Inspired by a real-life event, the action takes place in 1855 with American “black ships” closing in on the shores of Japan.
Katsuakira Itakura (Hiroki Hasegawa), the feudal lord of Annaka, organises a 36-mile race to train and test his samurai who, after a long period of peace, have become “weak and undisciplined”. Even though the race doesn’t take off until halfway through the film, it serves as a frame for this tongue-in-cheek drama that takes a little time to pick up speed.
The gorgeous cinematography by DoP Takuro Ishizaka (Manhunt, God of War) is a real feast for the eyes. The appealing shots of fields full of flowers and the woods create an unnerving symbiosis with the violent moments, enhanced by the beautiful scenery. The indoor scenes excel with the masterful use of lighting, especially in the nocturnal sequences where the warmth of the light creates an alluring, luminous atmosphere.
Liina Laugesaar, Cineuropa.org