The first in a series of six films based on the long-running manga concerns Ogami Itto (Tomisaburo Wakayama), a shogun's executioner who is framed by the Yagyu clan and forced into exile as a wandering assassin for hire. After the killing of his wife by the Yagyus, Ogami gives his young son Daigoro the choice between instant death (a ball) and the life of the ronin (a sword). As the child reaches for the sword, father and son's fate is sealed to a life of violence and tragedy. Wheeling Daigoro through the countryside in a baby cart rigged with deadly weapons, Ogami comes to a town held hostage by brigands, where he is to stop a planned assassination. The final duel between Ogami and the Yagyu man at dawn is exhilarating and beautifully filmed. Although extremely violent and gore-drenched, the series remains highly stylized and remarkably intelligent. The first two episodes of the series were edited together and released in the U.S. as Shogun Assassin.
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