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Post War Rules - 7

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Author's Note: So I know I normally do this at the end, but this chapter kind of ended up having a lot of exposition in it, so this is your fair warning. A lot of backstory has to get dropped, and frankly, I'm not sure how coherent it all is. So please please please criticize, and if there's anything I've made confusing let me know.
Caelesti sumus omnes semine oriundi.
The Singer didn’t want to sleep.
It was too unnerving to realize how in control her fellow Human was. That wasn’t how things were supposed to be. One man, especially a man in her opinion, shouldn’t have so much power. Most unnerving was that he was a man very comfortable with violence and surrounded himself with those proficient in it.
These Viribus held themselves with an unmistakable dignity, and she hoped that meant they would treat her with something resembling honor. Turin’eh, the smaller of the three Viribus, had been nothing but polite. But that had been at the General’s orders.
No. Better to be cautious around a man who chooses a new name for war.
The room Turin’eh had shown her to was spartan, but the door locked from the inside, and a tiny green plant sat near a screen. She could switch the display to any number of scenes as if it were a window. Eventually, she settled on a relaxing night time view of a terrestrial city. The screen played the sound of gentle rain that she found soothing.
The bed was simple, and like all things in space, made from artificial materials – the usual plastics around a metal frame. But more comfortable than the cots that the Singer had recruited when she could before – when it wasn’t just a corner behind the pipes.
“... all that remains is to decipher the etchings,” the Singer heard from the hall outside. It was the voice of that chubby looking insect thing. She thought she remembered the General calling them Arnarxx.
“Very good. Try to get me something by morning,” the Singer heard the General say.
The Singer’s breath caught in her throat, and she moved as quietly to the door as she could. When she pressed her ear against it, she could hear the General’s footsteps.
“Yes, sir,” Arnarxx replied obediently. “But I should warn you that even with the new servers, it will take time. Five dimensions increase the complexity by a power of-“
“I’m aware, Arnarxx,” the General sighed, cutting them off. “The time we have is growing short. Just give me your best work. I’m trusting you with this. Now go on,” he said softly.
The Singer once again found her mental image of the General put into question. Brettn had made the General sound like a heartless monster who would stop at nothing to gain power. But monsters didn’t encourage their underlings or speak with such respect to the people who were supposed to be beneath them. Perhaps the General was more complicated than she realized, or more devious.
She waited for Arnarxx’s staccato steps to disappear into the stairwell at the other end of the hall and quietly edged open her door. She peeked out into the darkened hallway and spotted the General’s well-made shoes as they stepped into a room at the end. When the Singer didn’t hear any more footsteps, she left the safety of her doorway and walked silently to the General’s door.
He hadn’t closed it all the way, and she dared to look through the crack. His bedroom was no less spartan than her own, save for a wardrobe in place of a chest at the foot of the bed. She watched as he pulled off his jacket, and then began to unbutton his shirt.
His back was a mosaic of scar tissue. Long, ragged stripes from a whip or cane, maybe a hundred in all, covered the length. And raking claw marks overlapped puckered puncture wounds. But oddly, there were spaces along his spine that were untouched by scars: metal disks emerged from his spine, and flawless flesh surrounded them without a single sign of surgery. It was as if they were a natural feature of his body, but so unlike how anything organic should look.
And so very like the ones grafted to the Singer’s spine.
A vast, blue-furred hand reached around her and silently eased the door shut. She couldn’t stop the gasp that escaped her as she whipped around to find the most massive of the Viribus looming over her.
“Is it not rude,” the Viribus rumbled, “to watch from the shadows?”
“Yes,” the Singer stammered, abashed. “I suppose it is.”
“If sleep escapes you, would you like some tea?” the Viribus asked, their four eyes boring down into her.
“Best not,” the General’s voice came from the other side of the door. The door slid open, and the General spoke to the Singer with his shirt hanging from his belt. “If you let her get talking, Sheh’teh will fill your head with stories about God and Angels. It’ll only confuse you further.” The General stood close to her now, blocking the door with his body and giving her a pointed look.
“Did you evangelize them or something?” she asked, desperate to draw her attention away from his chest – and convince herself she hadn’t been staring.
The General grinned. “No. I never put much stock in the Good Book,” he chuckled. “They’re monk warriors.”
