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Film / Lone Wolf and Cub

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Lone Wolf and Cub was adapted into six feature length Jidaigeki films from 1972-1980 starring Tomisaburo Wakayama as the outlawed Samurai executioner Ogami Ito.

The story concluded in a 1973-76 TV series with Kinnosuke Yorozuya playing the character of Ogami itto. A second series aired on TV-Asahi from 2002-2004 featuring Kin'ya Kitaoji in the leading role.

In 1980, an 80-minute edit combining parts of the first two series installments was released for English-speaking audiences under the title Shogun Assassin.

Tropes include:

  • Adaptational Heroism: Ito is still willing to bend the rules of Bushido and deceive his opponents, but he is generally portrayed as more heroic and honorable than in the comics.
  • An Arm and a Leg: In the fourth film Ito cuts off Gunbei's arm then subjects him to a Fate Worse than Death by refusing to kill him.
  • Anti-Villain: The gunfighter employed by the shogun as a bodyguard Wouldn't Hurt a Child.
  • Armor Is Useless: The shogun's Mooks are easily taken out by Ito, although this could be due to his unique Cool Sword.
  • Asshole Victim: All of the people Ito assassinates in the movie have done bad things deserving of execution. Including, surprisingly, the young girl in Baby Cart In The Land of Demons.
  • Badass and Baby: In the first two films, where Daigoro is either carried or pushed around in a Baby Carriage.
  • Badass and Child Duo: In later films, as an older Daigoro is able to participate in combat by throwing bombs or handing weapons to his dad. Daigoro also has access to levers inside the cart that extend some of its hidden blades.
  • BBC Quarry: The final battles of both Baby Cart to Hades and Baby Cart In Peril are fought in the exact same quarry.
  • Beard of Evil: Big Bad Yagyu Retsudo has a Fu Manchu style beard.
  • Berserk Button: The normally calm and quiet Ito will go full Papa Wolf if his baby is put in danger.
  • Close-Call Haircut: Sensing an ambush in Baby Cart and the River Styx, Itto yells at Daigoro to duck back inside of his pram. He does in time, but not quick enough to keep the top part of his topknot from being cut off.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Ito usually kills his enemies with a sword, but when facing a small army armed with muskets he decimates them with a volley gun concealed in the baby cart.
  • Compressed Adaptation: Baby Cart In The Land Of Demons adapts elements from a story in the manga, in which a radical priest is militarizing peasants for a revolt. Itto has to develop a way to mask his killing intent (IE: defy the concept of "Mu") in order to cut down someone holy. In the film, the priest doesn't interface with peasants at all and is just a Yagyu spy. Itto also doesn't have to develop a counter to the man's power; ambushing him while he's being escorted along a river works just fine.
  • The Conspiracy: Baby Cart In The Land Of Demons has Itto participating in one (and ending another) as the premise. The Kuroda Clan hires Itto to slay various important people, most notably their own Lord and his immediate family, to free the true heir to the clan, who's been locked away by the Lord and replaced with an illegitimate daughter being passed off as his son. To this end, Itto has to secure incriminating documents that would get the clan dissolved, kill a Yagyu spy in a holy position and effectively wipe out the clan's whole army to get the job done.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: In White Heaven In Hell, the Tsuchigumo trio that stalk Itto can burrow (and move about) inside the ground. They spend the movie stalking Itto and slaughtering everyone he talks to. Itto eventually has enough and lures them into following him up a mountain pass. The snow makes it impossible for the trio to hide and their overreliance on digging ensures they almost freeze to death just by making the trek up. By the time they reach Itto, they're freezing, weakened and most importantly, forced into open combat. They're promptly riddled with bullets and unceremoniously skewered by the baby cart's side-blades.
  • Death Seeker:
    • Kanabe Magomura in the third film. He was stripped of his position for daring to cut down the attackers accosting his Lord rather than stay at the noble's side and wait for them. By the time of the film, he's a sad-sack that's forced to shack up with sleazy rapists to get by; all while hoping someone will put him out of his misery. He challenges Itto twice in this quest to die: Itto spares him the first time after recognizing him as someone with honor while the second time it's to the death. As an act of kindness, Itto assists him in committing seppuku.
