Hana Yori mo Naho (DVD) (Normal Edition) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version) DVD Region 2
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YesAsia Editorial Description
However, trouble soon finds him in the form of local toughs and even other samurai. But Sozaemon's way of dealing with conflict is unexpected, to say the least. When danger approaches, Sozaemon either gets whupped by the opposition, or even runs away! When his father's killer (Asano Tadanobu) finally makes his presence known, Sozaemon must fulfill his duty as a samurai, and either exact revenge or die an honorable death. The stage is set for an iconic samurai showdown...but is the way of the samurai really the way for Sozaemon?
是枝裕和 (監督) / 岡田准一 / 宮沢りえ / 古田新太
製作国 : 日本 (Japan)
公開年 : 2005
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Professional Review of "Hana Yori mo Naho (DVD) (Normal Edition) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version)"
Every samurai film geek worth his salt should be familiar with the legend of the 47 ronin. The story of how a Damyo was ordered to commit seppuku for taking arms inside Edo castle to attack an offensive official, only for 47 of his disbanded retainers to attain revenge for their master by killing said official a year later in arguably the most infamous tale of loyalty, courage, and duty in Japanese history. The story was the subject of the play Chushingura, which has since been adapted into film numerous times. When the Japanese military needed to boost morale for their WWII campaign, it was Chushingura that they turned to, asking Kenji Mizoguchi to produce a new film adaptation, he accepted, but didn't deliver the big rallying war cry the military wanted (that's another story). Mizoguchi's film wasn't shown outside of Japan for decades though, so to date the most famous film adaptation of Chushingura internationally is probably Hiroshi Inagaki's 1962 film.
In 1701 the Damyo of Akou, Asano Naganori, was ordered by the Shogunate to attend a special reception at Edo Castle. During his lengthy stay there, Asano bore the brunt of particularly nasty verbal insults from an obnoxious official named Kira Yoshinaka. At first, Asano ignored the snipes, but in time his patience eventually broke and the Damyo drew his sword against Kira, but only succeeded in wounding the victim before the castle's guards subdued him. Although the highly ranked Kira was a notoriously arrogant and offensive person, there were very strict rules about even drawing a sword inside the castle - let alone attacking a high-ranked official - and Asano was ordered to commit seppuku. After his death, Asano's land was confiscated and all 300 plus of his retainers were made ronin.
What happened next would go down in history as one of the most remarkable acts of loyalty to a Damyo that samurai have ever committed. You see, there wasn't much work for the ronin of a shamed Damyo, so the vast majority of Asano's men ended up eeking out a humble living as tradesmen, but roughly 50 or so had secretly made a pact with Asano's chief retainer, Oishi Kuroanosuke, to avenge their master's death and put pay to Kira once and for all. This wasn't an easy task as Kira suspected that some of Asano's men would plot to kill him and fortified his compound, then sent numerous spies out to keep tabs on as many ronin as he could. Oishi and his men were patient though, and in order to alleviate Kira's qualms, they all put on an act of broken down, drunken paupers - to such an extent that even Oishi himself became a local laughing stock. During this time they were secretly gathering information on Kira's residence in order to overcome the security. Eventually their waiting game paid off, and in time Kira accepted that Asano's retainers were broken men who were incapable of seeking revenge.
Kira's complacency became his downfall in December of 1702, when 47 of the original 50 or so ronin gathered together at a secret location in Edo, then marched through a snowy night towards Kira's residence with the intention of avenging their master. However, although the story is well known as the 47 ronin, Oishi purportedly ordered one young member of the group to travel back to Akou and inform their people that their revenge was a success. If they failed on that night, that youngster would've had no news to tell, but Oishi and the rest of the 46 ronin defeated Kira's guards, and killed the official when he refused to take his own life honourably by committing hara-kiri with the very blade Asano used to commit seppuku. Instead, Oishi's men pinned Kira down while Oishi cut off Kira's head with the blade, with their revenge complete, the ronin quickly marched towards the place that Asano was buried and placed Kira's head on his grave alongside the blade used to kill them both.
