Lady Sazen and the Drenched Shallow Sword

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“Depth perception? It’s vastly over-rated…”

A sequel to One-Eyed One-Armed Swordswoman, this stands more than well enough on its own merits, with an interesting and complex storyline and engaging characters. As a young girl, Lady Sazen (Ohkusu) lost both an arm and her eye to the devilish Lord Daizen-dayu, who coveted the titular sword owned by her father. Sazen barely escaped with it and her life, and is now a wandering swordswoman, roaming the countryside. She saves a girl being chased by some thugs, and it turns out that she knows all the inside dirt on a corrupt priest, and he won’t stop until she has been silenced. Meanwhile, Daizen-dayu hasn’t given up on the sword, and has hired another samurai to get it from Sazen, bu any means necessary.

Dating from the end of the sixties, this is rather more restrained in terms of arterial spray than the genre would become in a few years, with Lone Wolf. But there’s still a brisk efficiency here, with Sazen needing no more than two strokes to finish off almost any opponent. It actually took me some time – well past her first fight – to realize she only was supposed to have one arm. I thought the whole “taking the scabbard off with her teeth” was a stylistic choice, not a necessity caused by a shortage of limbs; really, the term “disabled” was never less appropriate. Ohkusu is a very good heroine, smart and kind, yet absolutely ruthless when necessary.

However, it’s probably the plot that’s the strongest element in this, with the two main threads kept moving forward independently, until they finally cross over, for the final, blood-drenched reel. There’s twists and turns, with setbacks for both sides, and the political intrigue and corruption proves as tricky an opponent for Sazen as a pack of sword-wielding henchmen. Many of these films I’ve seen find it difficult to strike a balance between the dramatic and action elements, usually falling on one side or other. That isn’t the case here, and the result here comfortably kicks the arse of, say, either Lady Snowblood movie, and is among the best examples of period female chanbara I’ve seen.

Dir: Kimiyoshi Yasuda
Star: Michiyo Ohkusu
a.k.a. Lefty Fencer

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