Move over, Zatoichi, here comes Azumi! Don’t be fooled by the ultra-short skirt, knee-high boots, and flowing black cape. Behind the angelic façade and streaming locks, gleams a sword-killing machine who doesn’t think twice before setting on a bloody rampage. Tarantino’s Bride wouldn’t stand a chance. Sequestered at a young age on a remote island, Azumi and nine other children have grown into robust teenag- ers having perfected the fine art of the Japanese sword. However, before sending them out into the world to perform the task they’d trained so long for, their master has one final test: they must kill each other. Shocked yet unable to disobey direct orders, Azumi and her friends brandish their swords at each other. What follows echoes the horror and despair reminiscent of Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale. With Azumi leading the way, the few survivors must fulfill their assigned mission: to hunt down and eliminate a list of mercenaries and warlords so that proper peace may be restored.
Azumi is filled with sumptuously choreographed swordfight sequences. And yes, the blood will flow. Yet, director Ryuhei Kitamura goes beyond the usual conventions of Japanese sword films. Through the character of Azumi, Kitamura offers a portrait of a complex and deeply wounded young girl torn between what she’s been taught and what she truly believes. Will she follow her heart and hang up her sword, or will she remain the ruthless assassin she has been trained to become?