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Film / The Last Samurai

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"The tiger's eyes are like my own
But he comes from across a deep and troubled sea..."
General Moritsugu Katsumoto

The Last Samurai is a 2003 American film directed by Edward Zwick. Tom Cruise stars as Nathan Algren, a veteran of The American Civil War and the campaigns against the American Indians, in the course of which he served under General Custer. The wars are well and truly over, but Algren is still haunted by what he has seen, and done, and scrounges out drinking money to sustain his chronic alcoholism by endorsing rifles. He's given an opportunity to go back to what he's best at — fighting — when his former boss recruits him to aid the Japanese Empire. The Meiji Emperor has been rapidly modernizing the country with the 'aid' of men like Omura, the most powerful man among the oligarchy which controls the emperor and the country from behind the scenes. Nathan is asked to train a force of the country's newly-formed national army in the art of modern warfare. His assignment comes with the knowledge that a group of Samurai, low-ranking nobles similar in rank and role to the Knights of medieval Europe, have risen up in rebellion against the oligarchy in the name of the Emperor. The rebels claim that the radical programme of modernisation endorsed by Omura is in fact a programme of 'westernisation,' one that is destroying the Japanese way of life.

In Japan, Algren has his work cut out for him. His recruits are completely raw and he must start their training from scratch. Too soon, the rebel samurai army attacks. In spite of their inferior numbers and weapons, the samurai slice through Algren's undisciplined troops. Preparing to die on his feet, Algren engages a samurai in single combat and manages to kill him. After watching Algren's Last Stand, the samurai general Katsumoto realises he's had a vision about this same scene (depicted at the film's start, with Algren now revealed as the white tiger he saw) and decides to spare Algren's life.

Trapped in Katsumoto's camp for the winter, Algren finds himself comfortably appointed in a family's house as more of a guest than a prisoner. He grows to sympathize with his hosts and appreciate the way of the samurai. When the opportunity comes to leave, Algren chooses to switch his allegiance and help the samurai against the forces of modernization. After battling assassins and forming a subdued romance with the widow of the samurai he killed, Algren enters the final battle for the fate of the samurai and Japan.

Ken Watanabe, the fella who played Katsumoto, was nominated for an Oscar for his role.

The film is loosely inspired by the actual historical events, but for their part they do not even attempt to claim Based on a True Story. All the major characters besides the Emperor were fictionalized and the actual events depicted went quite differently. The period saw two conflicts: the Boshin War, a revolutionary war/coup which saw the toppling of the Tokugawa Shogunate and 'restoration' of the emperor - later known as the Meiji Emperor - as the head of the country (and as a puppet of the victorious rebels... until he implemented the same exact reforms the Shogunate tried to anyway). The second and smaller conflict was the Satsuma Rebellion, a rebellion chiefly of Samurai from Kagoshima Prefecture (the former Satsuma Domain) led by a man called Saigō Takamori a decade later. All the factions involved used firearms and were rushing to adopt more modern weaponry and tactics. Algren is based off French Army Captain Jules Brunet, who was dispatched by Emperor Napoleon III to train the troops of the Shogun shortly before the outbreak of the Boshin War. Plenty of Artistic License was used in order to tell a compelling story but the movie is still a loving look at Japanese culture, one that does well in capturing the spirit of the Meiji era.

Not related to the novel The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt.

The film was released on November 22, 2003 in Japan, and saw a December 5, 2003 release in the United States.

This film provides examples of:

  • Achievements in Ignorance: At one point, Algren, who has only a few weeks worth of training in combat using katanas, is attacked by four ronin in the streets at night, alone and unarmed. Not only does he win but he even mentally replays what he just did to them with the biggest ever "holy shit, I absolutely cannot believe I am still alive" expression on his face.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: The early period of Algren's captivity, prior to the ninja attack, is entirely peaceful, a few short training fights notwithstanding.
  • The Alcoholic: Algren, prior to his captivity. He appears to overcome it during his captivity, though not without a bad bout of Delerium Tremens.
  • Animal Motifs: Tigers for Algren. His determination and ferocity even in the face of impossible odds reminds several characters of one. The spear he uses in the opening battle also has a tiger on its standard.
  • Artistic License – History: Not nearly as bad as it could have been, but the setting for this film is still essentially a combination of two different historical events in Japan that took place ten years apart: the 1868-1869 Boshin War and the 1877 Satsuma Rebellion. Has its own page.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Algren cuts a rifle in half along with the face of the Imperialist soldier that was using it to block his strike. The latter had the correct move. It's doubtful-to impossible (depending on what the barrel is) that a katana could cut through both the wooden stock and metal barrel of an 1860-1870 rifle at all, let alone cleanly and one-handed. At best, the overhead strike would've only knocked the rifle out of the soldier's hands, and probably damaged the sword or injured Algren's wrist.
  • Artistic License – Religion: In Shinto mythology, the weapon wielded by Izanagi and Izanami was a spear, not a sword as claimed in the prologue. Alternatively however, this could be taken in many different contexts. In the Japanese classification of bladed objects, a spear is technically a sword. So there is some truth put into this.
  • Apathetic Citizens: In the deleted scene with Ujio decapitating a harasser on street (see Clean Cut below), all the witnesses except Algren, Katsumoto and Graham either ignore or even don't notice what has just happened.
  • Armor Is Useless: Somewhat, the bullets pierced through samurai armor like a hot knife through butter but most of the main cast are still up and running.
  • Arrows on Fire: Only one instance, and very justified. A fire arrow is used to light up a oil-straw-napalm ball minefield at the final battle, dividing and panicking the Imperial Japanese forces.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: When Bagley asks the following question, a disgusted Algren can't even bother with a response. Doubles as a case of Evil Cannot Comprehend Good on Bagley's part.
    Bagley: Algren, what is it about your own people you hate so much?
  • "Ass" in Ambassador: Swanbeck, the American ambassador to the Meiji government, is solely concerned with getting the Emperor's signature on documents guaranteeing that the U.S. will get ahead of the British and Prussians in supplying weapons to his new army.
  • A-Team Firing: Soldier in the first battle. Justified, as they were untrained and armed with muskets at the time. Previously they are shown practising fire accuracy, missing targets at very close range.
    Algren: I suppose we should be grateful that they are firing in the same direction.
