Legend of the Eight Samurai (1983)

legend of the eight samurai poster 1983 movie
6.5 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting : 7/10
Visuals: 8/10

Great '80s visuals, Japanese take on the American blockbuster

Too long

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Legend of the Eight Samurai

Studio:  Toei

Genre(s):  Martial Arts/Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Release Date(s):  December 10, 1983

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

legend of the eight samurai shinbei dosetsu sonny chiba hiroyuji sanada

Can we be besties now?

Princess Shizu (Hiroko Yakushimaru) has been targeted for death by Queen Tamazusa (Mari Natsuki) who needs Princess Shizu as a sacrifice.  When Shizu escapes, she finds help in the form of a legend which says eight samurai will guard her.  Dōsetsu (Sonny Chiba) hopes to keep Princess Shizu safe…but the interference of a young orphan named Inue Shinbei Masashi (Hiroyuji Sanada) could mean danger for the Princess and the samurai before they can even attempt to stop Tamazusa!

Directed by Kinji Fukasaku (who also helped wright the screenplay with Toshio Kamata), Legend of the Eight Samurai (里見八犬伝 or Satomi Hakken-den) is a martial arts fantasy.  The movie adapts the 1982 Toshio Kamata’s novel Shin Satomi Hakkenden (新・里見八犬伝) which is an adaptation of the classic Kyokutei Bakin serialized novel Nansō Satomi Hakkenden (南總里見八犬傳) published between 1814 and 1842.

legend of the eight samurai incest motofuji tamazusa yuki meguro mari natsuki

They’re a very close family…

I got Legend of the Eight Samurai in a collection of Sonny Chiba movies (who I have little familiarity with except his name and his appearance in Kill Bill—Volume 1).  The movie was a fun ’80s fusion of mystics, samurai, and a Star Wars-esque story that still is rather entertaining.

The movie is rather epic and that is also its drawback.  The film is over two hours and often feels it.  Many of the eight samurai have their backstory told within the film and that alone leads to time with so many characters.  It is a little predictable, and in a Star Wars like manner, you can easy see the romance coming between Shizu and Shinbei.  The story ends in a bloodbath (somewhat literally), and it is good for fans of the genre.

legend of the eight samurai shinbei princess shizu bow hiroko yakushimaru hiroyuji sanada

Use your magic light bow and let your spirit guide the arrow!

The cast is likable.  You have the evil villains and the classic heroes, but the movie’s set-up with the “chosen” heroes allows for a wide variety of actors.  The movie is primarily built around the romance of Shizu and Shinbei so it is good that Hiroyuji Sanada and Hiroko Yakushimaru work well together.

The visuals for the movie are one of the high points.  The film is big and epic.  Some of the visuals (like the rubber snake and centipede) haven’t held up well, but it also feels like a nice flashback to films like Conan the Barbarian.  The film is very ’80s set with its visuals and soundtrack which even includes songs from American (Indiana born) performer John O’Banion that are right up with other power ballads of other American ’80s movies.

Legend of the Eight Samurai is fun, but it is also probably rather limited to fans of the genre.  It is dated and goofy at points and runs about forty-five minutes too long for what it is, but if you like samurai films, you’ll probably be entertained.  It is an interesting Japanese take on the American blockbuster…and it revels in it.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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