Noble Tasuke: A World in Danger (1958)
Directed by Tadashi Sawashima

Noble Tasuke A World in Danger
Edo no Meibutusu Otoko: Isshin Tasuke
Starring Kinnosuke Nakamura (Tasuke/Shogun Iemitsu Tokugawa), Ryunosuke Tsukigata (Lord Okubo), Hitomi Nakahara (Naka), Eitaro Shindo (Lord Kawakatsu), Haruo Tanaka (Kokichi), Satomi Oka (Yoshie), Hiroko Sakuramachi (Otoyo), Shunji Sakai (Kinai), Isao Yamagata (Lord Izu), Kunio Kaga (Shogunate official), Sonosuke Sawamura

Toei Company, 90 minutes
Color, 2.35:1 scope ratio
English-subtitled DVD: Kurotokagi Gumi (TV broadcast quality)

The second film in Tadashi Sawashima's Isshin Tasuke series is all about the heroic fishmonger dealing with bad neighbors. Kawakatsu, the lord living next door to Tasuke's patron Lord Okubo, is plotting to seize Okubo's adjoining vacant lot to expand his own mansion. It also happens that the greedy Kawakatsu has also taken a chambermaid named Otoyo to be his concubine against his will. Tasuke befriends Otoyo's inconsolable finance, Kokichi, and resolves to liberate his captive love by enlisting the sympathies of Lord Okubo.

The other disruptive neighbor in the story is Yoshie, a lively young lady who moves into Tasuke's tenements. She is starstruck with the handsome town celebrity and wants to get to know him better, much to the chagrin of Tasuke's jealous betrothed, Naka. Sawashima employs some fresh storytelling techniques to unfold the entertaining details of how the characters deal with their predicaments. Naka pleads with Lord Okubo for advice, while Tasuke explains to Yoshie why he is unavailable. The conversations are cross-cut with linking strands in a style now commonplace, but unusual in a Toei jidai-geki movie.

The big comedic set-piece of A World in Danger comes when Lord Okubo crashes Kawakatsu's formal moon-viewing banquet. With his typical "don't give a damn" attitude toward social niceties, Okubo chastises Kawakatsu over his unwilling concubine and generally makes an ass out of him in front of his elder official guests. Then Okubo calls out for Tasuke to start the "music" over in his own courtyard. Okubu's servants and a crew from the fish market commence to banging on drums and pots and blowing conch horns to raise an awful clamor, completely ruining Kawakatsu's serene gathering. Sawashima uses huge sets to actually show the two parties happening side-by-side with panning crane shots making the spectacle even funnier.

Lord Okubo's disrespect gets turned against him as a pretense for Kawakatsu to appeal to the Shogun to have the coveted vacant lot confiscated. Reluctantly, Iemitsu agrees to the ruling against his trusted old advisor. Tasuke fights tooth and nail against Kawakatsu's men when they attempt to start construction on the lot, but Okubo intervenes. He intends to accept the orders of his Shogun without complaint or hesitation. When Tasuke calls him a coward, Okubo casts out the fishmonger and bids him never to return. In the end, it's troubles faced by Otoyo and Kokichi that force the lord and servant to reconsider.

The giri/ninjo dynamic between Okubo and Tasuke is what elevates A World in Danger above the average popcorn movie. Both men are deeply committed to serving their masters, and Tasuke's loyalty prevents him from understanding how Okubo is driven to bow to the Shogun's will. For their performances Kinnosuke Nakamura and Ryunosuke Tsukigata won Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor at the 1958 Asian-Pacific Film Festival. Strong supporting turns from the always reliable Haruo Tanaka and Satomi Oka contribute to making this a real highlight in Tadashi Sawashima's body of work.

The Jidai-Geki Knights