After these events every single one of the ronin knew and were prepared for what was to come next. They each surrendered to authorities knowing a death sentence was inevitable, but swayed by an influx of protestations by the general public, the shogunate decided to let the ronin retain their honour as samurai by ordering them to commit seppuku. The 46 ronin did so with honour and were buried next to their master. The 47th ronin was later pardoned by the shogunate and buried alongside his comrades decades later when he died of natural causes.
I hope you'll forgive me starting this review with a Japanese history lesson, but understanding the legend of the 47 ronin is important in order to get the most out of acclaimed director Hirokazu Koreeda's latest film, Hana Yori mo Naho, which derives its title from a poem the Damyo of Akou wrote shortly before his death. Set near the end of the Genroku Era, known as the golden era of the Tokugawa Shogunate because it was a time when war was a distant memory and popular culture was flourishing; Hana Yori mo Naho tells the story of Sozaemon "Soza" Aoki (Junichi Okada), a young samurai who is hiding out in a ramshackle shanty neighbourhood while he searches for the killer of his late father. Soza is a hopeless swordsman, so in between his quest for revenge he passes the time teaching mathematics and literature to the locals and frequently meeting up with attractive widow Osae (Rie Miyazawa) and her young son Shinnosuke (Shohei Tanaka). Soza has also become close with other members of the neighbourhood as the cramped environment brings everyone together, but when Soza finally locates his father's killer Jirozaemon Hirano (Tadanobu Asano), he has to make a choice between taking on a hopeless duel with a much more skilled swordsman, or giving up his duty to avenge his father as a samurai and live a humble life with his new friends.
Dipping his toes into the deep pool that is the Japanese period film (or Jidaigeki), Koreeda has chosen to focus on the conflict between ninjo (humanity) and giri (duty), which has formed the subject of so many samurai classics of yesteryear. Indeed, Hana Yori mo Naho feels like it could've been the work of Masaki Kobayashi sans the iconic action sequences that peppered his films, which is certainly no small compliment. Hana Yori mo Naho works so well because there's so much going on throughout the narrative. On the surface it is a story about a conflicted young man torn between his family's (and society's) demands and his own personal desires and ethos, which is something any contemporary audience can relate to. Underneath the surface, the real meat of Hana Yori mo Naho lies in the interactions of the inhabitants of the shanty neighbourhood in which Soza resides. Many of his neighbours are going through similar dilemmas as Soza and most of their stories help to flesh out and underscore his own struggle. None more so than the local doctor Onodera-sensei and his three mysterious lodgers, who are all secretly Akou ronin waiting for the order to gather and enact revenge for their late Damyo.
Comparisons to Yoji Yamada's 2002 smash hit Twilight Samurai are inevitable as both tell the story of a samurai living in abject squalor who are called upon to perform their duty, and both feature Rie Miyazawa as the romantic lead. Whereas Yamada's film is stirring and sentimental, Koreeda's film feels a lot more "real" and cynical; in this film we're never aware whether the protagonist is doing the right thing or not, and Koreeda ensures that both sides of his conflict are treated the same. The fundamental difference between the two films though is that with Twilight Samurai, Yoji Yamada draws strong parallels between contemporary Japanese salarymen and the samurai of yesteryear, and tries to boost viewer morale by showing that a life of servitude is a valiant one even if it is not a lucrative or thankful one. With Hana Yori mo Naho though, Koreeda weaves a more complex narrative that attempts to debunk romantic notions of the samurai ethos. For instance, setting the story of the 47 ronin in the background of Soza's story means it not only forms a spiritual partnership with the central story, with the two helping to flesh out each other, but it also allows Koreeda the opportunity to show the reality of perhaps the most romantic historical story of them all. The "heroic" conclusion to the 47 ronin tale is shown how it really was: a sneak attack on an unarmed official and the deaths of many men who could've gone on to do great things.