    • Another example comes during rescue of Katsumoto, when the guards (armed with much more accurate rifles and supposed to receive enough training) still are unable to hit anyone (except Nobutada) while samurai take down many of them with arrows.
  • The Atoner: Nathan Algren, who's harboring incredible guilt for the atrocities he committed on Native Americans during his time in the US Army, and it's all but directly stated that he wants to die.
  • Audible Sharpness: All over the movie. The filmmakers are practically sword fetishists.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Algren and Katsumoto, several times, but most notably during the ninja attack on the village.
  • Badass Bookworm:
    • Algren is an highly capable fighter, but he's also an excellent tactician (implied to be a major reason behind Bagley recruiting him for the Japanese mission in the first place), an author and a Cunning Linguist.
    • The same applies to Katsumoto, who spends time reading, writing poetry, and learning English.
  • Bait the Dog: Algren is kind to one of the conscripted troops he's been sent to train, teaching him the proper way to hold a rifle and quietly praising him when his shot nears its mark. Then, frustrated by the order to engage Katsumoto with his woefully unprepared men, he singles out this same guy and, to illustrate a point, tells the man to shoot him or be killed. With enough incentive – Algren harangues the poor fellow and riddles his peripherals with bullets – the terrified soldier gets a shot off... far to Algren's side.
  • Bald Head of Toughness: Katsumoto, leader of the Samurai, and also their strongest warrior, who personally leads them into every battle.
  • Big Bad: Omura emerges as the main villain, who uses brutal and dishonest means to force through his own vision of Japan's future as a modern, ruthless Western-type industrial state (with himself in charge).
  • Bilingual Bonus: Most of the Japanese is subtitled and Katsumoto is a student of English, but it's a nice touch that the people in the village had a hard time pronouncing Algren correctly. In Japanese, both L and R syllables are approximated with the same sound (which falls roughly halfway in between the two); accordingly, words that have both sounds close together (such as "railroad", "burglar", or, indeed, "Algren") tend to be tongue-twisters for Japanese speakers. In the film, as would be the case in real life, "Algren" is rendered as "Arugaren"
  • Bittersweet Ending: Katsumoto, his son, and many others are dead, and the way of the samurai has come to an end. However, Omura has been bankrupted and dishonored, and the Emperor has realized that Japan must remember and honor its own history rather than fully Westernize. Nobody knows what happened to Algren, but Graham correctly assumes that he finally found peace, staying in Japan and returning to Katsumoto's village, where he settles down with Taka.
  • Blatant Lies/Refuge in Audacity: "Do you know who this man [Algren] is? This is the President of the United States of America!" Might also count as a Funny Moment.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Zig-Zagged Trope. It's averted most of the time, especially in the final battle, but played oddly straight in the first battle against the Samurai in the fog, which has almost no visible blood whatsoever, even when Algren jams a broken-off spear through a samurai's throat. The ninja attack on the village is also oddly devoid of arterial spray despite all the violent stabbings and slashings, with the ironic exception of the people who get shot with crossbow bolts (i.e. the kind of wound that wouldn't bleed that much). In one particularly bizarre instance, there's a dramatic blood spray when Algren slashes a couple of mooks across the chest, but none at all when he decapitates their leader.
  • Book Ends:
    • The film starts and ends with a monologue from Simon Graham. Katsumoto and Algren are each shown during one of them, finding peace in their own way.
    • Early on in the film, before the first battle with the samurai, a poorly-trained soldier has trouble inserting the ramrod into the barrel of his muzzle-loaded musket. During the final battle, when Omura orders that the Gatling guns be loaded, one better-trained but still apparently novice soldier has some difficulty loading the bullet hopper into the machine gun.
  • Boring, but Practical: The samurai's arsenal is derided as primitive and barbaric, and elements of the Japanese government want to embrace progress and modernisation, but it's repeatedly shown that "simple" weapons, wielded by masters full of purpose and conviction, have it in them to prevail over superior firearms handled by fearful novices.
  • Born in the Wrong Century: The Glory Days of the Samurai are long gone, Katsumoto is but the vestigial residue.
  • Brutal Honesty: A tendency of Simon Graham, who tells Algren that this was why he was fired from his original job in Japan as part of the British trade mission.
  • Bulletproof Human Shield: Algren kills a soldier during the final battle by stabbing him and then twisting him around into the path of a soldier shooting at him.
  • Cassandra Truth: Algren tells Bagley that the Imperial Army's hastily recruited and trained conscript soldiers are not ready to face the rebels in combat. Bagley ignores his advice and orders the Army's first regiment to deploy, and the battle is a slaughter. Omura even acknowledges that Algren was right as an attempted means of enticing him back to the side of the Emperor.
  • Cavalry Officer: Tom Cruise's character is a prime example of a Cavalry Officer.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Literally; the gatling guns and howitzers that are used in the final battle are seen being tested when Algren reunites with Bagley after being freed.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Katsumoto is introduced surreptitiously as the man meditating atop a mountain, dreaming of a tiger fighting warriors.
  • Cherry Blossoms: Casually mentioned not long after Algren is captured, eventually forms a symbolically important part of the climax. Katsumoto, during Algren's captivity, sincerely tells him that someone could spend their entire life looking for a perfect cherry blossom and it would not be a wasted life. And then after Algren has already assisted him in his seppuku in the middle of the battlefield, Katsumoto looks at the cherry blossom trees in the distance and with his final breath utters his realization that "They are all perfect."
  • Clean Cut: A deleted scene shows Algren witnessing Ujio walking along a street, who gets hassled by a pair of businessmen. The samurai takes their insults for a few moments, as they insult his heritage and his swords, but when one of them pokes him with a cane, Ujio slices off the head of the man in a clean, swift fashion, and sheaths his katana in one fluid movement while the other scrambles backwards.
    • Algren does a similar thing with one of the ronin who tried to assassinate him.
    • The deleted scene is a reference to Kiri-sute gomen, a Japanese samurai-era law that allowed the samurai to strike and/or kill peasants for compromising or insulting a samurai's honor.
  • Composite Character: The character of Nathan Algren was largely influenced by two individuals. One being Jules Brunet (a French army captain who fought alongside Enomoto Takeaki in the earlier Boshin War) and Frederick Townsend Ward (an American mercenary who helped Westernize the Chinese army by forming the Ever Victorious Army).
