Film Analysis of Twilight Samurai Essay

Introdution Twilight Samurai is a movie that revolves around the live of a samurai, years before the Meiji Restoration. The main issues that the movie looked at include stereotype of samurais, genders and social class differences. Unlike many typical samurai-themed movies which involve fighting, woman and pride, the director of Twilight Samurai focused on the everyday life and difficulties faced by the main protagonist, Iguchi Seibei. His story was told by her daughter, Ito who narrated the whole movie. Therefore, it can be said that this movie is based on the fond memories of her father.

She was still very young when these incidents happened which changed her father’s life irrevocably. Samurai Stereotype Unlike other samurais who were concerned about their clans, Iguchi was a man of few words and rushed home every evening to take care of her senile mother and 2 young daughters, Ito and Kayano, instead of joining his colleagues for entertainment or drinking. Thus he was nicknamed Twilight Samurai. After his wife died of consumption (tuberculosis), Iguchi worked hard to make ends meet and thus neglected his physical appearance and often looked unkempt, his kimono was often tattered and soiled.

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This goes against the common perception of samurais who are often perceived to have their hair tied up neatly in a ponytail, clean-shaven, and donned in kimono. (Refer to appendix) When Iguchi was summoned by his clan to kill Zenemon Yogo, a clan rebel who refused to commit seppuku, he was not confident of doing the job and said that he had ‘lost the desire to wield a sword’ and it required ‘animal ferocity and calm disregard for one’s life’. This changes the common perception of samurais who are often considered ruthless but loyal, who will be more than willing to serve their clan and carry out any orders given by their leaders.

It is obvious that Iguchi is an outcast of the samurais, as he considered himself a “petty samurai” who do not care about the imminent war and his fulfillment in life was seeing his daughters grow up. This is vastly different from our stereotype of samurais who are power-hungry, and their sole purpose in life is to grow their clans by battling and eliminating other clans. Therefore, the way Iguchi live his life tells me that if he is given a choice, he would definitely choose not be born to be a samurai.

Although samurais are considered to be nobility, he would rather give up this prestigious title to be a humble farmer. This goes to show that he is a rather unambitious man, to the point of almost lackadaisical, leading a simple life of growing crops and seeing his precious daughters grow up. Whilst Iguchi was inside the house to fight Zenemon Yogo, Iguchi did not have the desire to fight and kill him. Instead, he sat down and chatted with Zenemon and told him that he could still run if he wants to. He was hesitant about fighting and even lied that his sword was a bamboo but a fight still ensued in the end.

This was different from the typical samurai who would begin fighting and slaying his enemies upon seeing them. When Tomoe brought Kayano and Ito to a festival which can only be attended by the peasants, she told them that had it not been for the peasants, there would not have samurais. Tomoe’s opinions are forward-thinking and do not think that samurais should be forbid from the festival. Gender Inequality In the movie, women are seen to be unimportant and should only be housewives. While Iguchi encouraged his daughters to study hard, their great uncle commented that girls do not need to study too much.

When Kayano told Iguchi that if she learn needlework, she could make kimonos someday but she does not know the importance of education. Iguchi answered that it gives her the power to think and it may even help her survive in the future. From here, it can be seen that Iguchi has a different mentality when it comes to education and he believed that boys and girls should have equal opportunities to study. When their great uncle came to visit them, he suggested that Iguchi re-marry to escape his poor situation but Iguchi was against the idea.

He thinks that it would be rude to the lady if he were to re-marry any women without having any feelings for her. It would be treating the lady like a cow who just needs to be healthy. In contrast with the men at that time who thinks that marrying is just for carrying of the family line, Iguchi thinks that developing feelings for each other are important and that women should be respected too. In addition, when Tomoe wanted to go and looked for Iguchi, her sister-in-law told her off and said it was not nice for a girl to be seen talking with a samurai in the streets.

Tomoe did not want to abide her sister-in-law and does not think that she did anything wrong. I think that Tomoe is different from the usual Japanese women who were very conservative and think that women are of lower gender status. Social Class Difference Another issue seen in the movie is the difference in social class. It can be seen that both Tomoe and Iguchi had feelings for each other as Tomoe frequent Iguchi’s home and taught Ito and Kayano calligraphy and how to sew and cook. Iguchi was also very shy when Tomoe was around and he finally expressed his love for her before going to the battle with Zenemon Yogo.

