Capturing A Snow Leopard……….On Camera

24 06 2015

Snow Leopard

A few weeks ago, me and my Mam had a day out at the South Lakes Wild Animal Park (or South Lakes Safari Zoo as it is now known) in Dalton-in-Furness. It’s not the first time we have gone there; we’ve visited it a lot with family and friends for roughly over 10 years now. It is a brilliant place that has different species of animals on show and even has some breeds live in the same enclosures. One of the key stand out features of the zoo though is its feeding times. On several occasions I have seen the animal talks and feedings and once hand fed a Lemur.

Racoon

The star attraction of feeding time is quite possibly the big cats. Animals like African Lions, Sumatran Tigers, Jaguars and many more get fed in a rather interesting way; by placing big chunks of meat atop large vertical poles. The idea is that when the animals are let out of their houses, they climb up the poles to get the food, meaning that they have to work for it, and helps to keep them fit. Over the last few years the park itself has been in a state of expansion with new areas and enclosures being built, with plans to introduce new species. This past visit, I was mostly caught up in looking at the new species with animals I had not seen before like the Giant Anteater, Sri Lankan Leopards, Arctic Wolves, Hornbills and (very briefly) Tayras.

Hornbill

One of the exhibits I took a shine to though was the Snow Leopards. The Snow Leopards aren’t really all that new; the last time I went to the zoo in July 2013 they had just arrived, but this was the first time that I had really seen them active instead of asleep. They were residing in the enclosure that the Lion’s used to occupy (the Lions now having a brand new enclosure). The enclosure was more of a rocky environment than one of grass and trees like it used to be. When we arrived at the enclosure, we were able to spot one of the Snow Leopards rather quickly, and as we went round onto the viewing platform to look down inside the enclosure (and opposite to the Arctic Wolf enclosure) we could spot another one, nicely blending into the rocks.

2 Snow Leopards

As the day went past, we looked at some of the other animals and enclosures, but discovered that due to the new species and ever-growing zoo, that feeding times for animals had been moved around. Wanting to watch the Arctic Wolf feeding (as we had never seen it before), we went down to the enclosure to watch, but it turns out they weren’t feeding them on that day (despite being given a leaflet which said that they were). What they were feeding though were the Snow Leopards. It wasn’t anything new really, other than it being a new species, it was the same routine as with the Lions and Tigers; shimmy up the pole. There was a lot of people round so getting a view was hard, but I was able to see them climb the pole and eat the food.

Snow Leopard Eating

I then had an idea. As it was, the animals were given two servings of food, and so I thought that if I could wait around a bit, I could potentially capture a video of the Snow Leopards climbing up the fence. My camera does come with a basic recording feature, so I set the camera to it and waited. The thing was, the animals were eating rather chewy bits of meat and did take some time to eat their meals. So while I waited, I occasionally glimpsed at the Arctic Wolves and marvelled at how bushy the Snow Leopard’s tails were.

Arctic Wolf

Sometime later though, not too long though, the cats decided they had had enough of their first servings, and proceeded to have their seconds. I quickly got my camera ready and was just able to get a video of them climbing up the poles, grabbing the food, then jumping off and begin to munch away. I was quite relieved as I wondered if I was actually going to get it. When we got back home, after uploading my photos onto Facebook, I then uploaded my video to YouTube, and it came out quite well. In the past I have been able to get pictures of the big cats eating, but I think this is the first time I got a video. I now just need to do it for all the other big cats (and possibly the other animals too).

GENEPOOL

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Shadow The Hedgehog: The Final Word

17 06 2015

Shadow The Hedgehog (SEGA - 2005)

Several years ago, I used to collect Official Nintendo Magazine, I still have them actually. It was back when I was a big gamer and played on mostly Nintendo consoles. Eventually though, maybe two years ago, I just stopped collecting them, I don’t think I actually had a proper good read of one for a year before that. Anyway, the magazine continuously changed every few issues to keep it fresh and one of the magazine sections that stuck around for a while was a readers section. This was where anyone who wrote letters in, or (more commonly) from the online forums would get a say. When it came to the online forums, ONM used to show a pie chart of percentages of what people talked about most that month, and one of the most commonly featured topics in the pie chart was a lot of people showing their support for a spinoff game of the Sonic the Hedgehog series; Shadow The Hedgehog.