  • Conscription: The Imperial Army starts off as nothing but a bunch of conscripted peasants.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Averted. In the ninja attack the assassins are able to put up a very good fight.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Omura has monopolized Japan's burgeoning railroad industry. He is pushing for modernization to expand this market, and is determined to crush the samurai rebellion because it is hurting his bottom line.
  • Culture Clash:
    • Algren and Katsumoto discuss Custer's Last Stand. Algren dismisses Custer as an idiot who got all his men killed due to arrogance and bad battle tactics, but Katsumoto is awed by Custer's "bravery" and remarks that he would have been a great samurai.
    • Another is in how Nathan refuses to surrender and tries to be Defiant to the End, whereas in a similar situation samurai would accept their fate and/or commit seppuku. Algren's Last Stand is considered a very strange event, and in his first attempt dueling another samurai he keeps coming back for more strikes to the head.
    • Towards the end of the film, Algren and Taka share a kiss. It's very quiet, restrained, and intimate. It doesn't lead to a sex scene, because the kiss itself is treated as a sex scene. If Algren had simply bedded Taka, Katsumoto and the other samurai would have thought nothing of it. But at the time a kiss would have been absolutely scandalous and probably have gotten both Algren and Taka killed.
  • Cultural Translation: Tom Cruise's character is based on Jules Brunet, a French army officer. While most aspects of Japan's modernisation are apparently carried out with the help of European nations, in the film all the militarisation fell to the Americans. Although in the end the film claims that American support was rejected because of Nathan's plea to the Emperor.
  • Cultured Badass: Katsumoto is a master swordsman and also writes poetry, reads history and philosophy, and speaks remarkably good English.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The battle in the forest, where the inexperienced Japanese peasant army is soundly routed by Katsumoto's samurai (justified by the fact that the scared, inexperienced peasants fire too early into the mist that conceals the samurai, missing almost all their shots, and are then overrun before they can reload). Happens again in the final battle, although this time it is the modern firearms that curbstomp the samurai.
  • Death Seeker:
    • Nathan Algren due to the massacres of the Indians he had to carry out previously, which still haunt him. While training the fledgling modern Imperial Japanese Army, he gets on the firing range and orders a recruit to shoot him (only to miss, predictably) to prove a point about the soldiers not being ready for combat yet. Later in Katsumoto's mountain village, he doesn't even react when a samurai warrior threatens to decapitate him.
    • Katsumoto labels himself as one as well.
      Katsumoto: [regarding Algren] You do not fear death, but sometimes you wish for it.
  • Defensive Feint Trap: The samurai fake a panicked retreat when they get shelled by cannons in the final battle. Col. Bagley is suspicious of this trick, but Omura is more than happy to pursue.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • Algren and Katsumoto have decidedly different views on Custer's last stand.
      Katsumoto: Two thousand Indians? How many men for Custer?
      Algren: Two hundred and eleven.
      Katsumoto: I like this General Custer.
      Algren: He was a murderer who fell in love with his own legend. And his troopers died for it.
      Katsumoto: I think this is a very good death.
    • In general, the way people talk about Native Americans as savages is shown to be extremely ignorant at best, and justification for atrocities at worst. Algren's visible disturbance, especially due to his regret over committing atrocities against them, highlights how wrong this mentality is to the audience.
    • The subject of seppuku is regarded quite differently by Algren and the Japanese characters. Algren witnesses Katsumoto acting as General Hasegawa's kaishakunin (second) and is initially disgusted, since all he could see was Katsumoto killing a helpless unarmed man who had been defeated (after refusing to fight back), not knowing that Hasegawa was undertaking a painful form of ritual suicide and Katsumoto was essentially performing a Mercy Kill. Ujio is disdainful of the fact that Algren did not take his life rather than be defeated and captured, but Katsumoto points out that's not part of Algren's culture. Even at the very end of the film, Algren initially tries to stop a mortally wounded Katsumoto from taking his own life, but is talked into assisting Katsumoto instead.
  • Determinator: Algren. And that's why Katsumoto admires him. Ujio, on the other hand, sees his refusal to accept defeat from his betters to be disrespectful. He comes around eventually.
  • Do Not Go Gentle: The entire climax as Katsumoto and Algren lead the samurai in a battle they know cannot be won, but to make a final statement to the Emperor that the values and ideals Katsumoto held dear were still valid.
  • Doomed by Canon: Or "Doomed by History" at any rate. Given that the story is loosely based on the events of the Satsuma Rebellion during the Meiji Restoration, the end of the story and the fate of its main characters is more or less a foregone conclusion.
  • Doomed Moral Victor: Katsumoto never had a hope in defeating the Imperial Army or stopping Japan from modernizing, and he's well aware of this. The point of the rebellion isn't to triumph in the face of overwhelming odds but to convince the Emperor to not forget their old values that shaped Japan into what it is. In that, he ultimately succeeds, at the cost of his own life.
  • The Dreaded: The samurai are this to the general Japanese population, having - for centuries - had the power of life and death over them. When the Imperial peasant levy first faces them in battle, most of them are pretty much ready to run as soon as they hear their first battle cries. Later, when Katsumoto and his men return to Tokyo, the citizens flee en masse at the sight of them, before scrambling to bow at what were their feudal overlords.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Gant and Algren are rare protagonist examples for the army of badly underequipped Japanese conscript peasants.
  • Dying Truce: A rarer example where the heroes are the ones dying and the antagonists are honourable. After the last remaining samurai are gunned down by gatling gun fire, the captain orders his men to cease fire (against the orders of his superior) to allow Katsumoto to commit seppuku and die with honour.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Effectively lampshaded in the epilogue; while Graham doesn't know Algren's fate for certain, he (correctly) believes that he's finally found happiness. It has, however, taken him decades and a trip across the full length of the world to achieve this.
  • Elite Army: The samurai rebels are highly skilled in traditional warfare, and easily defeat the poorly trained conscripts of the Imperial Army in their first battle, despite the superior weapons of the latter. Even against the larger and better trained forces commanded by Omura and Bagley later on, they present a very respectable performance considering the steep disparity in firepower.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Algren gets at least three excellent ones.
    • The first comes when he's been hired to shill the Winchester rifle but misses his cue to come on stage during the demonstration because he's so blasted drunk that he can barely read his cue cards. Despite his obvious inebriation, he demonstrates the weapon's effectiveness by pulling some impressive trick shots over the heads of the terrified crowd.
