The idea behind Kijinken Saki is to promote the culture and history of Japan and Samurai legends for the newer generation of Japanese children. Samurai drama has died down in the recent years, with more focus on newer graphics and technology enhancing the films of today. The production committee that founded the Institute of Kyoto wanted to bring back to life the history of their ancestors using traditional, low-budget strategies to promote the drama, made in the Kyoto Prefecture; not only to promote the legends and stories of Japan, but also to work on the reigonal development of Kyoto as well.
This screening is the first in the UK and we were lucky enough to be invited. We found our seats in the intimate cinema screen at the BFI headquarters and were introduced to the film Kijunken Saki (a.k.a. Magical Sword Saki) by Dr. Ono Hiroyaki who briefly spoke about the history of Japanese children’s’ films and the lack of Samurai film for the modern generation of children. He then passed it over to the director and main villain of the movie Marie who spoke about the reason behind why they wanted to bring back Samurai movies for children and teach them about Japanese legends. They took their seats, the lights dimmed and the movie beagn.
Kijinken Saki is a childrens Samurai fantasy adventure story set in Kyoto of the Warring States period in 17th Century Japan. The story is about the young woman protagonist Saki (KAZ) and her magical sword Kijinken, along with the help of her grandfather (Lee Murayama). Saki is on a journey to regain the souls of the ‘demon sword’ which are spread across the whole country in order to complete the sword to its full potential. Whilst on this journey Saki comes across a variety of monsters and demons, one of which follows her the entire way in an attempt to steal the Kijinken for herself. Saki must fight everything that gets in her way or tries to set her off her path.
Kijinken Saki is undeniably a film made specifically for children, and everything about the feature screams it. It gave me the nostalgic feelings of watching Mighty Morphing Power Rangers (1993) when I was a child as it has a very similar feel about it. From the over exaggerated characters, the slight humor balancing out the serious material paired with the old-fashioned and low-budget graphics. Though that is not a criticism. I found the feature thoroughly enjoyable, partly due to the nostalgic feelings it evoked, but also because of the fresh story and beautiful scenery.
The downsides to this feature to me aren’t major gripes but minor criticisms. The film felt as if it should have been either a two-part drama, or a television series. It did not have the fluidity of a movie and flowed more as if it was meant to re stopped and revisited, watched in separate sittings, or at least to have intro and credits to each part. If any of you have seen Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist (2014) and watched that in its entirety instead of as a series like it was intended to be; it had that same kind of atmosphere. However, it may be that this feature is intended to be watched in separate parts, and if so, I believe it works in its favor; particularly for the children viewers who could grow impatient watching a long film. The other downside was the ending. I felt as if it was rather abrupt and that I was robbed of continuing the journey with the cast, however, if the feature is intended as a series perhaps there could be more coming in the future.
I believe Kijinken Saki will receive polarising views, with audiences loving or hating it. If you have grown up loving the old-fashioned Power Ranger shows then it’s something you will love. It’s full of bright, colourful characters and costumes, cheesy graphics and fight scenes with a solid story with added humor to pull you through. However, if you hated those shows, then you wouldn’t like this either. It’s something I believe kids will thoroughly enjoy and it’s a brilliant way to teach or remind them about Japanese culture and legends past.