ONM Magazine

I never actually looked into those topics on the forums, my forum footprint overall was pretty low; however it always interested me to see people defend Shadow the Hedgehog. I remember first reading about the game and being a fan of the Sonic series at the time (and also my liking for the character of Shadow), I was excited about it. I remember even getting a copy of it for my GameCube when it was first released, and remembered hearing friends and other people talk about their opinions for the game, where the result was normally positive. One thing I did not understand though, was why (roughly) 25% of the readership of the magazine wrote on the forums every month just to defend a specific game. The other percentages used to talk about new stuff or current games and opinions; so why is another talking about one game in particular? I mean, what was so bad about Shadow the Hedgehog in the first place. When I originally played it, I thought it was quite fun. I played it quite a lot and really got into it. Ok, it wasn’t like it had no flaws at all but I thought it was OK. With the game being nearly 10 years old now, I thought I would reminisce a little by looking back at it and giving a more hindsight view on what I thought of the final product. While the post may say “The Final Word”, this probably, more than likely, won’t be the last time someone talks about this game, but due to the interest in people defending the game, I thought I would give and highlight my thoughts on the game, then hopefully come up with some overall rating for it (I probably won’t do this again in the future as it probably won’t work).

Shadow

1. Setting – Shadow is a hedgehog (like sonic, but black in colour) who has something of a mysterious past that comes back to him in flashbacks he doesn’t relatively understand. For the most part he is a loner and only cares for himself and some mysterious girl called Maria. One day, an Alien Invasion by a race known as the Black Arms suddenly happens. At first he doesn’t care, but is then approached by the races master; Black Doom who says that if Shadow can bring him the Chaos Emeralds, he will reveal Shadows past. The alien invasion setting then sets the game up for the player to take shadow on a story plot that allows the player to take different routes and discover and play different levels while also discovering Shadows Past. The games’ setting is pretty interesting and as its core point of storytelling goes, it’s pretty cool; however it’s all over the place. One moment you are fighting off an alien invasion, the next, you are nowhere near the invasion, to doing something that happened 50 years previously, or fighting a completely different enemy altogether. Because you are not too sure of where you are supposed to be, it feels more like a game without story than a game that sort of promises to tell you a story while discovering it yourself at the same time. While it is interesting to discover new things and experiences other bits, for a story telling adventure, it’s a bit poor. 2/5.

S4

2. Gameplay Part 1: Storytelling – The game offers you choices of routes to take from level to level, meaning the game is not linear. In fact the game uses a story tree which allows players to pick a route to take and follow it to where it goes. To do this, they have 3 choices of mission per level (as far as I know, I didn’t get as far as the end of each story side). One route choice will take the player on the hero path, another on the dark path, and the other on the horizontal normal route. If the player goes down the normal route that just comes to the point of reaching the end of the level for the other 2 though it usually requires completing an in game goal or completing the level in a certain way. So it could be activating or finding things in level, or it could be defeating so many enemies to destroying something. Relatively simple……….in theory. It’s one of the larger issues I have with the game. The problem is, that while it sounds relatively simple; some of those side missions can turn out to be rather complex. Some are easier than others but when it comes down to either finding so many of one thing, or collecting the other, finding them in the first place can be very irritating, especially when there is only one left, and while you may get to the point of certainty knowing where it is, finding it at all again is tricky. Keeping it to those routes to get to new levels can become even more irritating if you accidently end up doing a level you may have already done once before, and when you play levels over and over again, it gets really boring. Then even if you are successful in completing the mission correctly to go onto the next stage, you may end up taking on one of the games various random bosses, which is tedious unto itself. It is a rather inventive and exciting way to play a sonic game as it is not linear and the choice of routes can be quite fun (as well as add replay value to find more levels), but in turn, is annoying. 3/5.

S1

3. Gameplay Part 2: Core Gameplay Mechanics – The games striking main feature is that the lead character gets to wield a gun. Possibly thinking; that without something extra or different, it would look just like a normal Sonic game; the developers gave an already anti-hero character his own choice of weaponry. The game bolsters a huge selection of firearms with some different per level, and while Shadow doesn’t necessarily have to use them, it does add something else to the game. Most times guns are just picked up from fallen enemies, and depending on the enemies and area will vary the choice of available firearms. I find it’s a lot like Half Life in that respect with the amount of different types, but when there is in some cases little variation it can be a bit repetitive, but not necessarily boring. The inclusion of a gun though doesn’t really seem to provide much though, as there are lots of shooting games on the market and the only thing that’s different with this one is that it’s in a Sonic game. Shadow does not necessarily need a gun however, he is powerful enough without. I think it’s more of an image thing than anything else, but I would rather him have a gun he can keep than having lots that do not last very long. After that though there isn’t much except for regular abilities that sonic can use in previous games. The only other one that stands out is in the 2 power bars that can be built up during levels. These are filled up when attacking certain enemies or doing other things of note. One is a hero bar, the other is dark and when one has been filled up it can be used. These are actually quite useful as one allows you to travel huge levels of distance in the game making the levels shorter, while the other works similarly to the Team Blast feature in Sonic Heroes where you can wipe out huge numbers of enemies that are currently on-screen. It’s a very nice feature which is also something a little bit different to other games. 4/5.