Despite having feelings for Tomoe since they were childhood friends, Iguchi felt that he was not good enough for her as he came from a 50-koku family whereas Tomoe came from a 400-koku family. Iguchi was not confident in giving Tomoe a good life if she married had him and he did not want her to suffer like his late wife did. The social class difference made Iguchi feel inferior and not good enough for her. When Iguchi was ordered to kill Zenemon Yogo, his clan promised him that life would be easier if he accomplished the mission.

His clan knew that he belonged to the lower social class and made him the offer so that he would think about the future of his family. It was obvious that the clan was exploiting his social class to force him to obey the clan’s orders. Besides working in the grain warehouse as a retainer to support his family, Iguchi and his daughters will also gather herbs by the river and make insect cages to earn extra income. In the movie, it was shown twice that there were bodies floating in the river.

This goes to show that life was not easy during that period of time and many people die without having proper burial or funeral. Conclusion This movie disregards many common perceptions of samurais and instead focused on an “outcast” of the samurai. The direction of the movie is more on how this outcast of a society lives his everyday life and how he solves some of the problems of being an “unwilling samurai”. The director brilliantly portrayed some of the stereotypes of a samurai by having us live and see through the eyes of Iguchi from a third-person perspective.

This direction is very interesting and made me eager to want know about samurais. Overall, Iguchi is a samurai whose thoughts are family-oriented, and being a mild samurai fan, I will not look him up as an idol because his actions do not reflect how “cool” a samurai can be. However, I agree and admire with his values in life as he had been a good father in providing for his family and he does not harbor any ill intentions towards the people around him. [pic][pic] Perspective of a samurai. Iguchi Seibei (left), an unkempt samurai.

Film Analysis of Twilight Samurai Essay

Directed by the experienced and renowned Yoji Yamada, Twilight Samurai is a film set in the 19th century, towards the end of the Tokugawa or Edo era. It was a time when the samurai system was beginning to wane as Japan started to advocate itself towards modernization. The Meiji reforms had started to begin, and the samurai class was gradually being disregarded as of a higher social status. The lifestyle and demand for the samurai was thus in a process of change, as the samurai began to take on other trades such as merchants.

The film depicts the story of Seibei Iguchi (Hiroyuki Sanada), a low-ranking, 50-koku samurai who struggles to make ends meet as he supports his family consisting of an elderly and senile mother, as well as 2 young daughters. His wife had just died of consumption due to poverty, leaving him with huge debts he had incurred while treating his wife’s disease. He generates extra income by weaving insect cages, almost like a peasant, and his mundane life changes when Tomoe, his childhood sweetheart, returns back to the clan after an abusive marriage.

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Seibei is portrayed as an ill-fated samurai who seems to continuously have new hurdles appearing in his life. Some of the elements projected amidst it all has shown us certain aspects important to the samurai tradition, and reflect certain romanticized and stereotyped, or not, images of themselves to the audience. In the film, it is established right from the start that the samurai is being illustrated as a figure of authority or higher social class in the Japanese society.

Yamada has expressed this in scenes such as when the group of samurais was walking out after their lesson, everyone bowed down to them in respect, or at least in recognition. In addition, when the clan retainer comes to inspect stock at the area where Seibei worked, he chastised the latter for his disarrayed dressing, reasoning that “clan retainers must serve as examples to common folk. ” Another scene where Tomoe brought Seibei’s two daughters out for a festival further justified that they were considered a segregated elite.

Tomoe brought up the point that samurais were not allowed to attend such festivals with the peasants and townsfolk, probably because it did not make their distinction from the common folk clear. Even Seibei, whom we can safely say is a samurai of lower profile, had the luxury of a boy servant following him and running errands for him despite his dire situation. A consistent injection of such scenes by Yamada constantly convinces the audience of the samurai’s raised social status, and this is relatively parallel to our typical stereotyped image of samurais.