“Poet Warriors,” Sheh’teh corrected from over the Singer’s shoulders. “Tasked with the protection of the Temple of Life.”
“And you have a noble and beautiful culture built around that, but the truth is somewhat less fanciful,” the General insisted. He turned back to the Singer with a sigh of exhaustion. “If you truly can’t wait until morning, then I’ll meet you in the workshop upstairs. Just let the talking deer sleep,” he said as he backed into his bedroom and slid the door completely shut.
“I will lead you,” Sheh’teh said as she turned away from the door, no small feat for someone with such a long body in such a narrow hallway. Sheh’teh flowed down the hall and up the stairs at the other end silently, and the Singer followed.
The third floor of the General’s office was split down the middle, with only one door on either side of the hallway. Sheh’teh slipped into one of the rooms and held the door open by way of invitation.
As she entered, the Singer heard the sound of sharpening steel and the click-clacking of pedipalps on keyboard keys. Inside the “workshop,” the two other Viribus and the flabby arachnid worked diligently among a boggling collection of tools, armor, and weapons.
The General had not been exaggerating when he said he was preparing for war. He’d collected enough arms and armor to supply a small garrison – everything from plate armor to Kevlar vests, anything between sets of actual swords and light machine guns. A collection of machines lined one workspace dedicated to packing rows and rows of ammunition. A lathe sat silently, and a fume hood waited near a cold forge.
The soft arachnid, Arnarxx, sat at a set of computer terminals, with a rats nest of wires leading into an equally unruly mess of electrical components. Turin’eh sat beside the other, somewhat larger Viribus. Turin’eh was constructing arrows for a bow thicker than the Singer’s arm. The other one was carefully sharpening a set of four swords.
The Viribus paused as the Singer and Sheh’teh entered the room, Arnarxx didn’t look up from their work.
Sheh’teh leaned down to speak to the Singer. “I apologize if this question seems odd, but understand it comes from a place of ignorance, not insult: You are female, yes?” she asked.
The Singer once again felt blood rush to her face, but she tried not to take offense. She realized the reason for the question: The Singer had no idea how to tell the Viribus apart except by size, and they’d only met the one Human. She didn’t understand the need for the information, but she nodded, and that was enough for the Viribus.
“Good, then follow,” Sheh’teh said with the best approximation of a smile her long face could make. “That means we don’t need to bother with all these,” she waved dismissively at the other two Viribus and their weapons, “phallic things.” She used another hand to take the Singer’s and guided her to the collection of armor pieces.
“In our culture, the women do not use weapons,” Sheh’teh explained as she began selecting a string of ribbons and ceramic plates. “Instead, we teach that a woman’s body is her weapon. All a woman needs to fight is the proper application of force,” Sheh’teh said as she took both of the Singer’s hands with all four of hers and slowly wrapped her wrists with the ceramic plates and ribbons.
The ribbon, the Singer realized, was made from Kevlar. The wrap around her wrist and between her fingers would brace her hands against impact. And for some reason, she was confident she could turn a blade with the ceramic plates woven against her palms and the back of her hands. The thought came unbidden, and she felt in her arms that they would know how to move.
“A bit of armor helps, though,” Sheh’teh said with a satisfied nod. “It seems our hands are the same size,” she said, pressing one of her secondary hands against the Singers. She had two thumb-like fingers on each side of her hands, but otherwise, the palms were nearly the same size. “Tomorrow, I show you how to use them,” she said as she knitted their fingers together and gave the Singer a gentle squeeze.
The General was barefoot when he joined them. He’d traded the suit for something that closely resembled the clothing the Viribus wore; colorful, simple, and made from real wool. He carried a pile of folders and documents balanced in his arms, and he was quick to deposit them on a nearby workspace.
The General turned to the Singer. “What is your first question?”
The Singer hesitated, taken aback by being handed control of the conversation. She’d expected to have to argue for a chance to speak, and now she realized she hadn’t prepared her thoughts. So, she asked the first thing that came to mind: “Where are we from, if not Earth?”
The General began rummaging through his files. “We stole these during our escape from Laetus-“
“Laetus,” the Viribus chanted, cutting the General off.
“Home of the Viribus,” the General finished with an exasperated sigh as he spread out a set of photographs for the Singer. He pushed a thick document toward her and pointed to a figure on its first page. “The Viribus and I came from here, and so did you.”