S3

4. Visuals – Visuals come down to 2 points, cinematics and in game. The cinematics look terrific and add an extra special something to the story telling side of the game. The cut scenes and in game visuals however, which use the same graphics look rather basic and can put a sour note on the games look. For the most part the visuals don’t look that bad, but when considering that the visuals for some cut scenes don’t use the cinematic look, it just looks basic as if it was done half-heartedly. The cut scenes are nicely done in what they are trying to say and set up the levels well, but compared to what is achieved in the more cinematic cut scenes, they could be better. The opening cinematic though is fantastic and really helps to set up the feel of the whole game. 3/5.

5. Bosses and other Characters – The boss levels are not exactly varied. My experience mostly ended up with me takin on mostly Dr. Eggman in boss matches that were quite hard. The only other boss levels I had were against the black bull alien thing and the heavy dog, both of which were still pretty hard. The end boss for all my attempts was the Egg Dealer which was a lot more simple (and enjoyable) but weird. It was the case that once you knew how to defeat it, all you needed to do was just keep hitting it with your homing attack. The other thing about it was its choice of when to enter the game. One of the last levels on a route of the tree was the black comet where you would expect to find some kind of alien monster to fight. No; for some reason it was Eggman. It made more sense when I was in Eggman’s base, but not on the comet. Apart from the Egg dealer, Boss levels were pretty weak, if it was not for the choice of music to go with them, which ups the score for it a little. As for the use of other characters in the game that you randomly meet on the way in some levels, I think it’s rather pointless with the only good new character being the commander of G.U.N. (and some allowance to Black Doom, but only a bit). 2/5.

Omega E-123

6. Levels and Multiplayer – The levels in the game were nice and varied if but a bit dodgy. It’s sort of all over the place with areas depending on the routes you take. However the choice of levels and the things you can do in them are a relative improvement compared to the storytelling side. The levels are designed in strange combinations with some being like classic Sonic levels (platforms and lots of running), while others are like mazes and slow routes with lots of fighting. And then you have the completely weird ones like the circus based world, and a couple inside computers. The colouring of the levels is sometimes bright and sometimes dark but with plenty of variation. While the things you can do in the levels are really up to the story direction, the levels are much better in contrast. Multiplayer I did not get to play much of except on one occasion, however it was weird and fun to experience. 4/5.

S2

7. Soundtrack – For all the game’s up and downs, there is one thing that does not disappoint: the game’s soundtrack. While the levels, characters, missions and bosses are constantly in a state of mismatch, the one thing that does work is the choice of music to the game level. While some levels are similar to one another, great care has been taken to make the soundtrack work and meet the feel and look of each level. Added to this is the soundtrack for the boss levels, cut scenes, characters, cinematics and even the credits; which altogether makes something that works at a consistent rate, and not only that is both enjoyable, and memorable at the same time. I will probably go more into certain pieces of soundtrack in a later post, but particular ones to look out for include the opening cinematic theme (I Am… All of Me), Digital Circuit, Sky Troops and the end credits theme (Waking Up). 5/5.

So, that’s the game in essence, so now to work out its score. So ‘add the numbers together and then divide by the number of categories.’ 2 + 3 + 4 + 3 + 2 + 4 + 5 = 23 ÷ 7 = 3.285714285714286. So to round it to a reasonable number, I would say it gives Shadow the Hedgehog as score of 3 making it something of an average game of highs and lows. It has great gameplay mechanics, interesting levels and a fantastic soundtrack but is somewhat hindered by everything else.  It’s not completely Pants, but it’s not really Great either. You might be able to see something else in it than I didn’t, but altogether; that’s what I think f Shadow the Hedgehog. It will more than likely still be debated for some years to come, but for now, it’s somewhere in the middle (plus I have other things to do).

Vector

GENEPOOL





King of Tokyo

10 06 2015

King of Tokyo box

King of Tokyo is a dice rolling game for up to 6 players released by IELLO and designed by Magic: The Gathering creator Richard Garfield. In King of Tokyo, players take on the role of one of several giant monsters (who happen to not look like any other monsters in particular) who are fighting for ultimate control of Movie Monster paradise; Tokyo City. The first monster to reach 20 points, or alternatively, be the only one with any remaining health, wins to become the true king of Tokyo (but not King of the Monsters, that title has already been claimed).