The raised social status of samurais thus also contributed to the need for them to look neat, presentable and kempt. Throughout the movie, we see Yamada’s consistent portrayal of samurais with almost homogenously neat, combed hair tied in top-knots, accompanied with a clean shaven middle. This portrayal identifies with the fact that the samurai’s hair was an important part of his appearance, as most texts and house-codes of samurais make reference to the importance of it. The dressing of the samurai is also an indication of their status and politeness.

This also matches the stereotype of samurais that we have, as the fact that they were dignified personnel would have given us some sort of expectation from their physical presentation. Despite that, this stereotype is being challenged in the example of Seibei, as well as the samurai Yogo Zenemon whom he dueled with in the film. Seibei’s appearance is being chided at a few times in the film for his lack of hygiene and desire to keep kempt, sometimes even attributing his unkemptness to a lack of manners.

There is a scene where there was a zoom-in on Seibei’s dirty, black-stained fingernails probably from the hours of labour, and some where it shows Seibei scratching his head in itch. When Seibei stands next to one of his better, kinder childhood friend Iinuma Michinojo who also is a samurai, there is a stark contrast in their appearance. Yogo Zenemon, who was as good as a fallen samurai, also had a messy and unfurnished look. They were both men who endured hard lives because of their dire circumstances, samurais who could not care to give much attention to their physical appearances.

This gave us a more realistic outlook at the fact that not all samurais had the same neat look. Especially during this end Edo period, as more and more samurais began to suffer from their own decline, appearances began to take a back seat. This also brings us to the point that the samurais in the show were not characterized as people always conveniently linked to fighting. The typical stereotype of a samurai is one where he carries one or two swords with him everywhere he goes, wielding it out immediately in times of need to settle the situation at hand.

During the whole reel time of 2 hours in the film, only 2 fighting scenes were incorporated, thus putting less focus on the aspect of fighting and violence. This proved our stereotyped impression wrong. In the film, the majority of the samurais seemed like warriors in name only; most were accountants or mere literates – more scenes showed the samurais doing literary work than those on action and violence. That aside, it is important to clarify that the stereotyped version of a samurai could have been strongly justified in the earlier eras before Edo. The film merely puts across to us that this is not very true given the time it was set at.

In retrospect, however, it is still evident that the instinct to fight as a solution to problems is still palpable in the characteristics of the samurais. When Tomoe’s ex-husband intrudes into her family after divorce, the problem is settled through a duel, as it is when Zenemon refuses to commit seppuku. This emulates the fact that the fighting instinct that was rooted deeply in the samurai’s culture, which coincides with our stereotyped, actually exists. However, in general, the extent of violence and fighting in the film is probably not matched up against our impression of it.

In spite of that, skilled swordsmanship is still highly regarded inside the film, as it is in the samurai code. An adept warrior proficient with the sword is one we typically know will definitely be respected, and this is clearly put across in the film. Yamada utilizes contrast again – between Seibei’s peers’ attitudes towards him before they know about his deft skills and after, to illustrate this. Initially, they speak ill of him behind his back because he chooses to return home at twilight after every lesson, instead of joining them for a drink.

However, after they had learnt of his skills since the victorious duel he had with a captain’s son, one of them began to worry that he had offended Seibei in the past if the latter had ever overheard their gossips about him, calling him “Twilight”. He became more respected, so much so that when the samurai, who coincidentally happened to be Zenemon, went forth to Seibei and asked to spar, in the name of taking revenge for the captain’s son, had left peacefully after Seibei declined his invitation. Later on, Seibei was then ordered to take on a task given by the clan, which is to kill Zenemon.

He was bequeathed this task in recognition of his sword ability, although it may not be something welcomed by Seibei. Yamada has thus provided us with the understanding that our stereotype of a samurai being honoured for his swordsmanship is something that is true. Moving on to the point about honour and loyalty that we stereotypically know are almost cardinal aspects of samurais, Yamada has steadfastly upheld this impression inside the film. Seibei was an unambitious man who desired to abandon his samurai way of life, settle back for being an ordinary peasant farmer, and was one mired in self-doubt and introspection.

However, when called upon to accept the task, Seibei’s internal struggle is revealed when the film slows down and we begin to see from Seibei’s perspective – he is caught between following the orders of the clan which essentially is a prerequisite of being a samurai, and his desire for a peaceful life after he had decided to leave his samurai ways behind. Ultimately, he gave in and honoured the task, aside from the threat of him being expelled from the clan if he refused. The clan retainer tells him that “the very thought of refusal is an offence”.