The Singer took the stack of plastic sheets and scrutinized them. Perhaps the General was wrong. Humans came from Earth, that was a fact. Wasn’t it?
The figure described a set of planets belonging to a solar system around a star with a long unreadable designation and the name Atta. She could immediately see that he was correct. There were only six planets in the Atta system and only one giant, but the Sol system had nine, including four giants. Laetus was the second planet from its star and had three minuscule moons, Earth was the third planet and had only one massive moon. Laetus also had unique planetary characteristics, with a rotation that lasted longer than its orbit did, and in a direction opposite to most of the others in the system.
That star couldn’t be Sol, and Laetus couldn’t possibly be Earth.
“And before you ask. We – that is, Humans – came to Laetus on this,” the General said as he laid out another document.
This document had a satellite photograph, and the Singer stared at it in total disbelief. Buried in blue-green leaves of a forest that could rival the Amazon was a golden pyramid. The faces were a golden color but faded with lines and spots of darker color, something the Singer might expect if panels covered its surface, and some were missing.
“The sides have got to be ... kilometers long,” she said as she leaned over to examine the photograph.
“Nine kilometers to a side, and five-point six kilometers above the forest floor. And more structures pierce deep below the surface. No one has ever explored them all, but masters of The Way have theorized that it may reach to the blood of Laetus,” Sheh’teh said proudly.
“The mantle,” the General clarified. “It probably uses geothermal energy for most of its power generation.”
“Uses it?” the Singer said incredulously. “This thing’s so big it probably could have started the planet’s volcanoes from scratch!” she sputtered as her mind boggled with the scale. “There wasn’t anything like this on Earth.”
The General paused at that and narrowed his eyes in thought. “An interesting thought,” he said under his breath. “But you’re right, I’m certain we built it and sent it to Laetus,” he said as he laid down another set of photographs.
The picture showed a great hall, which in the darkness seemed to stretch into infinity. Monolithic pillars split the wide thoroughfare and disappeared into the darkness above. Streams of water fell down the center of the hall and gathered into a shallow stream that reflected the flash of the camera. What little of the fractal wall that she could see formed mosaics that only seemed to become coherent so long as she didn’t look at them.
And lining the walls like Greek pillars, were coffins as far as the eye could see. Glass coffins resting on pedestals up several steps – which she realized now were coils of thick wire – leaned away from the center of the hall. It changed what the Singer thought might be a Temple into a Tomb.
In the center of the photograph, stood an Imperial Vyrăis Officer – his armor stained with blood. He looked into the camera with that intense and angry glare all Vyrăis seemed to share. He pointed with one hand up toward the nearest coffin as if in the middle of giving commands.
“The loremasters of The Way say your bodies have been in these Sepulchers for hundreds of years, and that the Temple had existed since long before anyone was around to record it,” Sheh’teh explained as she pushed one of the photographs toward the Singer. “These are the Sepulchers, where your people have slept since before history began,” Sheh’teh said.
“Since before time,” the other Viribus chanted in response.
The photograph was a closer capture of one of the coffins – or Sepulcher, rather. Hidden projectors cast glowing text on the surface of the Sepulcher. They displayed numbers and codes, none of which she could recognize – but there was no mistaking the Roman Alphabet as alien text.
Inside the Sepulcher, she saw herself. Her body floated in a cloudy fluid, and her hair spread into a dark halo around her head. Wires and cables snaked out of the murky liquid and wrapped her in an artificial umbilicus. It was like she’d laid down to sleep only moments before. She looked so at peace.
But the Singer felt an icy finger of dread trace down her spine as she realized the thing in the Sepulcher wasn’t alive. It was a husk waiting for a mind – a soul. She didn’t know how she could tell. It was like staring at a wax figurine. It was too still. Too perfect to be real.
“What is this?” the Singer asked in horror.
The pictures only continued to fill her with dread as she realized many were of the sites of the battle between the Viribus Poet Warriors and the Imperial Vyrăis Soldiers. Toppled candles and torches, and woven mats soaked with dark blood. One was simply a picture of mounds of corpses, some of them only a fraction of the size of Sheh’teh – children. There had been children in the Temple when the Empire had attacked.
“It makes sense when you consider the limits of travel between stars,” the General continued. “Not even the Empire, which spans hundreds of star systems, has ever managed to travel faster than light. It’s a safe bet to guess that we didn’t either. So instead, we send a huge spaceship to colonize on its own and clone the settlers once it arrives,” he explained.