King of Tokyo bits and bobs

The game comes with a large collection of components including a small board, power cards, character cards, character pieces, stands, tokens and little green cubes. The game is set up with the small board (a picture of Tokyo with the locations Tokyo and Tokyo Bay on it) placed in the middle. Players then choose which monster they want to be: Giga Zaur, The King, Cyber Bunny, Meka Dragon, Kraken, Alienoid, and take the corresponding character card/board, piece and stand. The character boards themselves have two rotating dials on them. One representing health (starting at 10) and the other representing point score (starting at 0). Players then put their character pieces in the stands and place them near the board. The way the game works is mainly through its dice. 6 black ones with green symbols on them (and 2 extra green ones with black symbols on them). On a players turn, they roll all 6 dice, and compare the results. If they want to they can re-roll any number of dice, if still not happy, they can re-roll one more time. After that, they are stuck with what they whether they like them or not. If players roll a claw, this counts for an attack. If a player is the first one to roll a claw, they take Tokyo. If players roll a heart, they can heal themselves. If they roll a lightning bolt, they get some energy. If they roll 3 of any number, they score points equal to that number (so 3 3’s equals 3 points), plus any extra of that number equals one extra (so 4 2’s equals 3 points). Simple right, well yes in theory, but it’s a little bit trickier than that.

King of Tokyo dice

You see, when a player’s monster is in Tokyo, they can’t heal, so rolling hearts is pretty pointless. Also, when someone is in Tokyo, if they roll a claw or any number of claws, then they deal that much damage to every monster outside of Tokyo, however, monsters not in Tokyo that roll claws, only deal damage to the monster currently in Tokyo; so if you are in Tokyo and are taking too much damage, you might want to yield Tokyo to the monster currently attacking you. If you decide to do so, you still take that damage. Yielding Tokyo though presents another problem. When you take Tokyo you get a point, and every time it comes round to your turn, you get an additional 2 points if you are still there. So players (or monsters) will have to decide when they have taken enough damage to yield or to hold Tokyo for a bit longer to attain more points.

King of Tokyo energy cubes

Monsters though do have options and opportunities. When a player rolls a lightning bolt they get a little green cube. These can they be used to buy power cards. Power cards have special abilities, some more complicated than others which can help you, or hinder you if someone else buys them. Some cards are permanent, while others are one use only. These power cards range from things like dealing additional damage, poisoning, growing an extra head, getting bigger, get bonus health, reduce other player’s points, coming back to life and deciding to become an omnivore. Alternatively, players have the option to spend 2 energy to wipe out the current selection of three cards to reveal three new ones and then choose from them.

King of Tokyo power cards

King of Tokyo is a nicely designed game. The monster character cards deliver a nice way to keep both score and keep an eye on the health statistics. The use of dials is also more aesthetically pleasing and easier to use rather than having a card and using a small wooden cube. The artwork for Tokyo and the Monster characters is simple but effective. The little cubes are a wonderful addition. Their clear plastic see-through look makes them that little bit more special and thanks to them being all the same, there is no need to worry about general currency values. The power cards are also cheap which means they can be bought relatively quickly if the right dice are being rolled. The power cards also deliver an extra dimension to the game meaning that those who want to bide their time to get stronger can, while those who just want to roll point numbers and claws can too. It is also very easy to understand and does not rely on confusion between hit points and defence points when rolling claws, instead just saying you get hit, and how much health you subsequently lose. Additionally, I also like the many references to Monster Movies, many a time I have played this and have gotten into noting the references from the creatures and power cards and just enjoy reliving the memories of watching them. I am also always discovering new things. The power card deck is so big and has so many different cards in it, that every time I play it I am discovering new powers and abilities. I like that.

King of Tokyo monsters

The game though I find does have one little disadvantage. It’s more of a rule that I still don’t understand no matter how many times I have played it; that being the area of Tokyo Bay. Tokyo Bay is used when playing with between 5 and 6 players. The idea is that there is another area of Tokyo, but I don’t understand why it is there, what the advantage of it is, how you get there and how you stay there. I can see the advantage of having two monsters in Tokyo, but this just leads to which monster attacks who when rolling dice. Having a second monster in with more players would also mean two monsters gaining points, but then how does one remain in Tokyo Bay if they are ousted by someone fleeing Tokyo. I just don’t understand the point of having it on the board, and subsequently since, don’t include it when I play it. I also find it hard to understand the part of the rules booklet that explains it.

