Higurashi no Ki

A rare Japanese film with grace, insight, subtle emotion and power

Writer-director Takashi Koizumi has gone on to a stellar career [After the Rain (2000), Best Wishes for Tomorrow (2008)] after his role as Akira Kurosawa’s assistant director for many of his later works and ended up making his unproduced scripts and hiring much of his team. It’s a good thing Koizumi is up to the gigantic task.

Higurashi no Ki is a samurai tale told without a false note, and with much quiet intensity. Danno (Junichi Okada) is a young, highly skilled samurai who is forced to scuffle with another of his rank on palace grounds. The punishment for such an infraction is death—but he is spared that fate by the magistrate. Instead, Danno must watch over Toda (Koji Yakusho), an older samurai writing a history of the province who has been ordered to commit seppuku in three years due to an alleged indiscretion.

When Danno goes to live with Toda and his wife (Mieko Harada), daughter (Maki Horikita) and son (Haruto Yoshida), he learns the man is truly a beacon of wisdom and justice, and has simply taken responsibility for a scandal so the province could save face. Danno attempts to clear Toda, sliding deeply into in palace politics, while falling in love with his daughter. It’s a rare Japanese film these days, realized with so much grace, insight and subtle emotion and power.

English title: A Samurai Chronicle (128 min.)