Seibei felt the responsibility to adhere to the order as a samurai, and thus accepted it. The defending of one’s honour is also seen in the dueling scenes where none of the samurais would agree to back down after being jeered at by the other. When the captain’s son, ex-husband of Tomoe, tells Seibei that he will spare him if Seibei apologizes, Seibei replies readily with “the apology is yours to make”. The samurai, when challenged, would never back out humiliatingly. Also, honour in terms of respect for each other is also emphasized upon.

Zenemon, despite appealing to Seibei’s sympathy and commiseration earlier to let him go, flipped upon knowing that Seibei had intended to kill him with only a short sword since he had sold his katana away for his wife’s funeral. Zenemon felt that it was dishonor to him that Seibei had underestimated him, and immediately whips out his sword to attack Seibei. The importance of honour as a samurai is constantly reinforced in the film, strengthening our stereotype of the samurais as honour-driven beings.

Furthermore, seppuku (which is the self-suicide of a samurai, following his master or clan head in death) was also being advocated in the past. This is seen as a gesture of one’s loyalty. Samurais who refused were disgraced and looked down upon, as it was in the case of Zenemon. The clan had to then task samurais like Seibei and the one before him to kill this dishonourable man. Zenemon, as this discrepancy, could however indicate this decline of the samurai’s dogged honour and loyalty at this end Edo period.

In the periods of suffering, honour and loyalty, although still important, were already being less regarded. Our stereotype of the extreme and blind loyalty of samurais, which involves the impression of them being merely conditioned to be ready to sacrifice oneself immediately for the clan, is thus also being challenged. The film thus provides us with a more reality-inclined aspect of samurais – that their loyalty was in fact a highly personal agreement that was logical and not blindly conditioned, through the perspectives of Zenemon himself.

He definitely did not agree that it made sense for him to commit seppuku alongside the others just because of his master’s death; afterall, he did not struggle to survive through the years just to end his life like this. This example struck an emotional chord with the audience – we begin to empathize the samurai’s wretched life, and realise that their lives are not plainly about fighting, honour and glory. In the pre-modern Japan, and even up till now, some may argue, the theme of the society being a considerably patriarchal one where men are considered as more important, and thus more highly regarded, is well-known.

This creates the stereotype that samurais are a misogynistic lot who put themselves above the level of females. Since men are then considered as more “able” and suited to make decisions and such, there is a general expectation that there was absolutely no need for women to be literate. This parallels our stereotype of samurais, and even the olden Japanese society as a whole. This can be seen in the film cut where Seibei’s uncle tells Seibei’s daughter that there was not a need for a woman to be educated too much, (insert quote here).

However, Seibei provides as an anomaly again, as he instead encourages his daughter to study and develop her thinking. Later in the film, there’s a scene which only flashes for 3 seconds that shows a class full of girls having lesson – where Seibei’s daughters were learning at. This short flash was probably to show that during this period, it was gradually becoming more accepted that girls ought to receive education. The film thus implies that our stereotype is still relevant, but not entirely throughout the samurai era.

Apart from the focus on male samurai, it is interesting to note that Tomoe is almost emulated as a female samurai herself. She is well-disciplined, educated, and stoic in nature – she has survived a disastrous and violent marriage, and yet does not look daunted in spirit at all. In addition, after she had known about Tomoe’s intention to propose to her, she had went back on another marriage proposal she had already accepted just to be with him. Her strength in spirit and determination is commendable, as she shows her unwavering loyalty towards Seibei through the years.

She is thus almost likened to a female samurai. In conclusion, Twilight Samurai is a film that has provided much insight about the lives of samurais in the past, and some parts contextualized in the era it was set at. This showed that there was a gradual difference in the samurais before the end Edo period as well as at that time. It thus shows a more reality-inclined side to petty samurais through their transition to a more declining status, making some of our stereotypes relevant at some points, and not so at other.

Bibliography/ References :
On Samurai Traditions:
I. Nitobe. Bushido The Warrior’s Code. 1979. Ohara Publications, Incorporated

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