King of Tokyo board

While I do find the inclusion of Tokyo Bay confusing and or somewhat disappointing, it is a minor glitch in what is generally an easy, and very fun game. I just like the idea of being a Giant Monster and fighting for control of Tokyo (like a certain Giant Monster of whom I am a massive fan of). The game’s mechanics of dice rolling are nice and easy to just pick up and play, the character/monster cards are very easy to use and the addition of power cards are easy to understand and acquire (except for the batteries one). The artwork is terrific and the use of the monster stands are brilliant. The designer could have just used the cards as counters, but instead provides the stands to give a third dimension to both look and gameplay. When added to the board the monsters look huge. King of Tokyo is a game I rank among my favourite board games and is one I feel that everyone should try at least once. It’s not just its theme, but also how easy it is to play and how much enjoyment I have always managed to get out of it. I just can’t get enough out of being a Giant Monster and thrashing Tokyo, it’s so much fun.

Cyber Bunny vs Giga Zaur

GENEPOOL





3 Years To Go

8 06 2015

Godzilla (Legendary Pictures - 2014)

GENEPOOL





TOTAL MASSACRE – 13 Assassins

3 06 2015

13 Assassins (Toho Co. Ltd. - 2010)

Back in 2010/2011, I kept on spotting posters for a Japanese film being shown at cinemas in the UK. I hardly knew anything about it, but I was interested enough to keep it in mind. I did not get to see it though until late June 2012. It was on Sky Movies Premiere on a late night showing, so I recorded it and watched it later that week. I saw clips of it here and there before watching it fully; then I saw it. I was amazed at what the film was and became hooked from that first viewing. Every time it was and has been on TV since, I have just dropped watching, whatever it was I was watching at the time and immediately turned over to watch the film again, no matter where it was. It is one of the films I have watched and mentioned more than any other in the last few years and is one that remains high on my Top 10 (Non-Godzilla) film list.

13A9

Released in 2010 and co-produced and distributed by Toho, 13 Assassins is a Japanese Epic Samurai film directed by Horror Master Takashi Miike. Miike is possibly best known for his highly controversial horror movie output and has directed more than 95 films to date including the films Audition, Ichi the Killer and Three… Extremes. 13 Assassins is actually a remake of Eiichi Kudô‘s film; The Thirteen Assassins (Jûsan-nin no shikaku), which I have not seen.

Jûsan-nin no shikaku (1963)

In 1840’s Japan, during the Tokugawa Shogunate, the young, sadistic half-brother of the shogun; Lord Matsudaira Naritsugu (Gorô Inagaki) of Akashi, is responsible for a wave of horrible atrocities including murder, rape and torture which he commits at will. After Zusho Mamiya (Seiyô Uchino) commits Seppuku in protest of Naritsugu’s activities, Sir Doi Toshitsura (Mikijirô Hira) decides to take action fearing more atrocities will follow after Naritsugu achieves a higher level in power. Sir Doi seeks out older and respected Samurai; Shimada Shinzaemon (Kôji Yakusho) and provides evidence of crimes performed by Naritsugu including the Murder of Yukie Makino’s son Unume (Takumi Saitô) and the mutilation of a peasant leader’s daughter (Sakurako Moteki). Sir Doi requests that Shinzaemon carry out the assassination of Naritsugu before he can gain any more power. Shinzaemon agrees, but a fellow former student of his, and one of Naritsugu’s loyal retainers; Hanbei (Masachika Ichimura) keeps an eye on him.

13A6

Shinzaemon begins hiring other samurai to help out in the assassination plot including skilled Samurai Hirayama Kujūrō (Tsuyoshi Ihara), and Shinzaemon’s second in command Kuranaga Saheita (Hiroki Matsukata). Kuranaga brings others from his dojo too including Assistant Chief Inspector Mitsuhashi Gunjirō (Ikki Sawamura), Kuranaga’s subordinates; Hioki Yasokichi (Sôsuke Takaoka), and Ōtake Mosuke (Seiji Rokkaku), as well as Mitsuhashi’s men Horii Yahachi (Kôen Kondô) and Higuchi Gennai (Yûma Ishigaki). Hanbei continues to keep an eye on Shinzaemon, but his assistant Judayu Asakawa (Ken Mitsuishi) unwittingly sends men to attack Shinzaemon, who are then quickly slain by Hirayama. While out gambling one evening, Shinzaemon’s nephew Shimada Shinrokurō (Takayuki Yamada) runs into his uncle who talks to him about his big plan. Shinrokuro decides to join in with his Uncle’s assassination plot as it sounds promising, leaving home and his girl Tsuya (Kazue Fukiishi) who doesn’t want him to go. The following morning, Hirayama’s only student; Ogura Shōujirō (Masataka Kubota) joins up, despite Shinzaemon thinking he is too young to join such a fight. Along with him is Sahara Heizō (Arata Furuta), an elderly samurai who prefers to fight with his spear instead of a sword but requests money in exchange for his service (then finally Ishizuka Rihei (Kazuki Namioka) joins in along with Sahara too, but not on-screen). Now 12 warriors in total, Shinzaemon sets them to work. Hirayama trains them all in fighting techniques, while Higuchi and Horii train in explosives. The night before Naritsugu is due to depart Edo (now Tokyo) however, Shinzaemon still has no plan of attack and gets a visit from Hanbei who tries to warn him off.