    • Gant, Algren's Only Friend, gets his during this same scene, when he's the only person in the crowd who doesn't immediately throw himself to the ground in panic while Algren is firing over their heads. By the time Ethan's done, Gant's actually laughing at the display of drunken marksmanship.
    • During their conversation on the boat, Simon Graham is excited to hear that Algren speaks Blackfoot, and asks Algren to tell him the technique the natives use for scalping people and boiling them in oil. Algren proceeds to terrify Graham into silence by giving him a gruesomely detailed description of the mechanics of scalping, intercut with Algren's Flashback Nightmares to the actual "savage natives" he fought (read: massacred.)
      • During these war flashbacks, we see Colonel Bagley ordering the men to destroy the village despite Algren's protests and personally gunning down fleeing women and children.
    • The third for Algren comes when he's been hired to train the Japanese conscript army, and proves his point that the soldiers aren't ready by standing in front of one of the targets, drawing his pistol, and ordering one poor soldier to reload and fire back while Algren is shooting at him, showing us that he's a brilliant soldier who absolutely wants to die for what he did during the war and cares very little for the lives of anyone, including himself.
  • "Everybody Dies" Ending: Algren excepted, every single samurai at the final battle dies, along with Bagley and presumably a sizable majority of his men in the final charge.
  • Expy: "Bob" resembles Kyuzo, the master swordsman of Seven Samurai.
  • Firearms Are Revolutionary: Downplayed. Firearms are already present in the period when the movie is set, and the first battle scene has infantry levies trampled over by the samurai in spite of being armed with guns. However, the introduction of advanced, powerful firearms makes the samurai increasingly obsolete. Once the government gets gatling guns, the samurai are essentially wiped out.
  • Flashback Nightmare: Algren's PTSD gives him flashbacks to the times he was ordered to slaughter Native Americans. He tries to drown them out with alcohol, but when he is forced to quit cold turkey he suffers severe nightmares combined with fever dreams caused by his wounds. Later in the film, Algren and Katsumoto discuss them.
    Nathan Algren: Every soldier has nightmares.
    Katsumoto: Only one who is ashamed of what he has done.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: A very subdued case. Taka, Katsumoto's sister and the widow of the samurai Algren had killed earlier in the movie, takes care of Algren, sewing up his wounds. Algren ends up falling for her, and also forms a bond with her two sons.
  • Flynning: A notable aversion, the extensive sword play is all done very efficiently and there are no protracted fights. When Algren was training with Ujio two men would watch and make bets on the exact number of moves before his opponent would make a "killing" strike, ranging from 4-7. In fact, it contrasts Nathan's prior experience with a saber and his unfamiliarity with actual sword duels. The movie even visually highlights this in the scene where Algren is ambushed by assassins in the city at night, the actual fight lasts maybe thirty seconds in real time, but a visibly stunned Algren replays it in his head in slow motion.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Anyone who is familiar with Japan's history will already know the country is being westernized, given that the film takes place eight years after the start of the Meiji Restoration.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Algren saying to Bagley: "For 500 bucks a month I'll kill whoever you want. But keep one thing in mind: I'd happily kill you for free."
    • "I will die by the sword. My own, or my enemy's."
  • Gallows Humour: When Katsumoto summarizes his pre-battle exchange with Omura and Bagley to his commanders: "Well, they won't surrender."
  • Gatling Good: Omura is extremely proud of the actual Gatling Guns he has managed to acquire by the end of the film, for good reasons.
  • Gentleman and a Scholar: Simon Graham, a scholar who makes his living translating the lies of Japanese who never quite tell the full truth.
  • Go for the Eye: Quite a few Imperial soldiers catch an arrow to the eye.
  • Going Native: Pretty much the entire plot of the film. Nathan Algren learns the ways of the samurai and lives with them, then ends up willing to die for them.
  • Good Old Ways: This sums up Katsumoto's stance in a nutshell. In an age of an increasingly Westernized Japan, the samurai prefer to stick to swords, bows, and old tactics (not to mention Bushido and spiritualism).
  • Gratuitous Ninja: Katsumoto's samurai camp is attacked by a squad of ninja, though they're never referred to as such. It's a more realistic example of this trope than most Hollywood ninja, in that they do actually attack at night (thus justifying the black outfits) and only resort to swordplay when their long-distance assassination attempt fails.
  • Hard-Work Montage: Shown after the samurai return to the village and begin making preparations in advance of the approaching Imperial army, including making a katana for Algren.
  • Hat Damage: Algren shoots the hat off a new recruit while trying to scare him into firing as part of a Secret Test of Character.
  • Hats Off to the Dead: At the end when Katsumoto commits seppuku, many of the Imperial soldiers remove their hats in respect.
  • Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: Zigzagged. In the first battle, every samurai is wearing a helmet and everybody in the peasant militia is wearing a jingasa (a traditional Japanese war hat). In the final battle, most of the major characters don't use their helmets; Ujio rides in with his on but quickly loses it. As a subversion, most of the characters who don't wear helmets are minor samurai who don't seem to be able to afford proper armor.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Nobutada. The final charge also serves as an attempt to invoke the trope on the part of all the surviving samurai.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Katsumoto, an expy of Saigō Takamori, leader of the Satsuma Rebellion, a revolt of ex-samurai against the Meiji government from January 29 to September 24, 1877, 9 years into the Meiji Era. Historically, the reason why the Satsuma Rebellion was so dangerous was because it was an important manufacturing center for cannons. Paintings depicting the revolt show that Takamori's forces had plenty of guns while the well-uniformed Imperial forces mostly only had swords!
    • Though it should be noted that Saigō Takamori was also instrumental in the establishment of the Meiji Government and modern Japan in the first place. Furthermore, among the Three Great Nobles of the Meiji Restoration (Okubo Toshimichi, Saigō Takamori, Kido Takayoshi), Saigō Takamori had always been the most popular of the three, and there are many statues of him in Japan. Thus in the hearts of many, Saigō Takamori was already a hero, albeit a tragic one.
    • Contrary to Katsumoto's depiction as a wise and well-intentioned mentor who simply wanted to preserve Japan's samurai traditions, Saigō Takamori was in fact a fanatical warmonger and expansionist who resigned from his post in the Meiji government because they would not agree to his plans for a war with Korea. In fact, he was so obsessed with launching a Korean war that at one point he had even offered to go to Korea as a diplomat and behave in such an insulting and offensive manner that he would force the Korean authorities to kill him, thus providing Japan with an excuse to start a war.