He pointed over his shoulder at the disks she’d seen running down his spine. The metal disks that didn’t have any surgical scars around them, as if they’d been grown in place. The same ones that the Singer knew she had on her own back.
“But what about the memories?” the Singer asked. “I remember my school, my friends, my family,” she protested, even as the words felt hollow in her mouth. The memories were there, yes, although she knew she’d never actually met those people. Just like how the Singer knew the name she remembered wasn’t hers.
“I’m no neurologist, but whatever let them grow our bodies in that place must also allow it to write memories into our minds,” the General said calmly, and she knew by the look in his eyes that he’d struggled with the same realization.
“Then,” the Singer stuttered. Her mind rebelled at the idea.
How could they be fake memories? She remembered her boyfriend. And the break up that had torn her heart to shreds. She remembered her friends that had helped her get over it and let her feel happy again. She remembered her parents. She remembered loving them, and worse, she’d spent years missing them so much it hurt. “But if that’s fake- That means that I’m not- I’m not-“
“No!” the General barked and slammed his fist into the countertop. The Singer jumped, jarred from the spiral of negative emotions. “Don’t say that! Don’t let yourself think it,” he ordered and marched around the table and grabbed her shoulders with a sturdy grip when she tried to back away. “We’re real,” the General said with conviction. His hands squeezed her shoulders to emphasize his point.
She grabbed hold of him without thinking, though whether it was to hang onto him or to push him away, she wasn’t sure anymore. Her fingernails dug bleeding furrows into his arms. But he didn’t let go, he just held onto her and said: “Those memories don’t make us. It’s what we do now that we’re here that matters most, okay?
“Think about what all this means. The Temple, whatever it is, has been there for hundreds or maybe thousands of years. And it probably took even longer than that to get it there. We may be all that’s left of Humanity: an all or nothing bet against something we couldn’t fight. But that’s not what matters right now; not only are our people in trouble, so are theirs,” he explained with a glance toward the Viribus. The aliens stared at them in concern, but they didn’t intervene.
His words drew her away from the panic with purpose. Terrible purpose, she realized, because she knew that left only one option that she could dare to accept. And she decided.
“Okay,” she said, forcing herself to let go of his arms. “I’ll do it.” The General looked surprised for the first time since she’d met him. She was surprised to find that genuine emotion cemented it into her mind: he was real, and so was she. “I’ll go to war with you,” she clarified.
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~`~,{@ @}`~,~
Also, I will be posting this story on RoyalRoad.com as well, so look for it there. Don't worry, I won't stop posting here.
submitted by DehLeprechaun to HFY


The Crimson Bat, Blind Swordswoman Series

This article is illustrated with a lot of film stills. If you would like to see the illustrated version click here.
The Crimson Bat Series is based on a manga character created by Teruo Tanashita. There are four films in all. The first two were directed by Teiji Matsuda. The second two by Hirokazu Ichimura. Unfortunately, they are very difficult to find. The films in order are entitled:
Crimson Bat: The Blind Swordswoman (1969)
Trapped, the Crimson Bat/The Blind Swordswoman: Hellish Skin (1969)
Watch Out, Crimson Bat! (1969)
Crimson Bat - Oichi: Wanted, Dead or Alive (1970)
Crimson Bat, Blind Swordswoman
Crimson Bat, Blind Swordswoman is an amazing melange of movie styles and tropes blended with epic scale cinematography and melodrama. It has the gory hyperbole of Lone Wolf and Cub, the swagger of a Sergio Leone spaghetti western, the trappings of a Zatoichi film, and the artifice of films like The Ballad of Narayama and Kwaidan.
The plot and the sequence of scenes are difficult to follow. The story is a byzantine tangle that is meant to tie up neatly in the end but is too confusing to truly be coherent. Its failings as a narrative are of little consequence considering the visual feast that is laid before the viewer eg. A scene where our heroine Oichi so forcefully slices a man with her scarlet, sword cane that he flies into the air and ends up draped over a tree branch raining down a torrent of blood like a red beaded curtain in front of our heroine who stands stoic but triumphant against a darkening sky.