13A7

Many days pass by until Shinzaemon finally comes up with a plan to turn the village of Ochiai – a destination on Naritsugu’s route – into a spot for an ambush and kill Naritsugu there. He enlists the help of Yukie Makino (Kôshirô Matsumoto) to block Naritsugu from going through his land in an effort to stall him. Kuranaga and Ishizuka go on ahead to Kiso to get the help of Makino, while Mitsuhashi heads to Ochiai to acquire the town from the villagers. The rest of the group set out, but after engaging in a small fight from some hired swordsman, decide to cut across country. The samurai get lost in a forest however and ask the help of Kiga Koyata (Yûsuke Iseya); a hunter who was left abandoned there after trying to have it off with his bosses daughter. With his help, he manages to get the Samurai back onto the road to Ochiai which is now in full preparation for the coming attack. At Kiso, Naritsugu and Hanbei have difficulty trying to go through the land owned by Makino who won’t let them pass. Naritsugu tells Hanbei to take the foolish path as he thinks it sounds more fun. Over the course of a few days, the Samurai prepare Ochiai for the attack, but days pass with no sign of their prey. A few days later Naritsugu reappears on the route, but with 200 men accompanying him instead of his original entourage. Shinzaemon decides to continue with the attack and has Koyata join his group making them a 13 strong force.

Naritsugu and his men walk into the village and  are quickly caught in the trap with some being picked off with ease. Shinzaemon and his Samurai reveal themselves and attack using a barrage of arrow fire quickly reducing the 200 men down to about 130. They then engage in close combat in a lengthy battle (lasting about 45 to 50 minutes). Slowly but surely, the 130 men are reduced down to a much smaller force thanks to the use of traps and techniques built by the samurai, but they too all begin to fall. Naritsugu and Hanbei, along with what’s left of their forces find a way of escaping the town, but are confronted by the only two remaining Samurai: Shinzaemon, and Shinrokuro. Hanbei fights Shinzaemon in a brutal fight, which Shinzaemon wins. Naritsugu then attacks Shinzaemon, stabbing him in the stomach, which Shinzaemon then does to Naritsugu, who succumbs to his injuries and dies. Shinzaemon then lies dying on the floor, talking to Shinrokurō before also succumbing to his wounds. Shinrokuro walks through what’s left of Ochiai, now mostly a burning wreck, but runs into Koyata who appears to have recovered from a fatal wound given to him earlier. Koyata says he will go back home to sweep Upashi – the bosses daughter off her feet – while Shinrokuro decides to stop being a Samurai, instead considering becoming a bandit and possibly jumping ship to America. They depart ways and Shinrokuro walks through the burning town. In the Epilogue it is stated that Naritsugu’s real death was covered up, saying that he died of illness and that 23 years later the Tokugawa Shogunate ends with the Meiji Restoration.

13A2

13 Assassins is technically a remake for an older film, but in turn is more than that. It’s not just some crummy excuse to produce an old classic style of film produced by classic directors like Akira Kurosawa; it’s actually made to be its own independent film. I find 13 Assassins though to be something of a weird film in some of its characters. Now while it would take a while to talk about all the samurai, they are all enjoyable to watch and have their own little moments and scenes that provide this enjoy-ability. These moments though come from moments in the big fight at the end where they pretty much die but provide enough of an onscreen presence to create a coherent and important part. Then you get the higher ranking samurai to the films cast with characters like Sahara who unlike the other samurai uses a spear to a sword. He has a great presence and is one of the bunch that you like to keep your eyes on, just for being that bit different in the first place, but you still try to figure why he’s in the situation in the first place. Then you get characters like Ogura and Mitsuhashi. Ogura who joins on the behest from Hirayama to both him and Shinzaemon, but you wonder why he wants to join in battle at such a young age when he could possibly die. He does not look all that enthusiastic and a deep level of regret and shock fills him when he makes his first kill. It’s like he’s there simply because of the appreciation his master has for him. Then you have Mitsuhashi who seems to be someone relatively quiet throughout, but you feel like he should be saying more as he has something of an experienced leader in him. But weirdest of all is Shinrokuro.