  • Hollywood Healing: Averted twice. When Algren is captured he spends days healing (and kicking his alcoholism). Later on, after being shot in the final battle he limps and stumbles his way to the Emperor and kneeling before the Emperor is clearly causing him a great deal of pain.
  • Hollywood History:
    • It's not quite as bad as the Hollywood Medieval Japan trope, but it conflates the Boshin War of 1868-69 with the later Satsuma Rebellion of 1877. In the Boshin War, the Imperial faction made up of samurai from Satsuma (Kagoshima), Choshu (Yamaguchi) and Tosa (Kochi) defeated the Shogun's nascent Western-style army, largely because they were much more experienced with Western-style tactics and weaponry than the Shogun's side, which had only just adopted them. The turning point was the Battle of Toba-Fushimi in Kyoto, after which the Shogun put himself "at the disposal of the Emperor," ending the Shogunate politically (though not yet militarily).
    • In the Satsuma Rebellion, the same samurai who had led the Imperial restoration were incensed over the elimination of their social status, exclusive right to bear arms, and rice stipend by the Meiji government, and led a revolt under the banner of Saigō Takamori (the historical "Last True Samurai"). They were defeated at the Battle of Shiroyama in Kagoshima, where, outnumbered and outgunned, Saigō committed seppuku and his remaining followers died in a suicide charge on the army's front lines. At this point, both sides were entirely equipped with Western tactics, weaponry, and uniforms (in fact, nearly all depictions of Saigō show him wearing a French uniform, and never the traditional samurai armor, which at any rate was a relic of the Warring States period some 300 years earlier). Moreover, the Imperial Army of the time was composed mainly of members of the Tokyo police force, which itself was largely made up of former samurai from the provinces.
    • Algren's character was inspired by Jules Brunet, a French army officer who was sent to Japan in 1867 to train the army of the Shogunate for the coming battle with the Imperial Satsuma-Choshu alliance. The troops lost anyway, but rather than get captured and defect to the other side, Brunet fled north with the remnants of the Shogun's army to Hokkaido, where he bore witness to the short-lived Republic of Ezo and the Shogunate's final defeat at the Battle of Hakodate. He never came around to the Imperial side, but his legacy was later rehabilitated by the Japanese government in recognition of his love for Japan and promotion of the country abroad.
    • Meanwhile, the samurai ethos, as portrayed in the film, is more a product of what came after them. Traditional battle tactics and weaponry had all been eliminated as ineffective against their Western counterparts, but the image of the Satsuma samurai — going into battle for their very survival, knowing the odds were hopeless, but choosing to die with their era — was romanticized and appropriated by the Meiji government. The traits we consider part and parcel of the samurai now — their stoic nature, the honor of Bushido, and their selfless sacrifice for the lord they served (or, as reinterpreted by Imperial Japan, the Emperor) — were cynically used as propaganda, both inside and outside the military, as the ideal of Japanese character (this was probably helped by the fact the samurai were no longer around to cut down commoners at the slightest provocation). Contrary to what the film suggests, this was not such a good thing in the long run. To clarify — the Meiji restoration (really a "revolution" both culturally and politically)note  upended the existing order, fundamentally changing the relationship between Religion and the Nation, the Military and the State and Japan's place in the world. While the Meiji government successfully consolidated its power through military conscription, compulsory education/propaganda, and co-opting Shinto as a state religion centered on the Emperor, its wholesale tinkering with the very fabric of the nation had unforeseen consequences. Two successful wars against established empires and one world economic crisis later, Japan had a state religion centered on the figurehead of a military-dominated government, and a people trained from birth to believe it was Japan's divinely-ordained mission to either civilize or subjugate the rest of Asia in the name of countering Western colonialism, by whatever means necessary. And that set-up was more than just asking for trouble — it was actively fomenting it and expecting things to work out okay somehow, regardless. Oops, indeed.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Most of the battles are actually justified. In the final battle, Bagley starts with a howitzer barrage but when the samurai begin their feint retreat, Omura—who has no military experience but technically has control of the army as the Emperor's advisor—gets overconfident and gives several bad orders that Bagley calls him out on but can't stop.
    • As in the first battle, the final battle can reflect inexperience and lack of complete training (i.e. disciplined junior officers and sergeants). The Imperial Army effectively has polearms (rifles with bayonets) in addition to bullets. Organized firing lines or organized bayonet ranks backed by such should have no trouble with swords. Instead they charge to brawl the sword experts who are wearing melee armor...
    • When the surviving samurai begin their final charge, Bagley is infuriated that the samurai have the balls to commit to such a suicidal act and chooses Honor Before Reason, wanting to kill them face to face. Algren's throw was very, very lucky. Bagley's men inflict significant casualties and by the time the cavalry breaks through the line, there's barely a dozen samurai left.
    • The opening battle where Algren is captured is started because Bagley is overconfident in the guns that the fledgling Imperial Army has. He says that Algren should win because he has "superior firepower and a larger force" while Katsumoto's men are "savages with bows and arrows", ignoring both Algren's rebuttal that the samurai have been training to do almost nothing but fight for the past thousand years, along with the demonstration Algren puts on that the men cannot perform well under pressure and are hesitant to shoot, and when they do shoot, they miss. Algren is proven to be correct when the men panic as Katsumoto's men charge at them and almost immediately start to rout.
  • Honorable Warrior's Death: Unsurprisingly, the samurai are big on this topic.
    • General Hasegawa refuses to fight against his old friend Katsumoto and commits seppuku afterward to die with his honor intact.
    • Katsumoto approves of both Custer's last stand and the death of the Spartans at Thermopylae, considering such battlefield deaths good ones, and seems to hope to die in such a manner. He goes down fighting to the end on the battlefield, and after being mortally wounded, he commits seppuku with assistance from Algren.
  • Honor Before Reason: Basically the entire existence of the samurai according to the film is based on this, with their refusal to adopt any modern technology intended to look noble but actually seeming slightly pigheaded. This is especially true given the fact that real samurai eventually put aside their pride and did acquire guns, a necessity since swords just aren't as good against them as they'd like to believe. The fact that they historically acquired guns in the 1500s/1600s, centuries before Perry re-opened Japan, and even used them as their main ranged weapon just hammers it home.
