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Film / The Sword of Doom

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"The sword is the soul. Study the soul to know the sword. Evil mind, evil sword."

The Sword of Doom (Dai-bosatsu Tōge, "Great Bodhisattva Pass") is a 1966 Jidaigeki film directed by Kihachi Okamoto and starring Tatsuya Nakadai as Ryunosuke Tsukue. An adaptation of parts of the serial novel of the same name as the Japanese title, one of the longest novels ever published, sequels were planned but never made.

Set during the Bakumatsu period, Ryunosuke Tsukue is a highly skilled but completely amoral swordsman. After a fencing match results in him killing his opponent, Bunnojo Utsugi(Ichiro Nakatani), in self-defense—due to Ryunosuke having coerced his wife, Hama (Michiyo Aratama), into sleeping with him so he'd throw the match—the film follows Ryunosuke as he makes his living through the sword, killing without mercy.

Tropes found in this film include:

  • Alone with the Psycho: Omatsu and Ryunosuke.
  • Badass Creed: Shimada, when attacked:
    "If this is a duel, issue your challenge and state the time. If this is a grudge, state your reason. If this is a mistake, apologize and leave."
  • Battle Amongst the Flames: The final battle.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The elderly pilgrim at the beginning prays to Buddha to take him from this world to end his suffering and so he won't be a burden to Omatsu anymore. Ryunosuke obliges.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: The film ends with Ryunosuke alone against a seemingly endless number of swordsman in a burning building, bloody and battered. The film even freezes mid-swing.
  • Combat Breakdown:
    • As the final fight goes on, Ryunosuke receives more and more injuries and his fighting becomes noticeably affected.
    • At one point during the fight, the other combatants start throwing pillows at Ryunosuke.
  • Counter-Attack: The basis behind Ryunosuke's fighting style, most evident in the fight against Bunnojo.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Ryunosuke combines this with Creepy Monotone for a very intimidating effect.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Ryunosuke shows up behind an elderly pilgrim praying to Buddha for death, and kills him with a single blow and not a trace of emotion.
  • Freak Out: Near the end of the film, while staying in an allegedly haunted room, Ryunosuke learns the oiran serving him was the granddaughter of the pilgrim he killed. He then flips out and start slashing at the walls, screaming, and keeps it up when he starts slaughtering the other Shinsengumi.
  • The Ingenue: Omatsu.
  • Imaginary Enemy: You could say half of the flailing and screaming that takes place in the final scene is Ryunosuke literally fighting his own demons.
  • Jidaigeki: The film is set during the late Edo period, specifically the Bakumatsu era. In one scene, Ryunosuke even joins the Shinsengumi, the police force of the Tokugawa shogunate.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Hama is murdered in mid-plea for her husband to kill her.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: Hama does this while pretending to be Bunnojo's sister. It doesn't work.
  • Lack of Empathy: Ryunosuke displays little concern for the death and misery he causes, and seems to consciously underestimate and underplay just how much he causes.
  • Master Swordsman: Ryunosuke & Toranosuke
  • Offscreen Inertia: The film ends on a freeze-frame of Ryunosuke fighting dozens of assassins, essentially locking him into an eternal struggle against everything. It was intended as a Sequel Hook, but said sequel never emerged, so it became this trope by pure accident.
  • Oh, Crap!: The conspirators' reaction when they find the palanquin they have attacked contains not a bureaucrat but a swordsmaster.
  • Ominous Walk: Ryunosuke never moves faster than this.
  • One-Man Army: Both Ryunosuke and Shimada are capable of cutting down dozens of men at once.
  • Parental Substitute: Shichibei serves as this for Omatsu.
  • Psycho for Hire: Ryunosuke only seems to enjoy fighting and killing people with his sword. Fortunately for him, the Bakumatsu provides plenty of opportunities to get paid to do just that.
  • Scarpia Ultimatum: Ryunosuke will only throw the match with Bunnojo (and thus, spare him and his family from financial ruin) if his wife Hama sleeps with him. Unfortunately for all involved, this really ticks off Bunnojo, who tries to kill Ryunosuke during the match which gets him killed.
  • Sheathe Your Sword: Toranosuke does this when he finds Ryunosuke unworthy of a true fight, invoking the quote at the top of the page. This dismissal becomes the catalyst behind Ryunosuke's downward spiral.
  • Single-Stroke Battle: The duel against Bunnojo gets extra points, as at first no one realizes a blow has been struck.
  • Snow Means Death: Both Shimada cutting through the Shinsengumi and the death of Hama take place on snowy evenings.
  • Slasher Smile: On the rare occasions Ryunosuke breaks his glassy stare.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: During Ryunosuke's rape of Hama, the camera cuts from them thrashing in the straw to the millwheel's piston thumping rhythmically up and down into a hole.
  • The Sociopath: Ryunosuke creeps out his own team leader when he boldly tells the man (who is roughing up the eavesdropping Omatsu) to stop enjoying himself and kill her....or leave her to him.
  • The Stoic: Ryunosuke. Until the end of the film, he almost never changes his expression from a blank, intense stare for matters that don't involve (sufficiently interesting) fighting.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Ryunosuke for the entire movie.
  • Villain Protagonist: Ryunosuke.
  • Worthy Opponent: Toranosuke Shimada is the only person who actually intimidates Ryunosuke, and killing Shimada is about the only thing he expresses an active interest in.
  • You Monster!: Everyone who knows Ryunosuke considers him an irredeemable monster after he kills Bunnojo and just keeps adding to his crimes. Even his own father wants him dead.