Musashi Miyamoto 2: Duel at Devil's Mask Pass (1962)
Directed by Tomu Uchida

Musashi Miyamoto 2: Duel at Devil's Mask Pass
Miyamoto Musashi: Hannyazaka no ketto
Starring Kinnosuke Nakamura (Musashi), Wakaba Irie (Otsu), Isao Kimura (Matahachi), Rentaro Mikuni (Takuan), Satomi Oka (Akemi), Michiyo Kogure (Oko), Chieko Naniwa (Osugi), Kenji Susukida (Master Sekishushai), Mitsuru Takeuchi (Jotaro), Shinjiro Ebara (Seijuro Yoshioka)
Screenplay by Naoyuki Suzuki and Tomu Uchida

Toei Company, 110 minutes
Color, 2.35:1 scope
English-subtitled DVD: AnimEigo
(Part of the Miyamoto Musashi Set of 5 Discs)

Musashi Miyamoto 2: Duel at Devil's Mask Pass resumes the story with Tokezo's "rebirth" into the world after his three years of confined learning. As in Inagaki's Samurai I, he receives the new name of Musashi Miyamoto and bids farewell to Otsu before leaving on his journey of enlightenment. Plus we find Akemi, Oko and Matahachi haging out with the sleazy Seijuro Yoshioka and his cronies in the pleasure districts of Gion.

Uchida's version begin to deviate to its own course when Musashi whoops up on the Yoshioka dojo in search of a duel with Seijuro. When the Yoshioka goons decide to ambush Musashi, he escapes before they can spring their attack. Inagaki wrung all kinds of drama out of the Yoshioka ambushes a series of epic fight scenes, but that's the end of it here. Musashi gets a stain on his reputation for running like a coward, but it doesn't seem to distress him. Young Jotaro is introduced ragging on Musashi for being weak, rather than idolizing him from the outset. When asked by a Yoshioka cohort why he ran, Musashi simply says with a smile, "Military strategy."

Instead of immediately pursuing the Yoshioka business further, Musashi decides to travel to Nara for a new learning opportunity not featured in the Inagaki trilogy. He sends Jotaro to carry two messages: one to the Yoshioka school that he will return to Gojo Bridge at the first of the new year to have a duel, and also a word to Matahachi that he'll be back then, since his old friend has tried to contact him. When Jotaro can't find Matahachi, Akemi agrees to pass along the message, but we'll find out later she never does so. On his way to Nara to meet up with his master, Jotaro runs into Otsu, and they along with a friendly samurai named Shoda become traveling companions. Somehow Otsu and Jotaro avoid the realization that he's heading to meet the same guy she's searching for.

In Nara, Musashi seeks out the Hozoin priests to learn their famous spear technique. He spars with the mighty priest Agon and accidentally kills him with a single blow. Afterwards Musashi meets the priest Nikkan who advises him that he is too strong. These are key events from Samurai II and Samurai III, here presented in a much different form and sequence. Here Nikkan's criticism of Musashi is fleshed out much more deeply through an added episode: before they met, Musashi had strangely leapt over Nikkan while crossing through his vegetable garden. When Nikkan asks why he behaved this way, Musashi says he sensed a threatening energy coming from Nikkan and felt the need to slip past him evasively. Nikkan laughs and says the menacing tension he felt was Musashi's own aggression being reflected back at him. Anyone else passing by would have seen a harmless old man hoeing his crops. Musashi was frightened by his own shadow and jumped over it.

And the priests aren't done confounding him yet. Left to mull over his defeat when he felt he had won, Musashi next has to deal with some lowlife ronin who've been terrorizing the local townspeople. Three of them come to praise his impressive "victory" over the Hozoin priests and he tells them to get lost. Just as he's getting ready to leave town, Musashi is warned that a huge assortment of priests and ronin are lying in wait to attack him. Someone has posted fake signs insulting the Hozoin priests signed by Musashi and now it looks like they've come for payback.

But it turns out the priests aren't after Musashi at all – it's just a ruse for them to round up the worst of the ronin troublemakers, under the pretense of going after Musashi, so the priests can turn on them an "clean up" the town. The plan works brilliantly, but Musashi is confused and offended to find himself manipulated in such a way. To be continued...

The Jidai-Geki Knights