While Hana Yori mo Naho's themes are serious ones, Koreeda approaches this microcosm of Genroku society with a great deal of warmth and humour, with the narrative comprising mostly of comedy vignettes involving the day to day interactions of the inhabitants. To convey the complexities of these characters, the director has gathered together rising young stars and a fine ensemble supporting cast. Boyband pop star Okada Junichi has been improving with each new acting role he attains and he adequately portrays the regret and confusion that fuels the film's protagonist. With this and the successful second Kisarazu Cat's Eye film hitting Japanese cinemas this year, 2006 has been a great year for Okada. Tadanobu Asano turns up as the target of Soza's vengeance, but his appearances are few and his lines minimal so he barely makes an impression in the film at all. The other major name attached to the project, actress Rie Miyazawa brings Soza's love interest Osae elegantly to life. The supporting cast steal the film though; it's great to see Arata Furuta given a big role at last as the local scrounger Sadashiro. He's been stealing scenes in films and TV dramas for years now, so it's about time. Other familiar faces like Susumu Terajima and Kenichi Ando as members of the 47 ronin provide memorable turns as well. Renji Ishibashi is particularly amusing as Soza's randy but warm-hearted uncle.
Hirokazu Koreeda started out as a documentary filmmaker, and to date his feature films have all been character and social dramas shot with a gritty pseudo-documentary realism. As mentioned earlier, Hana Yori mo Naho is his first stab at period filmmaking and as such eschews his previous attempts at capturing reality within a scripted genre. However, many of the directors recurring themes are present and this film features just as much social commentary as his previous ones - both historical and contemporary. The film is set in a time of peace when swordfighting simply wasn't necessary anymore and most people had given up practicing kendo. The samurai in this time were like salarymen in the bubble economy, many of whom at the time were left unemployed with a seemingly bleak chance of attaining further employment within their previous social class. Today's salarymen will surely remember those times and relate them to this film; likewise the various issues that affect Soza and company can be applied to contemporary Japanese society. Hana Yori mo Naho may be his most clichéd and scripted film to date, but it deserves its place alongside his other works. Fully recommended.
Optional English subtitles are provided, with no spelling or grammatical errors that I can recall.
by Matt Shingleton - DVD Times
This professional review refers to Hana Yori mo Naho (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version - English Subtitles)
Kore-eda Hirozaku's Hana Yori mo Naho is the last thing you might expect from the director of serious arthouse fare like Nobody Knows and After Life: a light, breezy piece of entertainment. While the director freely acknowledges that the film was written in response to a rising sense of bloodlust and thirst for vengeance around the world post 9/11 and the anti-violence message rings out clearly throughout, Kore-eda has chosen to stay as far away from polemics as he possibly can, dressing up his message in the guise of an inter-class comedy. Yes, Kore-eda has followed his acclaimed drama about abandoned children with a comedy, and a very good one, to boot.
Junichi Okada, boy band singer turned surprisingly good actor, stars as Soza - a young samurai charged with avenging his father's killing. It is an important mission not only to restore honor to his family but also because his family is poor and, in the period portrayed here, carrying out a vengeance killing carried a sizable monetary reward. His quest has taken him to Edo where he has taken up residence in a rundown tenement populated by the lowest of the lower classes: fish mongers, garbage collectors, debtors on the run, and - of most interest to Sazo - a beautiful widow and her young son. He has been on his quest for vengeance for three years now with no leads to show for it and the shy, clumsy samurai honestly seems more inclined to simply put down roots, teaching the local children to read and write, than hunt and kill a man.
But things are never that simple. His quarry - played by Asano Tadanobu - lives close by, too close to be missed, and pressure is coming down from the clan to bring his quest to a close. Further complicating matters is the large number of ronin hiding in the same neighborhood disguised as doctors and merchants, on a vengeance quest of their own - a direct and deliberate reference to the popular tale of the 47 Ronin - who are suspicious of Soza's presence, fearing him for a spy and who send one of their own, Terajima Susumu, to keep an eye on him.
While Hana is nominally Soza's story, it is really about the life and energy of his downtrodden neighborhood. Kore-eda does a masterful job of fleshing out each of the inhabitants and their daily lives and interactions. There is the village idiot obsessed with feces, the lazy fishmonger finding new reasons not to get out of bed every morning, the disgraced ronin who attempts hari-kiri every spring, the children bullied by the upper classes, the accomplished dine and dash artist, and, of course, Soza's love interest across the lane played by the always strong Rie Miyazawa.
