Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island

A part of this view­ing list: Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion Spine #16: Hiroshi Inagaki’s Samu­rai III: Duel at Gan­ryu Island.


Unin­ten­tion­al Mifu­ne­fest con­cludes with Samu­rai III: Duel at Gan­ryu Island. Most folks say that this is the best of the three films, and I have to agree at least in terms of plot and char­ac­ter­i­za­tion. I think that Samu­rai I has the best cin­e­matog­ra­phy and Samu­rai II has the best edit­ing. III takes place an unspec­i­fied [unless I missed it] num­ber of years after II, which we can tell because Musashi’s dis­ci­ple, Jotaro, is much big­ger and mouthi­er. Musashi’s leg­end has also spread, unde­feat­ed and unscratched in 60+ duels, he has become sought after as a train­er for var­i­ous lords. Kojiro is still liv­ing in Musashi’s shad­ow, and his resent­ment has made him whol­ly evil and with­out com­pas­sion. He almost seems mad, so obses­sive is his desire to duel with Musashi and prove his mas­tery. From the start we see how the char­ac­ters have changed over the inter­ven­ing years, Musashi is not as quick to accept a fight, and indeed choos­es to defuse such sit­u­a­tions, he has mas­tered his strength. Kojiro kills indis­crim­i­nate­ly in order to gain atten­tion.


They end up run­ning into each oth­er in a grave­yard and arrange a duel for the next day. Musashi has a change of heart, how­ev­er, and goes off to become a farmer, instead. He first arranges a rain check for a year in advance. Then he will meet Kojiro. Kojiro sets Ake­mi after Musashi, as usu­al, and Otsu is also walk­ing her­self to death search­ing for him. They both end up at the vil­lage, which is prompt­ly attacked by ban­dits and burned just in time for Musashi to go fight Kojiro. Otsu pur­sues him once again [they since rec­on­ciled from the almost-rape in Samu­rai II] and man­ages to see him before he hops on a boat for Gan­ryu Island and his duel with Kojiro. He requites her love, and she tries to get him to give up the sword. On his way to the island he carves a bokken out of an oar and fights Kojiro with that instead of his katana. Of course, Kojiro is killed, but he man­ages to cut Musashi, a first for any­one, with his fan­cy swal­low-tail cut. The film ends with Musashi weep­ing as his boat returns to the main­land. The one thing he has been unable to cope with is the feel­ing of regret for all of the lives he has tak­en in his duels over the years.

Musashi the man and Musashi the leg­end are pret­ty inex­tri­ca­bly bound nowa­days. He was def­i­nite­ly an inter­est­ing per­son and his myr­i­ad skills and intrigu­ing per­son­al­i­ty ensure his con­tin­u­ing impor­tance to many peo­ple. If you’ve not read his book of five rings, I’ve left a link to it below.


My review of Samu­rai I: Miyamo­to Musashi.
My review of Samu­rai II: Duel at Ichi­jo­ji Tem­ple.
Cri­te­ri­on Essay by Bruce Eder.
The Cri­te­ri­on Con­trap­tion Review.
• Read The Book of Five Rings. [Eng­lish] [Japan­ese]