  • I Can Still Fight!: In the final battle Ujio gets shot several times and eventually falls to one knee. Two younger samurai come to aid him, but he pushes them back, spits out some blood, and stands up by himself. He survives long enough to participate in the final charge.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: "I did what I was ordered to do, and I have no remorse" from Bagley, in reference to slaughtering the women and children of a village that raided his and Algren's forces. The memory of the event still haunts Algren, and by the beginning of the film he has turned to alcoholism to forget about it. He eventually comes to terms with it in his time in captivity.
  • Ignored Expert:
    • Algren, a combat veteran hired to teach conscripts to fight, is ignored by Bagley when he says and demonstrates they aren't capable of fighting a pitched battle and the samurai likely are. The samurai easily rout the novice conscripts.
    • Bagley then learns to take the samurai more seriously (especially since in the final battle Algren is now advising the samurai) and advises Omura, a novice businessman who nonetheless is in charge of the army during the last battle. Bagley surmises that a quick and easy retreat by Katsumoto is a feint to change ground and wants to scout the situation out first. Omura disregards him entirely and loses much of his far better equipped force by walking into a trap.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: The accuracy of the samurai warriors with their bows on the mission to rescue Katsumoto is almost superhuman. In the entire battle, they never miss a single shot. To be fair, however, these are expert archers shooting relatively short distances at opponents who are not using cover.
  • Improperly Placed Firearms: At the beginning of the film, the Imperial soldiers use caplock muskets, which were outdated at the time (but the guards at the Imperial Palace nevertheless have more modern rifles). Repeating rifles they use later also count, as they were not common at the time. Single-shot breechloaders would be suitable for the late '70s.
  • Instant Death Bullet: In the first battle any samurai shot by Algren or Gant immediately dies and falls from his horse. Later subverted, when main characters seem to take bullets with no effort. But there are still many Red Shirt samurai who fall after just one shot.
  • Invulnerable Horses: In the last battle, many samurai have their horses shot out from underneath them. But other horses are seen running away riderless.
  • Jerkass:
    • Omura is pompous, self-serving and will stop at nothing to advance himself and his interests.
    • Bagley is a man of the times who believes in his own cultural and racial superiority and has no qualms about massacring lesser peoples, including women and children.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Ujio spends half of the movie mocking and beating up Algren before eventually respecting him. He then trains Algren to fight and personally inspects Algren's armor before the climactic battle.
    • Algren himself also fits this trope. At the start of the movie, he is a raging alcoholic, nursing regret over the actions of his life and seemingly caring only about himself. He's self-admittedly Only in It for the Money, which is a bit jarring considering "it" is a proposed cultural genocide.
  • Jidaigeki: The story is set in (a somewhat fictionalized version of) the early Meiji period, just at the point where the traditional Japan of the samurai passes into its modern, Westernized era. An End of an Age.
  • Karmic Death: Algren has spent years hoping to get an opportunity to bestow one upon Bagley. He eventually succeeds.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: Katana, as well as the other trappings of the samurai warrior, are quite fetishized throughout the course of the film. Though, realistically, they are completely no match for Gatling guns.
  • Knight Templar: Algren learns that Katsumoto believes himself to be a servant of the Emperor.
  • Last Stand:
    • Algren makes a last stand in the opening battle, bravely fighting back countless samurai with everything at his disposal, as well as Gant to a lesser extent.
    • The samurai army makes its own last stand in the end, knowing that they cannot actually defeat the enemy army. Two real-life last stands serve as conceptual reference points - Custer's at the Little Big Horn, and the Spartans at Thermopylae.
  • The Last Title: The title.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The Emperor making a pauper of Omura at the film's end is poetic justice for the latter's greed.
  • Leave Behind a Pistol: Variation. When Katsumoto is imprisoned, a guard leaves him a tanto, and tells him to save everyone else the trouble. He doesn't.
  • The Magnificent Seven Samurai: While not protecting a village per se, Katsumoto's inner circle fills a lot of the archetypes.
    • The Leader: Lord Moritsugu Katsumoto, the leader of the rebellion against Omura's oppresive measures.
    • The Lancer: Ujio, Katsumoto's most loyal and resiliant samurai.
    • The Smart Guy: Captain Nathan Algren, a white military officer who advises Katsumoto in western war tactics and history.
    • The Big Guy: Nakao, the biggest of the samurai and a specialist with the naginata.
    • The Old Guy: "Bob" the Silent Samurai, an elderly samurai who shadows Algren.
    • The Young Guy: Nobutada, Katsumoto's son and the youngest known samurai involved.
    • The Funny Guy: Simon Graham, a journalist and translator who is sympathetic to the samurai cause, eventually creating a scene where Algren and Ujio can rescue Katsumoto.
  • Made of Iron: Most of the named samurai, but especially Ujio. In the final battle, he gets thrown off his horse and shot clean through the chest. When two of his comrades try to help him up, he gets to his feet on his own, spits out some blood and continues fighting.
  • Manly Tears: At the end of it all, Algren with Katsumoto, the Japanese Lieutenant, and Algren with the Emperor. Also, the audience.
  • Mighty Whitey: Averted. Algren is the main character and learns the ways of the samurai, but he's never shown to be any better at being a samurai than the Japanese. The only advantage he has over the Japanese samurai is his knowledge of western war tactics, but by the end of the film the Imperial Japanese Army is shown to have already learned western tactics.
    • It might even be Inverted, from a poignant moral perspective. Algren was a tormented alcoholic with a literal death wish at the beginning of the movie. Living with the Japanese, gaining insight into their view of the world and eventually finding love, ultimately gives him a reason to live.
  • Mirroring Factions: The film draws numerous parallels between the samurai and the Native Americans. Both were ancient warrior cultures with strong traditions who were eventually wiped out by more advanced and industrialized opponenets. This is highly implied to be the reason why Algren so readily joins the samurai, as he still has lingering guilt over his participation in a massacre of Native Americans.
  • Mooks/Red Shirt Army: Since the film is primarily told from Algren's perspective, the Imperial Army are the latter in the first battle, and the former in the last.
  • Mook Lieutenant: The Japanese Army has an unnamed junior officer with a mustache who is shown assisting Algren with marshaling the troops during training and the fog battle, turning back to witness Algren taking on the samurai on his own. He later shows up in the final battle commanding the artillery and it is he who removes his hat and bows when Katsumoto commits seppuku, the surviving soldiers taking a cue from him.