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Shinrokuro is something of a mystery to me as well as a patch of irony . He is presented as a secondary protagonist, but you don’t know why as he is not on-screen all that much except when he is in battle or with his uncle or Koyata. Characters like Hirayama or Kuranaga have more air time and appeal than Shinrokuro, but why is it that Shinrokuro gets this secondary casting. From what I understand though is that he is an ironic character. He regards his life as a Samurai as something of a burden and only really uses it to get girls and money; in other words the materialization of life. He is something of a waste of his skill and feels like it was a stupid idea to go down the path in the first place, despite the fact that he is actually a great warrior. As him being the only one that survives, he gains this irony, in that out of all the warriors, it’s the one who doesn’t want to be one anymore that survives. All the others are committed in what they do, but they all pass away. Shinrokuro though does change as the fight ends, even playing with his sword and maybe seeing the attraction of it all in the first place. I don’t know really, for the most part, he is just very mysterious, and I begin to wonder why on earth he is in the film at all. Despite saying that though, he is a rather enjoyable character to watch, if not understand completely.

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Next to him there is Koyata. I see Koyata as something like the role of Toshirô Mifune‘s character in Seven Samurai. He is the group’s outcast and not actually a Samurai. He is a peek into the opposite life and enjoys what he has. He finds the other warriors to be rather ignorant and continuously challenges them on the way they behave and act. While Mifune in Seven Samurai was a Samurai from the life that Koyata has now, Koyata does not dream of being one of them, but has a desire for inclusion and respect from the others and represents the need for companionship. He is a good fighter and like Sahara, uses other means of fighting than just to use the standard issue, and even tries to confront Naritsugu………………..with Fatal consequences. It could be though that Koyata is more than human, instead possibly being something of a spirit guide to the group and a reminder to them of who exactly they are fighting for. After that there is Kuranaga and Hirayama, both of whom are similar to characters from Seven Samurai. Hirayama for instance is like Kyuzo, the most skilled fighter in the group, a man who can seemingly kill most men with one slice. He is a terrific trainer and is favorable in the eyes of Shinzaemon. There is the feeling though that he is hiding something. He is committed to what he does, but he does not talk about himself all that much and you begin to wonder what is going on. His skills as a fighter are second to none though and provides to defend those in the group and even causes a mass slaughter in his own unique trap area during the battle. Then you have Kuranaga, who I think of a lot like Gorobei. He is a rather jolly Samurai who doesn’t completely have a stern expression and tries to remain jolly in most situations. He is exceedingly loyal to Shinzaemon and remains by his side during the big battle. He also has a lot of faith and trust in his men as well as a level of appreciation and care for them too.

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On the other side of the conflict is the trio of Hanbei, Naritsugu and Asakawa. Asakawa does get a considerable amount of time on-screen despite not saying much. He is a loyal and tough fighter and is rather enjoyable as a supporting character, despite having something of a limited vocabulary. Naritsugu is a nicely and well-designed character. To begin with you don’t see him but you hear about him a lot. You get the idea that he is a truly bad man from what he has done and how people talk about him, but when you see him properly for the first time, a different perspective comes to light. Given to how he looks particularly in his age, he is something more of an ignorant and spoilt child. Because of who he is, and who he is related too, you get the knowledge that he gets whatever he wants. He is a man with a lack of Morales and is served and waited upon by others, No wonder then, that if he looks at something and wants it, he gets it, even if that means committing an act of atrocity. For the most part he is quiet, and only speaks when he wants something or to voice his ever important opinion. He is though a very good villain as you really do despise him for what he has done, but also the way he acts. There is no sense of emotion or care or sympathy for him, making his death, all be it a very dramatic one, all the more satisfying.

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Hanbei though isn’t necessarily a villain, but I think he is more the main protagonist than Naritsugu. Hanbei does have morals and understanding, that can be seen and he also has a sense of regret and disappointment as to what his master does. But on the other hand though, he is a committed and dedicated servant and so even if he has any regret for his master and himself, because he believes that a samurai’s job is to obey his master, he won’t try to stop it. Hanbei though has a much better physical onscreen presence than Naritsugu and because he is more vocal, he is a better antagonist than a supporting character. His devotion also brings him to blows constantly with Shinzaemon and is a great balance to him. While Shinzaemon is this easy-going like character, Hanbei is more frustrated, angry, and a much stricter person and is a great character to contemplate both of them.