Kore-eda has assembled a fine group of actors, many of whom have worked with him and with each other before, and the camaraderie is clearly evident on screen. The performances are universally strong, striking an admirable balance between humor and pathos, but what really makes it work is that you really believe that these are people who know and care about one another. The film follows a meandering plotline that gives each of the players their moment to shine and while some may be surprised at how minimal Asano's screen time is - both because of his star status and the importance of his character to the plot - it is one of the great strengths of the film that Kore-eda builds on character rather than plot.
Beautifully shot, finely performed and brimming with life, Hana shows us a side of the acclaimed director that we haven't seen before, playful but still with a purpose. Very highly recommended.
by Todd Brown - Twitchfilm.net
Editor's Pick of "Hana Yori mo Naho (DVD) (Normal Edition) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version)"
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March 22, 2007
With his 2006 movie Hana (a.k.a. Hana Yori mo Naho), director Hirokazu Kore-eda seems to have joined the recent resurgence of the samurai genre (the most prominent example being Yoji Yamada's samurai trilogy). However, deep down, he still shows the same concern over humanity, such as he has done in his previous acclaimed Nobody Knows. Both Yamada and Kore-eda attempt to restore samurai's human nature against the common notion of their upholding of bushido (the way of the warrior) even at the expense of their lives.
Hirokazu Kore-eda's emphasis in Hana is quite different from Yamada's famous trilogy, despite the same background of the decline of samurai in the late Tokugawa period. While Yamada's Hidden Blade still endorses revenge in some way, Hana simply lets the samurai give up revenge, and replaces that with love and peace.
Our protagonist Sozaemon (portrayed by Junichi Okada of pop group V6) lives in a slum area, claiming that he is just hiding in order to fetch his father's killer, Kanazawa (Tadanobu Asano). But it may be more precise to say that he is actually avoiding his duty as a samurai to avenge his father's death. He enjoys his life as an ordinary man in the slum with the beautiful widow (Rie Miyazawa), the kids whom he teaches, and his neighbors. The legend of the 47 Ronin, interwoven into the film, contrasts Sozaemon's content with the downfall of those who go against their innate desire and persist in revenging. Yet Kore-eda is never cynical of the 47 Ronin, nor of anyone from Sozaemon, Kanazawa to the half-wit living in the slum.
Life is so peaceful and joyful in the slum where the concept of revenge seems distant. Such atmosphere actually exists throughout the film, allowing the audience to sit back and relax when watching. When Sozaemon gives up revenge, everyone's life becomes so good - or perhaps too good. If one is to criticize the film, he or she might find it too idealized. While it de-romanticizes samurai, the film may have romanticized the world where revenge is non-existent. Yet, an anti-revenge film like Hana should perhaps be valued in a world filled with hatred. Hirokazu Kore-eda once said that he made the film as a response to the post-9.11 world. Whether you buy his point or not, and whether you regard the film's utopian world as problematic, you might still find the film enjoyable. At least I do.
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Customer Review of "Hana Yori mo Naho (DVD) (Normal Edition) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version)"
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July 17, 2007
This customer review refers to Hana (DVD) (Hong Kong Version)
A pacifist samurai's dilemma
In "Hana", Okada Junichi plays an earnest young samurai who is called upon by his family to seek vengeance against his father's killer. Okada has traveled to Edo and taken up residence in a tenement slum in order to seek the killer. Eventually, Okada finds him, but he knows that his fighting skills are entirely inadequate for his task. Moreover, our young samurai basically is a pacifist, someone who loves people and really is interested only in trying to improve their lot. What is a pacifist samurai to do? That is the dilemma at the heart of this charming film.
This summation, however, fails to really capture this movie. The central plot is secondary to the director's larger concern, which is to immerse us deeply within the life of this good-hearted tenement community, make us care about its residents, and give us a sense of what it might be like to live among them. Consequently, we learn about a whole host of interesting characters and observe a multiplicity of intersecting story lines.
If you seek an action movie or a taut, tightly-paced thriller, then "Hana" is not the film for you. If you revel in the gentle and affectionate exposition of wonderfully human characters, then you will be enthralled. The film looks great and its ensemble cast is superb. Very, very highly recommended!