  • More Dakka: The row of gatling guns in the final battle.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Algren is mortified to discover that Taka's husband was the samurai he previously killed.
  • My Greatest Second Chance: Algren experiences immense regret and guilt over his past experience with the tribal Native Americans, but the opportunity arises to redeem this regret when faced with a similar situation with the tribal Japanese.
  • New Meat: The conscripted peasants get thrown into their first battle despite having truncated training. Sure enough, things go very badly for them.
  • Ninja: A group of them are sent by Omura to kill Katsumoto and attack the village at night.
  • No Historical Figures Were Harmed:
    • Katsumoto is a fictional counterpart to Saigo Takamori, who led the Satsuma Rebellion, and is generally thought of as the "last true Samurai". Of course, the real Saigo wore a Western-style military uniform into battle...
    • Nathan Algren replaces Jules Brunet, a French lieutenant.
    • Colonel Bagley replaces Captain Charles Chanoine, but is heavily based on his in-universe backstory superior, General George Custer.
    • Omura takes some elements from Omura Masujiro (the father of the modern Japanese Army) and quite a lot from Okubo Toshimichi (Japanese statesman, one of the leaders to overthrow the Shogunate and begin the Meiji Restoration, travelled around the world and adopted many foreign points of view, and for a while was the most powerful politician in Japan until he was assassinated by disgruntled samurai).
  • Off with His Head!: Algren does this to one of Omura's lackeys who has just tried to assassinate him and taunts him that "The samurai are finished!"
  • Only a Flesh Wound: In the final battle Ujio is shot through his stomach, Katsumoto gets stabbed with a bayonet, and Algren takes several bullets to his legs - and they all quickly recover and continue fighting.
  • Only in It for the Money: Algren's reason for joining Omura's forces, despite his ethical misgivings.
    Algren: For $500 a month I'll kill anyone you want.
  • Plot Armor: Every single samurai warrior appears to die in the final battle, except for Algren, who somehow manages to survive being shot multiple times by a Gatling gun. In fact, he's actually able to stand and talk to the Emperor after the battle.
  • Pride: Bagley and Omura are far too confident in their firearms and derisive of the samurai's fighting abilities - after nearly 300 years of peace - early on in the film. The former appears to learn the error of his ways, suggesting sending in skirmishers rather than a main attack force at the start of the final battle with the samurai. The latter has definitely not learned a thing, overriding Bagley and sending his men to the slaughter rather than listening to his paid military adviser.
  • Putting the Band Back Together: When Bagley enthusiastically encourages Algren to rejoin the army and help train the Japanese, Algren (who is completely hammered) starts cracking up and lampshades this trope by saying, "The corps back together—it's just so...inspiring!" and nearly falls off his chair laughing.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: The samurai eventually defeat the first wave of imperial forces... and have about two dozen survivors.
    Algren: They'll bring two regiments up here soon... we won't be able to stop them again.
  • Quintessential British Gentleman: Simon Graham, though he's more lively than the stereotypical British scholar, a typical trait of whom is generally not a fascination with execution and torture.
  • Rated M for Manly: Manly American war veteran goes to Japan to fight manly samurai, kills one of them, is captured and trained by the samurai to become even manlier, and steals the wife of the manly samurai he killed in a manly way. And it rocks.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Katsumoto shows a high amount of patience with a recently-captured Algren, being willing to chalk up Algren's attitude to cultural differences rather than plain insolence (and stabbing him like Ujio wants). He recognizes how valuable Algren's knowledge and outside perspective are and listens to what he has to say, despite being ostensibly enemies.
  • Red Is Heroic: The uniform the samurai wears during his encounter with Algren is colored red. Algren inherits that armor in preparation for the final battle.
  • Red Shirt Army: The Imperial Army in the first confrontation with the samurai.
  • Rock Beats Laser: Partial and minor victory initially for the samurai, but eventually subverted. At first they win battles against poor rifle-toting conscripts in favorable conditions (specifically in a foggy forest that heavily reduced visibility and thus the ability to fire the weapons at range), and only lose in the final battle after killing two-thirds of the modern army while outnumbered six to one. The samurai still win the moral victory over the superior army by showing that traditional values, especially courage in the face of overwhelming odds, are not obsolete and should be respected. Which may have been the goal all along.
  • Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: Jidaigeki samurai fighting for traditional Japanese values and culture (Katsumoto and his followers) vs materialist, Repressive, but Efficient Westernizers (personified in the wealthy merchant Omura).
  • Rousing Speech: Nathan recounts the Battle of Thermopylae to Katsumoto before they go into their own outnumbered battle.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Simon Graham witnessing Imperial soldiers cutting off Nobutada's topknot while accosting him due to anti-samurai laws. The action of it immediately harkens back to his cavalier discussion of scalping with Algren near the beginning of the film, and Algren's very serious take on the matter.
  • Samurai: ... no, really? It's in the title.
  • Samurai Ponytail: Most of the samurai in Katsumoto's force have them. When the Meiji government passes laws restricting the rights of the samurai, Katsumoto's son, Nobutada, is subjected to a very undignified public haircut by the Emperor's guards.
  • Say My Name: The only time "Bob" speaks is when he shouts "Algren-San!" right before Taking the Bullet.
  • Scenery Censor: The camera moves in front of a tree right as Katsumoto decapitates General Hasegawa.
  • Scenery Porn: And how. New Zealand stands in for the Ghibli Hills of Feudal Japan to breathtaking effect.
  • Secret Test of Character: When Bagley and Omura demand that the new and inexperienced regiment move against the samurai, Algren stands amongst the targets and orders one of the recruits to shoot him or be killed himself. He then backs up his threats by shooting the soldier's hat off. He fires his pistol several more times as the terrified soldier frantically tries to load his weapon. Even after the gun is readied and pointed at Algren, the soldier can't bring himself to fire even with Algren screaming at him to do so. Finally, after one last shot, the soldier fires and misses horribly. Used by Algren to prove that the men were both physically and psychologically unprepared to face an actual battle. The scene is strikingly similar to one in Glory. As Edward Zwick directed both, it might be a deliberate Shout-Out.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Algren, because he saw the people he killed as people, but not Bagley, because he has no empathy for 'savages'.
