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The Dagger of Kamui
The Dagger of Kamui DVD cover.jpg
DVD cover from AnimEigo.
(Kamui no Ken)
Genre Action, Historical, Ninja
Anime film
Director Rintaro
Studio Madhouse
Released 1985
Runtime 132 minutes
Anime and Manga Portal

The Dagger of Kamui (カムイの剣 Kamui no Ken ?) is a Japanese animated film based on the novel series by author Tetsu Yano.

The film was animated by Japan's Madhouse Production, Ltd and Toei Animation Co. Ltd. and directed by Rintaro. It is written by Mori Masaki with character designs by Moriyoshi Murano. Takuo Noda directed the animation, and the music was composed by Ryuudoh Uzaki and Eitetsu Hayashi. It has been released on VHS and DVD in the United States by AnimEigo.


The movie follows the life of Jiro (次郎), a young boy of both Japanese and Ainu descent. Jiro was a foundling raised by a kindly innkeeper and her daughter in the village of Sai on the Shimokita Peninsula during the last years of the Tokugawa Shogunate, several years before the start of Japan's Meiji Restoration.

One evening, a lone shinobi(忍び), appears out of the darkness and kills Jiro's adoptive mother and sister while the boy was away. When he returns home, he finds their dead bodies, a strange dagger and a whole host of angry villagers who blame him for killing his family. Rather than stay in the village and face a brutal crucifixion for the grave crime of parricide, Jiro escapes into the night with the dagger and meets with a buddhist monk called Tenkai who works for the Shogunate as an Oniwaban (Secret Police). Knowing full well what happened and filling Jiro's head with lies about the incident, Tenkai takes the boy face-to-face with the man who supposedly killed his family — a man who recognizes the boy as his son, though Jiro has no recollection of the man. Tenkai's subordinates, a powerful group of Shinobi had the man, Tarouza, surrounded, missing an arm and severely wounded when Tenkai tells Jiro to settle the score and deliver the killing blow. Afterwards, his entire village is set ablaze and the villagers slaughtered to cover up the incident. Tenkai then takes Jiro in at his temple on the island of Ezo (蝦夷), and has his subordinates Shingo and Sanpei train him in the ways of Ninja so that one day, he may learn of his father. Tenkai quickly dispatches Shingo to follow Jiro and make sure he stays to the same path as Tarouza, Jiro's late father.

As Jiro travels in search of answers to the mystery of his family line, he comes across a group of Japanese men beating up an old Ainu man. The old man's son, Uraka, implores Jiro's help and he quickly dispatches the punks. The old man dies of his injuries, and Jiro and Uraka escape to Uraka's home village of Shinopirika-Kotan, unaware the old man's assailants are actually agents of Tenkai. At Kotan, the village elder recognizes Jiro's dagger as the Dagger of Kamui. He states that it was originally owned by the previous village chieftain, and as given as a gift to a Japanese ninja who married the chieftain's daughter, Oyaruru. The Elder then tells Jiro that one day Oyaruru returned to Kotan alone, and eventually left the village to live upriver by herself.

Jiro seeks out Oyaruru, and learns she is his biological mother, and of the misfortune Tenkai had wrought on her family. Tenkai dispatched Tarouza to the mountain Kamui Nupuri to find a great treasure large enough to keep the Shogunate in power. Tarouza, however, broke all contact with Tenkai, and married Oyaruru. When Tenkai and his men caught up with them, he slashed the face of the infant Jiro, and sent him floating downriver in the canoe his parents would have used to escape. On the cliff above, Tarouza loses an eye to a primitive grenade, and his sword arm to Hanzou. He falls over the cliff, seemingly to his death. Jiro comes to the horrifying realization that Tenkai had tricked him into stabbing his own father. During their evening meal, without ever noticing, both Jiro and Oyaruru take in a paralysis potion through the food and Oyaruru is killed with the Dagger of Kamui, implicating Jiro in her murder. Imprisoned according to village law, Uraka returns to help Jiro, who finally understands that Tenkai has been manipulating him and the time for revenge is at hand.

Revelation after revelation of Jiro's heritage and family is revealed until the final climax: A bloody showdown between Tenkai and Jiro.

The movie is very accurate in its depictions of pre-Meiji Japan, Russia, and the United States, and deals directly with historical events such as the Boshin War, and historical figures such as Saigou Takamori, Andō Shōzan, Oguri Kōzukenosuke Tadamasa, and Mark Twain.

Musical Score

Ryuudoh Uzaki's score for the film is notable for combining rock music instrumentation with Balinese kecak vocals.

External links

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