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In my opinion though, the best character by far is Shinzaemon. Since watching this film, I consider Koji Yakusho one of my all-time favorite actors. I just got into his character and acting so much from this film.. Shinzaemon is not ruthless, mad, angry, frustrated or anything that could be seen as bad. He is actually very respectful. His faith, trust and respect for those around him is admirable and  second to no-one else in the film. He has great admiration and appreciation for those around him and believes in them enough to trust that they will do their jobs well. He doesn’t look like the kind of man who is struggling from anything except his choice of path and want of a noble death, but while he has a calm exterior, this desire takes hold very early as he jumps at what he believes is the right opportunity to end it all. For his part though, he is just generally a nice person and someone you would want on your side. He is also a strong and knowledgeable tactician, coming up with the plan of attack and a great teacher and friend too. Just from the first second he appears to his last few moments, he was just this extremely enjoyable character, and the most stand out cast member of the entire film (in my opinion).

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The film makes great use of a combination of superb editing (from Kenji Yamashita) and minor moments of special effects to produce rather interesting scenes. One of the most stand out of these pieces is an interesting blend of both of these plus some terrific cinematography. Basically, Yukie Makino is about to commit Seppuku and the shot is done well enough that you see the swipe of the sword go past and through his neck, giving that interpretation, but then it is edited as to quickly change scene so as not to see his head come off. It’s a really amazing scene and well worth looking out for. The film has some other terrific moments of effects too like the burning charging cows and the explosion rain of blood onto a building near Shinrokuro. The fight and battle sequences are terrific, and great care has been taken to make them look authentic, but also carry little touches of humor here and there. The battle at the end – lasting close to an hour – is the film’s major climax. I have seen it many times before, but am not bored once. Even after seeing the film more than 10 times over, I begin to discover moments I had not really spotted before or saw previously, and it continues to get more exciting. Seriously, a battle that long, and that small in terms of scale and size, I still do not get bored of it. While some people may consider it to be a bit long, I think it’s better for being that long in the first place instead of just a quick 5 – 10 minute duel.

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13 Assassins soundtrack (composed by Kôji Endô) is really enjoyable. It’s in a parallel style and look to the period its set in and feels similar to the themes and soundtrack of other classic samurai films. Some points give a serious note, while others are more moments of reflection. Scenes such as the construction of Ochiai into a trap, Naritsugu’s Entourage, preparing for the attack on Ochiai and the Samurai preparing to leave offer varying forms of music for different perspectives in those kinds of situation. Even the end credits continue to deliver a serious note but also provide a great score for the film to end on. All be it though, silence in certain scenes such as during the battle at the end off another perspective, therefore allowing the severity of the situation to come to light more.

Some pieces in the soundtrack I feel are a bit samey as each other, but the soundtrack really becomes its own thing when it wants too. It’s as if the soundtrack comes to life and demands attention to both the scene and itself when it wants that attention. No other piece in the soundtrack does this better than Juu. Juu is used in several occasions of high-octane action. The Samurai leaving for Ochiai, the beginning of the battle and Hirayama’s battlefield. It is by far the piece I have enjoyed the most and even listen to it when not watching the film. It really hypes up the speed, tension and is a great way to start those scenes but does no end abruptly instead continuing down it’s path until it is not needed anymore. It’s also quite dark in mood and helps to deliver the scene in the right way.

I absolutely love this film, no doubt about it. 13 Assassins tells a great story of people stepping out of the fold to deal with a terrible issue that if unresolved could mean complete and total chaos for their nation. It’s a story of unsung heroes and the monstrosities that humans can so easily become. It has great, brilliant and enjoyable characters. It features one of a kind scenes from start to finish encompassing action and drama as well as the odd moment of sheer shock horror. It boasters amazing special effects and a terrific soundtrack, all wrapped up together in a beautifully tied bundle by one of the most prolific directors to date. While there are points of weirdness in the cast, without them, it just wouldn’t be the same. Yes it’s a remake, but it’s better than most. Actually, No! It’s based/adapted/inspired from a previous piece of work, but it stands completely on and by its own merit. 13 Assassins could have just been another imported DVD film for a spot in the World Cinema section of most DVD shops, but it wasn’t. It was released outside its home nation for everyone to enjoy. Yes, not everyone will like this film. It is violent and has some truly shocking, possibly more horrible, atrocious scenes that could make some people cautious, but I stick my neck out for this film. I really do, it is a terrific film that I continue to recommend to this day. One of my favorite films to date, and will probably remain to be on my top 10 for a long time to come. I can’t stress how amazing enough this film is. 13 Assassins, at least to me, is absolutely Fantastic.

GENEPOOL








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