There are many posed moments where the screen becomes a dramatic tableau. There is a burst of violence and then everything stops while we wait for the shocked victims to fall from their frozen poses into bloody heaps on the ground.
The references to Zatuichi and Leone are very likely deliberate. A parody of Zatoichi even makes a cameo in one scene. A group of guards is running through the streets in pursuit of Oichi when they crash into a blind, masseuse, stumbling drunkenly through the street with a cane. One of the guards yells “Get out of here you blind masseuse!” For the uninitiated Zatoichi was a very popular chanbara (swordplay movie) series about a blind masseuse with a sword-cane.
As for Leone’s influence, it is apparent throughout the film. There are one-on-one showdowns on windswept planes and tense face-offs in gritty gambling parlors, but it is Leone’s partner in crime Ennio Morricone that really leaves his mark. The soundtrack to Crimson Bat, Blind Swordswoman is spectacular. Like the film, it is an eclectic mix of styles. The majority of the music is played on a sitar, tabla, and a flute. The sitar plays long sustained chords, and the tabla punctuates them with sparse clusters of tones. Above this thoroughly Indian sound floats the pentatonic, lyricism of Japanese flute music. It's odd but it works seamlessly. There are also moments when the soundtrack moves into a more Western mode with an orchestra but at the forefront is a grimy, acid, electric guitar that prowls along like an angry cat.
In addition to the chanbara story arc, Crimson Bat adds a combination of the female revenge film with the much older story of the scorned and pitiful women damned to a life of bitter sadness.
Both tropes have the potential to address feminist issues but in many films from the 60s and 70s, the entertainment is emphasized over content. The revenge plot is often used as an excuse to show an eroticized rape scene followed by a gory revenge scene. They weren’t about power, or injustice, they were just titillation masquerading as something substantive. There are some notable exceptions, and Crimson Bat, Blind Swordswoman is one of them. There is no eroticized violence against women in it. The one rape that does occur happens off-screen.
The life of the main character, Oichi, is a life of an outcast, as is typical of all good western-type hero’s, but part of her outsider status is due to her being a woman. She’s not a morally ambiguous gunslinger or a misunderstood fugitive, she is a woman who has never been recognized or valued by society. Her parents abandoned her, she is unmarried, and she is without rank or employment.
In the ideology of the American western, the gunslinger is a buffer between the good people of the farm or the prairie and the bad elements that need to be kept at bay. The innocence of the settlers is kept pristine while the gunslinger does the dirty, immoral, but noble job, of killing the bad guys. The gunslinger must remain an outsider because he is essentially antisocial and cannot be part of the community.
Oichi plays this role but she was forced into it by a society that does not respect or value women. Like the victims of society that she defends she too has been wronged, she too suffers at the hands of the greedy and unscrupulous. Unlike Clint Eastwood, she displays her pain and expresses her sympathy for the wronged. She is not a cold, steely, killer with a swagger and a cigarette but she is just as deadly.
Aside from the western trope, Oichi also represents the older figure of the wronged woman. There are many such figures in Japanese history and mythology. Such a woman is a symbol of the pain that societal obligation brings. Japan’s strict code of conduct and rigid hierarchy of position is the driving force in many of the country’s tales and tragedies. The woman wronged by the heartless man of high position, the couple torn apart by duty, the family turned against itself by tradition, all highlight the misery caused by Japanese society, while often refraining from actually challenging it.
Oichi is a woman society can not accommodate and so she must suffer on its margins. She can not rise up and overturn society, she stays in the shadows and fights smaller battles. She advocates for those like her who have been placed in an impossible position by a system that has no use for them. There are hundreds of Japanese stories and legends of wronged women who are fated to suffer. In addition, there is a never-ending supply of tragic ghost stories where women who have endured injustice in life come back as vengeful demons, like Oiwa, Ubume, or Banchō Sarayashiki.
Crimson Bat, Blind Swordswoman may have been an attempt by Shochiku studios to compete with Daiei Film studio’s Zatoichi, but it is also one among many movies from the 1960s and 70s that feature women as vengeful outcasts, such as the Female Prisoner Scorpion series, Sex And Fury, Ohyaku: The Female Demon, Blind Woman’s Curse, and The Red Peony Gambler series.