    • In the fourth film, Gunbei Yagyu (Itto's rival for the position of executioner in the old days) encounters Daigoro in the present and shadows the boy for a time during the search for his father. Upon meeting the Lone Wolf, Gunbei declares revenge on Itto for his clan's dishonor and challenges him, getting his arm cut off for the trouble. The Yagyu had to declare Gunbei dead and have someone else that took his appearance commit seppuku to retain clan-honor, thus Itto denies him death - what use is there in killing someone already dead?
  • Defeat by Modesty: Inverted. Oyuki stuns her opponents by flashing her breasts - and more importantly, the shocking tattoos thereon - at them.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: Invoked frequently. Itto's targets and/or enemies get quite a bit of screen-time detailing their characters and motivations; giving depth to their inevitable end at the hands of the Lone Wolf and his Cub.
  • Dragon Ascendant: Retsudo starts out as the shogun's Dragon with an Agenda, but becomes the main Big Bad in the second film.
  • Dragon with an Agenda: The Kuroda Clan operatives in the fifth film want to kill off their current masters and assert control, albeit for not-so-evil reasons - The Lord they want gone has locked his real son away and is trying to pass off an illegitimate daughter as his heir. His scheme's already been found out and the Clan will be dissolved if something isn't done about those in-the-know and those involved.
  • End of an Era: The movies and comic book are set in the 1850s, with the rising merchant class beginning to supplant the samurai of the Tokugawa shogunate.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: In White Heaven In Hell, Retsudo plunges his blade into the backs of Hyoei and his sister upon seeing the former force himself on the latter.
  • Everyone Is Related: The films follow Itto's quest to kill every member of the shogun's family in revenge for the murder of his wife.
  • Every Japanese Sword is a Katana: Except for Ito's own sword, which is designed for executions rather than combat.
  • Fate Worse than Death: In the first film, Itto gives his son the choice between a sword (following his dad into the road of hellish vengeance) or a ball (being Mercy Killed to join his mother in the afterlife). Daigoro ultimately chooses the sword. His dad wanted him to choose the ball so he didn't have to subject his son to his impending dishonor.
  • Fear-Induced Idiocy: In Baby Cart In Peril, Itto has taken the local Lord Owari hostage after a failed attempt to quell their persecution of a Gomune village by revealing the late Enki's nature as a rapist and why his death at Oyuki's hands was necessary. Their pursuers try killing off the Lone Wolf and his Cub with a volley of gunpowder fire. Owari takes cover with them for a time, but loses himself to fear and exits his hiding spot to try and stand the shooters down. He's unceremoniously wiped out by the volley that follows.
  • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: Itto is fundamentally sympathetic to Oyuki's desire to avenge her rape in Baby Cart In Peril, but he points out that her method of achieving it has resulted in whole families' worth of collateral damage - innocent victims who are fully justified in seeking vengeance on her. Her reaction makes it clear that she'd never considered this.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Retsudo's attempts to isolate his illegitimate son Hyouei work far too well. After recalling Hyouei to face Itto, Retsudo lies he intends to father a child on Hyouei's sister Sayaka and send Hyouei far away. When Hyouei is mortally wounded, he forces himself on Sayaka to ensure Retsudo won't, to Retsudo's utter shock and horror. Retsudo reveals to the dead Hyouei he intended only to ensure he remained in peace away from the Yagyu bloody legacy. It's a rare miscalculation from the old man.
  • Good Is Old-Fashioned: Mid 19th century Feudal Japan is beginning to show signs of modernization, but being Samurai both Ito and his enemies uphold the Good Old Ways of Honor Before Reason.
  • The Gunslinger: Ito fights a Samurai Cowboy in the third movie, and steals his twin guns.
