Editor’s Note: Today we launch a brand new column called Pixel to Projector, by Dustin Hucks. It’s our way of staying at the center of where video games and film meet. For more, check out the Pixel to Projector homepage.
The five hundred year old Meikyokan Dojo, teaching the disciplines of Master Narukagami Shinto, is hidden within a large modern city; a secret society of assassins knows as Kage reside within. Utsusemi, an honorable swordsman, loses his position as leader of the dojo to the skilled fighter Hanzaki, in a fierce battle. Hanzaki gained respect as the head of Kage, until his discovery of the cursed sword Yugiri. He began to change; disregarding the honor and traditions held by the assassins and the students of the ancient dojo.
One day, a Kage escapes the confines of the dojo with its secrets. Several members of the society are sent to dispatch the defector…on penalty of death.
One of my all-time favorite original PlayStation titles, Bushido Blade was an exceedingly unique offering. The actual gameplay diverted from the norm in that battles could end immediately depending on the skill and timing of your opponent. There were no health meters, special attacks, or super powers. It was your blade against that of your foe; and it was brutal. A particularly strong blow could break an arm, forcing an opponent with a two-handed weapon to adjust to using one. If you were really good, you could break your opponent down slowly – taking out an arm, a leg…then another, until your buddy was reduced to rolling around on the ground impotently swinging his naginata at your feet. Also, double instant kills –badass. My favorite thing about two player-mode was that, if both of you were Bushido Blade masters, the game became more about deflecting blows and expert parries than it did wildly swinging steel at each other and hoping for the best. The combat became a chess match, both of you trying to read what the other would do next and attempting to think a move ahead. It made winning a battle that much more satisfying.
Gameplay aside, I loved that the story existed independent of my participating. I liked that I wasn’t always privy to the conversation; that some of these characters had long, intertwined pasts that resulted in cut-scene dialogue that was not tied to whether or not I knew what was going on. There was a feeling of history throughout the entire game, and it added weight to the combat and surroundings.
On that, Bushido Blade had beautiful scenery in which to attempt the impaling of your friends. Bamboo thickets, cherry blossom groves, sprawling castle ruins; the landscape was a treat for the eyes (considering the time, of course), and could play as much a part in your fight strategy as the weapon you chose. It could even cause damage if you didn’t respect it.
What it needs to make it filmworthy
Not much, honestly. Past fleshing out the major characters, the story base is already relatively strong, save for the distraction of a random member of Kage escaping the dojo. The story is really about the battle between the good and honorable that is Utsusemi, and the evil and tarnished that is Hanzaki. Most of the remaining characters simply choose sides. An easy as pie adjustment gives us our film:
Master Shinto entrusts his strongest pupil with the care of the cursed sword Yugiri, their superior character and strength giving them the ability to safely wield it. There is an annual tournament for this honor. Hanzaki, repeatedly beaten by Utsusemi, devises a way to cheat his way to victory. He succeeds, the sword further corrupts him – there is a conflict when the truth is revealed to Master Shinto. Hanzaki defeats the ancient master, and escapes with his loyal students to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting world. Utsusemi pursues with his own pupils; the stage is set for epic sword-swinging goodness.
Find a way to keep the ‘on penalty of death’ part of their pursuit and keep the most interesting assassins from outside the fold to add an extra layer of drama, and you’re golden.
Click over to the next page to see who should be involved in a Bushido Blade film adaptation…
I wanted to hate going for an obvious name in this, but when I thought about powerful dialogue, the gruesome gout-of-blood action that Bushido Blade demands, and an ability to seamlessly bring backstory to the fore without distraction, I could think of nobody better than Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino has repeatedly and masterfully dropped theatergoers into the middle of stories, immediately slathering on suspense and making us want to know what’s going on – and does so with some of the sharpest dialogue in the film industry. Bushido Blade is stuffed with unique, and sometimes eccentric characters; and who does eccentric better than Quentin Tarantino? His offerings are not only beautifully written, but fantastically filmed. Also, holy sh*@…the music. This is modern day Japan with a feudal flavor; period music, a little off-the-wall J-Pop, and some ‘70s funk thrown in just because he can – Tarantino soundtracks are as much an event as the films themselves.
There are twelve characters in the game, not counting Master Narukagami Shinto, who never sees screen time on the console; this will clearly change. In most cases, I’d say that thirteen active characters would be too much, but with Tarantino onboard, you know as well as I that each and every student under his or her master is going to have a story, and it will be told. That said, I’m still going to concentrate on the most significant characters to the story, and a fun extra just because.
Beat Takeshi as Master Narukagami Shinto: I’ve only had the pleasure of seeing Takeshi in the spectacular Zat?ichi, a 2003 release that won the Silver Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival, but that’s really all I need to make my pick. While it would be great to see his character fleshed out, the majority of the film would likely see little of him, which is almost a good thing. Tidbits of Beat Takeshi throughout the movie would be a real treat. He has the acting and action chops to breathe life into the ancient but spry Master Shinto, that was only a footnote in the game.
Ken Watanabe as Utsusemi: Watanabe has made his mark as a villain at times, but the most memorable moments in his career so far as I’m concerned are his turns as Katsumoto in The Last Samurai and the Chairman in Memoirs of a Geisha. Watanabe is an incredibly strong actor and does amazing things with emotional nuance. I see Utsusemi as a character that is proud, but shamed for being outdone – even if his defeat was by dubious means. He played Katsumoto as wise and brash all at the same time in The Last Samurai, with a strong sense of honor. His addition to the cast would be grade-A awesome.
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Hanzaki: Seriously, who didn’t think I was going to go here? Tagawa plays a supremely bad dude, almost schmaltzing it up at times, which is exactly what Tarantino likes to give us doses of in his films. His Shang Tsung was a blast in Mortal Kombat, he was over-the-top evil as Yakuza boss Yoshida in the awful (see: awesome) Showdown in Little Tokyo, but is still capable of the acting range that gave him notice in the states via The Last Emperor.
Scarlett Johansson as Red Shadow: Who best to play the busty, blue eyed, blonde haired pupil of Utsusemi than Johansson? While she has yet to blow me away performance-wise in anything I’ve seen her in, she’s far from a bad actress, and after her ass-kicking scenes in Iron Man 2 as Black Widow, she has my vote. Her entire aim in the game is to beat her master to Hanzaki, and defeat him. The relationship between Utsusemi and Red Shadow would almost certainly be turned into a romantic one, which would be fine by me – because romance in Tarantino films generally ends in tragedy. Drama is fun.
Val Kilmer as Schuvaltz Katze: Katze is a hitman, his services bought by Hanzaki to stop those that pursue him. He’s eccentric, remorseless, deadly, and the only character in the game that uses a sidearm. Val Kilmer plays his kooks with sly wit, and the more unbalanced — the better his performance. Granted, he’d have to stop double-fisting sticks of butter and hit the gym, but I think Val could pull it off.
Will it be made
This is a ship that was never built, much less had already sailed. Bushido Blade was a fun title back in ’97, but it didn’t get the acknowledgement it deserved, and awful sequels made certain that the series would fade into console oblivion. Still, you can download the game on the PlayStation Network for your PS3. Feel free to imagine Scarlett Johansson running around with a sword in revealing ancient Japanese period dress after doing so.
Chances of box office success
Are you kidding? It’s Tarantino, with implements of death, a tale of honor and revenge, and hot chicks. He’d barely have to make an effort for this film to pack cinemas. Box office gold, baby.