The early 70s was a time when modern feminism first began to take shape. The blending of the trapped victim with the vengeful anti-hero emerged as a popular idea. The same trend was taking place in America with films like I Spit On Your Grave, Ms. 45, and Last House on The Left. Japan’s blend included a second layer, that of the past and the future. By setting many of these films in the Edo period they speak not only about the status women but the history of how that status was created and maintained.
Crimson Bat: Trapped
The second Crimson Bat film is entitled Crimson Bat: Trapped. It came out the same year as its predecessor and was also directed by Sadatsugu Matsuda. It is in line with Crimson Bat: Swordswoman in that it draws heavily from both westerns and chanbara. However, Trapped is a more emotional film. Oichi is further developed as a character and we see her inner conflict brought to the fore.
Oichi feels as if she is so tainted by the sins she has committed that she is damned to a life of dishonor and exile. She believes that there is no turning back from the path she has chosen. She will have to keep traveling from town to town her entire life and work as a lonely bounty hunter unfit for society.
She however meets up with an earnest and sincere fisherman, who loves her and accepts her even after finding out what she does for a living. They have several emotional exchanges and Oichi begins to let her guard down. His unconditional love helps to open her up to true intimacy.
Her open heart allows us to see the true nature of the price she has paid for both hardening and hating herself. Clint Eastwood never experienced awakenings such as this. The second half of Trapped begins to feel a little more like a noir film. We have a heroine who wants to leave the dirt and sin of the streets but the streets will not let her escape. As Michael Corleone said in God Father 3 “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!” Hence the title “Trapped”
Oichi’s antagonist is Oen, a woman who has given herself over to the life of criminality, manipulation, and cruelty. To Oen, Oichi’s inner conflict is simply a weakness. Oen’s weapon of choice is her whip. She explains its nature to one of her victims and provides just a small window into her own motivations. “This [the whip] is made from women’s hair. Once it curls around you, you can’t get away. The hate of jilted women is woven into it.”
Oen is again a nod to the vengeance trope and women’s desire to finally be in the dominant position.
As the film progresses it becomes more stylized and operatic. The emotions become melodramatic and everything is brought to a grandiose climax. The final bloodbath happens in a sun-scorched, rocky, ravine but as it progresses it becomes increasingly more stylized. By the end, it is taking place in front of a rear projection screen rippling with waves of light while all else is dark. Eventually, the editing is reduced down to a quickfire montage of film stills and blood splatter.
Watch Out, Crimson Bat!
The third film, Watch Out, Crimson Bat! Was directed by Hirokazu Ichimura. Unfortunately, Ichimura does not do a very good job at all. The cinematography and compositions are far less baroque and are instead ordinary, utilitarian arrangements with the action in the middle and the key light on the subject. The theatricality and artifice are gone, and we are left with something far less creative.
In all four of the films, the plots are somewhat standard. They follow a spaghetti western structure. There is also some of John Ford’s sensibility in that there is a lot of sympathy paid to the honorable farmers trying to hold on to the simple and pure ways of the ordinary man, while the cattle rancher, railroad tycoon, or oil Barron tries to force modern capitalism down their collective throats.
All of these tropes are fine, but without some style, or originality they just feel flat and routine. Watch Out, Crimson Bat! Adds nothing to Oichi’s character or development. The film simply coasts on the momentum of what came before it. We take for granted that Oichi will side with the meek. We know she will earn people’s admiration but she will make no friends. We know she will walk off into the distance alone.
Both the second and third films have a lot of similarities to George Stevens’ 1953 western, Shane. There is the same hired gun who comes to kill our hero. There is the same limited role that our antihero is willing to play. In Watch Out, Crimson Bat! The ending includes Oichi exiting the film on a long dusty road while a young girl calls after her in vain.
The sitar and acid guitar are gone. They are replaced with a more conventional orchestra. The garish sound stage backdrops are gone and the bright pops of color and deep contrast of shadows are gone as well. It doesn’t live up to its predecessors and on its own its ordinary at best.
Crimson Bat - Oichi: Wanted, Dead or Alive
It is immediately apparent that the fourth movie, Crimson Bat - Oichi: Wanted, Dead or Alive is much better than Watch Out, Crimson Bat!. The opening music begins with that same acid guitar from the earlier movies, nasty and distorted. Then it is joined by a western-style classical flute. Then both instruments are replaced by an accordion. It's strange, unexpected, instrumentation that bodes well for a creative journey.
