTitle
* PetTheDog: Kagemusha's tender relation with his fake grandson. He is a better and warmer grandfather than the dreadful Shingen ever was.
* ReplacementScrappy: How Shingen's warlords viewed Katsuyori in his overblown belief that he is a better leader than Shingen himself. [[CurbStompBattle All of these turned out well-founded in the disastrous Battle of Nagashino]]. [[invoked]]
** RealitySubtext: Subverted, in a sense, on what happened on set. Originally, the role of Shingen and the ''kagemusha'' was to be played by Shintaro Katsu, a boiseterous comedic actor who has already portrayed badass, gruff and tragic characters (like the assassin Okada Izo in ''Tenchu!'' and ''Franchise/{{Zatoichi}}''). However, Katsu managed to [[EpicFail anger Kurosawa at first day of shooting]] and thus left the production. Tatsuya Nakadai was thus taken in to replace him. Critics would later on say Nakadai's interpretation of the role (both of the ''kagemusha'' and the late Shingen) lent it a somber, grave mien that worked better than if Kurosawa continued with Katsu.
* SarcasticConfession: How Kagemusha deals with his concubines when they become suspicious. It works. [[spoiler: For a while.]]
* SpottingTheThread: Shingen's mistresses realize Kagemusha's an impersonator after they check his back after he falls off of Shingen's horse and realize he has no scar where Shingen would have had a sword wound.
* TheStoic: Nobukado, who is the only one of the Takeda leaders observing the Battle of Nagashino to maintain his cool while everyone else - including Katsuyori - are visibly panicking over the slaughter. A close-up shows, however, that he is utterly ''heartbroken'' at having to see so many brave and faithful Takeda retainers lose their lives for nothing. ([[https://www.musubi.it/images/cinema/Jidai/kagemusha77.jpg His face being stricken]] with UndeathlyPallor doesn't help too.[[note]]It may well [[{{Foreshadowing}} have served as a premonition]], as seven years later, at the final [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Tenmokuzan Battle of Tenmokuzan]], Nobukado would be among the remnants of the Takeda to be captured and executed by the Oda.[[/note]])
* StrongFamilyResemblance: Shingen's brother Nobukado also bears a very strong resemblance to the warlord, and has impersonated him in the past.
* TruthInTelevision: The presence of Catholic Christians in Nobunaga's domains. Nobunaga, being a patron of Western culture and food, was very lenient in giving them living space and setting up churches, [[HistoricalVillainUpgrade in contrast to his reputation as a ruthless warlord]]. [[DeliberateValuesDissonance Considering the xenophobic tendencies of Japanese at the time]], though, it may have actually contributed to that reputation.
* WellIntentionedExtremist: At the beginning of the film, Shingen defends his [[OffscreenVillainy historical villainous acts]] as the means to a good goal: The country needs a powerful ruler and the unification of Japan would stop the bloodshed.
* TheWrongfulHeirToTheThrone: The final part of the movie.
* ZergRush: This is Katusyori's strategy for the Battle of Nagashino at the end of the movie. [[spoiler:It gets Deconstructed badly with him sending waves of Takeda infantry and cavalry at Oda Nobunaga's army of matchlock troops hidden behind a long wooden barricade, where Katsuyori's troops end up getting massacred by sustained Oda volley fire in the space of ten minutes' screentime]].