  • Guns Are Useless: Averted as a general rule. Throughout the series, guns are treated as a very serious threat and one of the few things Ito can't overcome with his swordsmanship. Whenever they come into play, he seeks to neutralize them as quickly as possible.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords: Ito wields an unusually large and heavy katana designed for beheading Seppuku victims.
  • Honor Before Reason: EVERYWHERE. Valuable people with irreplaceable skills are regularly sacrificed just to make a point; people achieve great success only to be punished instead of rewarded because they broke some minor point of protocol; shockingly minor points of honor are worth the lives of whole families. As much as the Samurai characters may mourn the passing of the Good Old Ways, it's not hard to understand why this ethic is dying.
  • Hostage Situation: Itto causes one at the climax of Baby Cart In Peril. He warns Lord Owari of Enki's rape of Oyuki, but the court isn't interested in what Itto has to say (thanks to Retsudo having already riled Owari into retaliating against the Gomune), forcing him to take the Lord hostage to ensure he and Daigoro have safe passage out. The Yagyu aren't concerned with Owari's safety whatsoever and kill him with a gunpowder volley the moment he exposes himself.
  • Kill the Parent, Raise the Child: Discussed and subverted in Baby Cart to Hades. Kanabe Magomura, the samurai whom Itto duels near the start of the film, offers to take his son Daigoro in and raise him should he cut Itto down. Itto denies the offer. He declares the duel a draw and wins their later re-match handily, making the offer irrelevant.
  • Last Request: In White Heaven In Hell, Itto effortlessly wins his duel against Hyouei. The latter requests that he be let go to take of a final affair before he expires. Itto obliges. Unfortunately, said affair was him trying to impregnate his sister to prevent the Yagyu from siring an heir. Retsudo catches him in the act and puts both siblings out of their misery.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Retsudo reveals he is Daigoro's grandfather before he dies. It remains unknown whether he was the father of Ito or his wife.
  • Mook Chivalry:
    • During the climactic fights at the end of both Baby Cart To Hades and Baby Cart In The Land Of Demons, Itto is outnumbered at least ten-to-one yet only two foes ever rush to attack him at a time.
    • Subverted in Baby Cart In Peril. Retsudo's forces lure Itto into a trench to wear him down. He has to ambush foes to get out of there to prevent himself from being overwhelmed. After his later bout with Retsudo, a few Yagyu stragglers get lucky shots on the weakened Itto and all try to slice him one-by-one instead of waiting for each other. Itto only survives thanks to a hidden dagger he had on his person and Daigoro finding him in time.
  • Offerings to the Gods: When Itto is nearly comatose from his wounds in Baby Cart At the River Styx, Daigoro finds water for his father at a nearby river, and some food left as offering at a nearby roadside shrine. Not wanting to steal from the idol, he trades his coat for the food.
  • Psychological Combat: Downplayed in ''White Heaven In Hell." While it still involves combat, the Tsuchigumo Trio make it a point to senselessly murder every person Itto and Daigoro ask for help from and rub it in their faces; confronting them with the futility of it all and calling the duo "angels of death."
  • Poor Communication Kills: Subverted. Mid-way into the second film, the Awa Clan burns the boat Itto and Daigoro were staying on in a misguided attempt to kill the Hidari Brothers, which fails. The Lone Wolf and his Cub use their cart to sail to shore and take refuge in a hut, in which they encounter a woman they'd met earlier. Itto promptly accosts and undresses her, forcing her into an embrace. It's only after he forces her to disrobe that he reveals that he simply wanted the trio to huddle together for warmth to save all three of their lives. The woman discreetely reaches for Itto's sword to retaliate until she feels Daigoro trying to help dry her off, proving his words as true.
  • The Rival: Subverted. In Baby Cart In Peril, Junbei Yagyu has all the trappings of one: He's connected to Itto's past (and downfall) thanks to being the other candidate for position of Kaishakuninnote  and he was more than a match for Itto in the old days. However, Ogami's abandonment of Bushido makes him stronger than Junbei in the present and the latter gets his arm sliced of. He ends In Peril with a decree that he'll be the one to cut Itto down. He never shows up in anything afterward.