After the first fight scene is over we are treated to a brief but properly cinematic scenario. We see a wanted poster and then a crowd around it gossiping over the reward. A classic trope, but then we cut to a man on a horse swinging a kama (sickle) on a chain. He comes charging through and just as you think he is going to attack the defenseless villagers he whips the chain around the post with the wanted sign, rips the entire signpost out of the ground, and rides off with it. Now, that is a cinematic way to grab a flyer.
Then the familiar elements are set up. This time its the magistrate who plays the heavy. He wants to install a new port to promote big business and needs the local fisherman to clear out. Besides this central conflict, we have the continued tension provided by Oichi being a fugitive from justice. The poster from earlier was of her. Without her doing anything she already has a motley clutch of bounty hunters in hot pursuit, but of course, she gets embroiled in the central plot between the fishermen and the magistrate as well.
The film returns to a more personal arena that was lost in Trapped. Oichi continues to struggle with her desire to escape her outsider status and settle down, but the theme is expanded by several insightful depictions of supporting characters around her. The salient theme that emerges is characters finding their purpose. Its reminiscent of the Bhagavad Gita in that an individual’s purpose is not entirely within one’s control, and it may lead to tragedy, but the fulfillment of that purpose is the only correct path. The morality of your choices is secondary to being who you are supposed to be.
The fight choreography in the first two films was mannered and dramatic. Realism was traded in for arresting poses and gestures. The choreography in the third film was poor. The moves were unconvincing, undramatic and the blood was badly applied. This last film manages better fight scenes. We get a fight in a thunderstorm, and a fight in the middle of a fire. The moves are not perfectly believable but they are much better.
One of the most important features in any fight scenes is the number of edits. In Psycho, Hitchcock had 52 edits in his shower scene, but it was not a fight scene. It was a one-sided murder where we were meant to be as confused, disoriented, and terrified as the victim. The more edits you have the more control you have, but breaking a fight scene into tiny bits can completely destroy the action.
What made the Hong Kong, Kung Fu films so amazing was their sparse editing. The actors weren’t just actors. They were trained experts in kung fu who could really go at it. All the camera had to do was follow them. Hong Kong films were notorious for getting actors hurt but the result was a compelling and visually engrossing fight scene.
None of the actors in Crimson Bat - Oichi: Wanted, Dead or Alive were trained swordsmen, although they most likely had teachers and consultants. The fight scenes may not have been that believable but they weren’t edited to death and so successfully generated tension.
Oichi meets many men in her travels, and each movie features a dutiful samurai contrasted against a mercenary samurai. Often both samurai start off as Oichi’s enemy. Then halfway through the film, after a few fights, the dutiful samurai recognizes Oichi’s strength of character and superior sword skills and warms to her. The samurai’s honor and sense of duty allow him to align himself with her. In Crimson Bat - Oichi: Wanted, Dead or Alive the good-hearted samurai is named Sankuro, although I like to think of him as Mr. Eyebrows. He’s a hunky guy and fierce with a sword but has a soft heart under his kimono. He is also a bit of a philosopher and helps flesh out some of the themes in the film.
Here is a dialogue between him and Oichi. Oishi reproaches the samurai for not following his true path of being a doctor and helping people. Sankuro answers, “What have you become by helping men? You’ve become a fugitive. Are you satisfied with that? Are you happy as a woman?” Starring off into the distance Oishi Answers, “I don’t know. I don’t aspire to such great deeds as helping people. But there are people who are bullied and trod on.” I’ve been bullied too.” The scene and the dialogue are reminiscent of Henry Fonda in The Grapes of Wrath. An admiration for the laborer and a disdain for their oppressor permeate both films.
Oishi continues but sounds more like a noir detective again, “Someone tries to kill me, my sword comes out by itself. I feel warm blood on my skin. I hear a thud when the body falls. After that, I feel nothing.”Sankuro and Oishi embrace and continue talking and then Oishi calls out, “Don’t, Don’t hold me. No man who loves me can be happy.” It's a familiar melodrama but when its well played and in the right context it is still compelling. The whole scene is set to the vibrating chords of an accordion.
All four films have an air of self-awareness. They draw from familiar sources and invigorate those sources not only with a switch of gender but with a unique combination of elements. Its a familiar recipe but with different proportions and different techniques. The result is something new and unexpected.
submitted by Boop108 to TrueFilm