THE TWILIGHT SAMURAI
Write short answers (a few sentences each) to the following 7 questions:
- In what ways does Tomoe San challenge the traditional 1850s Japanese role of women? Can you refer to specific scenes in the film, where she refuses to conform?
- Seibei san is ironically ordered by the clan to kill Zenemon Yogo (master of the watch) by “twilight tomorrow.” What facts and reasoning do the clan leaders give in justifying the choice of Seibei san as the clan samurai that should serve as Zenemon san’s executioner?
- Sometime around 1915, Takamatsu Sensei (the 33rd Soke of our art and teacher of my mentor, Hatsumi Soke) lived alone for two years in the Japanese wilderness. There, he lived isolated, in a small abandoned hut among wild animals. He ate only what he could gather from the land. It was during this time that he practiced and perfected his martial training. In Japan, this is a practice that is commonly documented in the histories of old-school martial arts adepts. In the second half of the film Seibei san makes the following statement in response to the clan leader’s lethal demand: “A serious fight, the killing of a man….requires animal ferocity and calm disregard for one’s own life.” “I have lost the desire to wield a sword.” After reflection, he then adds: to prepare for such a dual one must spend “Perhaps a month alone with the beasts in the hills.”
a) What is Seibei san seeking to convey to the clan leaders with these statements?
b) What does he explain to the clan leaders related to why he is not ready to fight Zenemon san?
c) May he refuse the clan leaders request to kill Zenemon Yogo? Explain your answer.
d) Seibei san eventually agrees to kill Zenemon Yogo. How does he justify his actions to himself? What does he focus upon to bring needed resolve to his task? How does his love for Tomoe san and his family change his outlook?
The final dual sequence is complex and nuanced. The sword choreography is unusual and not typical of classic, samurai films. The conflict has a rhythm consistent with life, suffering, death and rebirth.
4. Which tactic(s) and strategy(ies) that were explained in our course did Seibei san employ to survive the duel with Zenemon san? Were his actions consistent with Bujinkan principles?
5. Zenemon san is armed with a full-sized sword (katana). What happened to Seibei san’s katana? Why did Seibei use only his short sword in the final fight with Zenemon san?
6. What Bujinkan principles did the final dual illustrate?
The Twilight Samurai
Tomoe subverts the gender norms of Japan in the 1850s in several significant ways. She
is shown as a confident, self-reliant lady who is not shy about advocating for what she thinks is
right. By freely voicing her ideas and rejecting to be regarded as a subordinate, she defies gender
norms. She actively engages in the conversation, even declining to serve tea to the guys on one
occasion. In another scenario, even though the clan elders have already decided to go to combat,
she publicly disagrees with Seibei’s choice. These moments show how she defies societal
expectations of women and men at the time.
The clan chiefs say Seibei is a worthy samurai since he has previously shown himself in
combat against Zenemon. They further emphasize that Seibei is a warrior of honor and loyalty
who will devote himself to the clan’s needs…<Solution>
CDN (n.d). The Twilight Samurai.