The Dagger of Kamui (カムイの剣 Kamui no Ken) is a Japanese novel series by Tetsu Yano originally released by Kadokawa Shoten from 1984 to 1985. The story takes place in the Bakumatsu period in Japan.
The series 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, as well as historical figures such as Saigō Takamori, Andō Shōzan, and Oguri Kōzukenosuke Tadamasa.
The series was adapted in 1985 into an anime film directed by Rintaro and animated by Madhouse. The screenplay was adapted by Mori Masaki, and character designs were created by Moribi Murano, who also illustrated the novel series. Takuo Noda directed the animation, and the music was composed by Ryūdō Uzaki and Eitetsu Hayashi.
The Dagger of Kamui was originally released in the US in a severely edited version which cut 22 minutes from the program. This is the original unedited series at 132 minutes.
“The Dagger of Kamui is an epic in the truest sense of the word: a massive film that covers decades of events through the eyes of a boy who ends up inadvertently helping some radical changes in Japanese history.” – T.H.E.M. (Anime Reviews)
On the eve of the Meiji restoration, as a slumbering Japan awakens and turns its eyes westward, an innkeeper finds a baby named Jiro in a drifting boat; his only companion a glittering blade, the Dagger of Kamui.
Murder, deceit, treasure and revenge converge – and all depends on the Dagger of Kamui!
When Jiro is thirteen, his adoptive family is murdered and Jiro is blamed, only to be rescued by Tenkai, a priest, who trains him in the mysterious arts of the Ninja. Seeking revenge for the loss of his adoptive family, Jiro kills the mysterious one-armed Ninja who reportedly slew them.
Years later, acting on a tip from Tenkai, Jiro tracks down his real mother, only to learn that Tenkai had tasked his father with finding a clue to the lost treasure of Captain Kidd. With the treasure in hand, the Shogun will be able to retain control, and Japan will once again isolate itself from the world.
However, his father fell in love, abandoned the search, and had a child — and for this failure, Tenkai exacted a terrible revenge! Now the chase begins, as Jiro, with only the Dagger of Kamui to help him, searches for the great treasure, a search that will take him all the way to the American Old West, with Tenkai’s minions always close behind. If Jiro can find the treasure and return to Japan, then, perhaps, Jiro can exact his revenge, and thrust the Dagger of Kamui into Tenkai’s black heart!
The DVD version includes two interesting bonus features:
- Character biographies
“The Dagger of Kamui is a hidden gem of surprising entertainment, combining a bittersweet period drama with fast-paced action and trans-continental travel.” – Children of the Blazing Fist
“The series’ animation is top-notch for an 80’s animated film, just like its excellent soundtrack. Despite being quite obscure in the West, both the manga and the anime were very influential.” – TV Tropes
1984-1985 (re-mastered in 2003) / 132 minutes / Japanese w/English Subtitles / Directed by RINTARO.
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