  • Short-Range Long-Range Weapon: In the final battle, Imperial soldiers prefer to fire from a very short range or use bayonets rather than just wiping the samurai off with volley fire. Bagley does a similar thing when trying to stop the charging cavalrymen, letting the samurai crash into his ranks and kill him.
    • Justified both times. The whole point of the final battle for the samurai was to get the Imperial soldiers disorganized and close enough so that their guns wouldn't be such an advantage. Once the battle was underway and the soldiers fired their shots, there wouldn't be enough time to reload.
    • For Bagley, he had his men hold fire until the samurai got close because there was mortar fire and smoke partially obstructing the view. Plus, he knew that he would only have time to get off one or two volleys before the samurai got to them and he wanted to make them count. His men did cause significant casualties before the remainder of the cavalry broke through their line.
  • Shown Their Work: Historical changes/inaccuracies aside, a lot of details - from architecture to Ujio's simple tea ceremony - was studied meticulously, as noted in the Official Movie Guide. When the Japanese extras were brought to the village set in New Zealand, many of the older ones teared up because of how accurate the set designers and builders had created the buildings, saying that it reminded them of their grandparents' village homes.
    • Of particular note is Algren's fighting style. In early scenes where he uses a bokken, he puts his right hip forward, as he would if wielding a sabre. By the end of the film, he leads with his left hip, like a Samurai would.
    • The ninja that attack the samurai village at night have their faces visibly blacked up with greasepaint so as to not reflect the firelight, a detail that Hollywood portrayals of ninja almost always miss.
  • The Smart Guy: Simon Graham, obviously, but also Algren, from a military perspective at least.
  • Snow Means Death: Or in this case, Cherry Blossoms.
  • Soldier vs. Warrior: The whole movie is a study and invoking of this trope. Samurai = Warrior, Imperial Soldier = Soldier
  • Stock British Phrases: "Jolly good" is said three times, once by Simon Graham upon meeting Algren, and twice by Nobutada as a basic way of mocking the Westerner.
  • Tactful Translation: Simon Graham describes getting in trouble for not doing this. Ironically, he now makes a living of accurately translating other peoples' lies.
  • Taking the Bullet: "Bob" in the final battle.
  • Taking You with Me:
    • The point of the final battle. It's not about winning; it's about sending a message.
    • "Bob" takes a bullet for Algren in the final battle, then cuts down the soldier who shot him before falling dead.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: For Algren it sure does!
    • Katsumoto gets a good throw in earlier in the movie, as well.
  • The Triple: Simon Graham suggests Algren says a word or two to him in the language of his Native American opponents. He suggests "Hello", "Goodbye" or "Cut his tongue out and boil him in oil," the latter eliciting disturbed looks from Algren and Gant.
  • The Voiceless: "Bob", whose first and only line in the movie is "Algren-san!" before taking the aforementioned bullet.
  • Thwarted Coup de Grâce: Nathan Algren got wounded in the first battle. When the enemy was about to finish him off, Nathan landed the final attack before falling unconscious.
  • Took a Level in Badass: The Imperial Japanese Army becomes a competent and disciplined fighting force by the time of the final battle.
  • Training from Hell: Ujio's method of teaching Algren Samurai swordplay appears to be dueling him over and over again until Algren can defend against his strikes.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Nobutada is stripped of his swords and has his topknot forcibly cut off by police, since both are now illegal.
  • Truth in Television: Algren's good treatment during his time in Katsumoto's camp can be attributed to a practice among the samurai class of holding a hostage to ensure peace between clans. The hostage would be cared for and be a member of the household.
  • Twilight of the Old West: Algren is an American no longer needed as an Indian fighter in his homeland, so he seeks employment overseas as a mercenary, fighting a new kind of bow-wielding "savage". This ties in quite neatly with Japan's own End of an Age.
  • Unable to Cry: Averted with Algren, who is too desensitised and jaded to show the slightest hint of grief or regret in all the film's tearjerking moments... even including Katsumoto's death. His Manly Tears before the Emperor show how he has changed.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Omura and Bagley think little of the samurai threat, as they have no guns or artillery, until the poorly-trained Imperial Army is thoroughly routed early in the film by a cavalry charge. The next time they face the samurai army, Bagley has learned from this defeat but Omura has not.
    Colonel Bagley: The rebels don't have a single rifle among them. They're savages with bows and arrows.
    Algren: Whose sole occupation for the last one thousand years has been war.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Every character but the Emperor is fictional or fictionalized. The war is an amalgam of the Boshin War (1868-1869) and the Satsuma Rebellion (1877). The real military mission was French instead of American, and five of its members chose to stay and fight with the rebel samurai, not just one. Jules Brunet (Algren's inspiration) didn't surrender to the Emperor and was evacuated on a French steamship; Japan would then unsuccessfully demand his extradition to punish him for 12 years, until one of Brunet's former friends gained enough influence in the Imperial government and had the order revoked.
  • Warrior Poet: Katsumoto, literally. He writes haiku in addition to being a master swordsman. This is Truth in Television since Saigo Takamori, the man who inspired the character Katsumoto, also left behind plenty of poetry. Though Saigo Takamori was better known for his Kanshi (Han Poetry).
  • Waterfall Shower: Nathan comes across his host (the widow of the man he killed) taking a waterfall Shower of Awkward.
  • Wham Shot: After Katsumoto, Algren, and the remaining samurai break through the lines, Omura orders a new set of guns brought up... the Gatling guns, making the conclusion of the final charge painfully clear.
  • Worthy Opponent: What saves Algren when he's cornered by Katsumoto's samurai during the first skirmish, with Katsumoto seeing how fierce and combative Algren is.
  • Would Hurt a Child: One of the ninja tries to kill Taka's son Higen, who is only saved by Algren stabbing the ninja from behind.
  • You Are Not Ready: Algren graphically illustrates that the Emperor's green conscript troops are not prepared to face the battle-hardened samurai on the field, despite superior numbers and firepower. Bagley ignores his advice, and the predictable ensues.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: Nobutada, already mortally wounded, stands on one side of a bridge and fights alone against a group of Imperial troops to give his father and other samurai time to flee. He manages to keep the enemy at bay with arrows at first, and after running out of arrows his last attempt to buy time involves charging across the bridge with his swords drawn. The Imperial troops are unable to cross until they finally gun Nobutada down.


Video Example(s):


Last Samurai Seppuku

A defeated samurai-general commits seppuku with the help of the samurai who defeated him.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / Seppuku

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