  • Rule of Symbolism: At the end of Baby Cart To Hades, Itto assists the Death Seeker Kanabe Mogomura in committing Seppuku after helping the latter coming to terms with violating protocol to save his Lord's life. As Itto swings his blade, the scene changes into the filter reserved for Flash Backs, showing Itto in his old executioner garb.
  • Samurai in Ninja Town: When Ito passes through Retsudo's turf to assassinate his targets, Retsudo's own Ninja assassins are waiting to ambush him.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: After Lord Owari dismisses Itto's claims of Oyuki's rape at Enki's hands by pulling rank, Itto actively denounces Lord Owari, the Tokugawa family and the Shogun himself in the same sentence. He has to take Lord Owari hostage just to get out of there.
  • That Man Is Dead: Hyouei rejects Retsudo as a father when the latter comes to the mountain to recruit him in his campaign against Itto. When Itto demands a proper introduction during their duel later, Hyouei uses the surname Tsuchigumo instead of Yagyu.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Exploited in White Heaven In Hell by Itto to get the leader of the non-honorable Tsuchigumo to clash with him in an official duel. Even as he's being dragged underground by the tunneling Tsuchigumo trio, he spends that time waxing prose on how cowardly he's acting. It works splendidly; Hyoei calling his goons off to fight in a duel he can't possibly win.
  • The Story Teller: In the first film the baby is the narrator.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: A Recurring Element throughout the third film.
    • The samurai Kanbe Magomura cut down attackers rebelling against his Lord, only to be exiled for daring to leave his position. His Death Seeker tendencies are ultimately the result of him questioning whether he was right to what he did or not. With help from Itto, he comes to terms with the fact he chose to be Good and ends up committing seppuku with Itto's assistance.
    • After his first encounter with Kanbe, Itto and Daigoro come upon a woman they'd met during a boat ride at the start - She's just murdered the man that bought her (he was a rapist) and her sellers come knocking. Itto is given a choice between simply handing her over or fighting for her. He chooses the latter but takes it a step further - exploiting Loophole Abuse to endure the infamous Buri-Buri torture in her place and wipe her debt. This impresses the gangsters so much, they hire him for a job.
  • Two Roads Before You: Ito can accept the Shogun's decision and offer up his neck, or start Walking the Earth as a ronin. But there's his infant son Daigoro to consider, so his father must offer him the same choice.
    Ogami: I have decided to escape, to defy the Shogun. Today I will begin walking the Road to Hell, but you must choose your own path. (picks up a ball and sword) So, soon you may be seeing Heaven. Choose the sword, and you will join me. Choose the ball, and you join your mother in death. You don't understand my words, but you must choose.
  • The Vamp: Oyuki is a tattooed Yakuza assassin who seduces and murders her enemies, and dishonors their corpses by cutting off their topknots.
  • White Hair, Black Heart: Retsudo, being an evil old man.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Everywhere.
    • Being the son of a disgraced ronin makes Daigoro an occasional target for opportunistic Mooks. Even his own dad deliberately puts him in perilous situations to exploit kinder-hearted foes.
    • Itto himself has cut down kids before: The very first scene in Sword Of Vengeance is Itto acting as an execution-assistant to a lord no older than five. The climax of the fifth film sees him decapitating a child lord and their parents!
  • Wretched Hive: In Sword Of Vengenance, the hot-spring village Itto and Daigoro arrive in has been transformed into one by the lord overseeing it. Ronin are pillaging and raping the place from moment one, the villagers there being held hostage by ronin that force them (and even Itto) into sick games. When the leader of said ronin (his assassination target) arrives and tries to strong-arm the villagers into keeping silent about the goings-on there, he loses it once it dawns on him that one of his hostages was Ogami Itto and sends everyone he can after the man. The whole pack of degenerates is wiped out for their trouble, leaving a very stunned village behind.
  • You Killed My Father: Ito wants revenge for the killing of his family on Retsudo's orders.

Alternative Title(s): Shogun Assassin, Lone Wolf And Cub