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So, you're Akira Kurosawa, and you've made a pretty successful movie, Yojimbo. You had a good star, Toshiro Mifune, in a role that he was born to play. Your story was so good that it'd later get swiped wholesale by Sergio Leone. And Disneyland hasn't opened in Japan yet. So what do you do? Well, a sequel, obviously. But what kind of a sequel?
Clearly, since Yojimbo was a dark, serious adventure featuring a lone man manipulating two criminal organizations into mutual self-destruction, Sanjuro, the sequel, needs to be that same character with not just one, or two, or even three wacky sidekicks, but ten, plus a character who misses out on the whole New York Jewish Mother stereotype only by being Japanese. Oh, and it's, the ending aside, a comedy.
All that said, it's still Akira Kurosawa, so it's a pretty damn good movie regardless.
Sanjuro provides examples of:
- Character Development: Some of the Sidekick!Samurais actually have a change of perspective throughout the course of the movie.
- As does Sanjuro himself due to the old lady's metaphor of how "a good sword stays in its scabbard."
- Enforced Method Acting: The blood spurt at the end was going to be smaller and subtler but the nozzle malfunctioned and shot out a giant burst. The actor was legitimately hurt but still stayed in character and finished the shot. Kurosawa felt so bad he didn't ask for a retake which is shockingly rare for him.
- Have You Told Anyone Else?: Why the Sidekicks at the beginning of the movie are cluelessly waiting for the villain's agents to arrive and murder them. Fortunately for them, their chatter wakes Sanjuro up and he decides to save their silly asses.
- Heel Face Turn: The guard they capture at Mutsuta's mansion has one of these and becomes quite nice. He even points out that Yamyoji Temple has no upper floor, a flaw in the final plan that was overlooked.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Didn't Sanjuro already kill this guy?
- Hey, it's Kanji Watanabe and that author guy from Ikiru! On opposite sides!
- High-Pressure Blood: Muroto at the very end.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Tsubaki Sanjuro, natch.
- Lighter and Softer:
- Manly Tears: Sanjuro is moved to tears after he is forced to kill Muroto in a duel.
- Particularly, Sanjuro was looking forward to avoiding all unnecessary use of his sword like the old lady said. Circumstances spurned him otherwise, however.
- Not So Different: Muroto and Sanjuro.
- One-Man Army: Sanjuro, of course.
- Reverse Grip: It's how Sanjuro wins the Single-Stroke Battle.
- Single-Stroke Battle
- Spanner in the Works: Hilariously, the Sidekicks screw up Sanjuro's plan to infiltrate the enemy.
- Too Dumb to Live: Those Sidekicks wouldn't last 10 seconds without Sanjuro watching their back.
- Visual Pun: "We can't walk around like this. We look like a centipede."
- Worthy Opponent: Sanjuro considers Muroto to be one.
- Xanatos Speed Chess: Their plan to rescue the Chamberlain quickly goes awry, but Sanjuro shows mastery of Magnificent Bastardy by exercising this trope.
- Yamato Nadeshiko: Mutsuta's wife embodies this trope.