Review: Shogun Assassin 5-Film Collector's Set (Blu-ray)

AnimEigo brings the arterial synth spraying American cut releases of the infamous Lone Wolf & Cub series, Shogun Assassin and it's 4 sequels to a Blu-ray collector's set!

  • Director: Robert Houston
  • Starring: TomisaburĂ´ Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa
  • Year: 1980
  • Runtime: 425 Minutes
  • Company: AnimEigo
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Discs: 2 - 50GB
  • Video: 2.35:1 - 1080p - AVC
  • Audio: English LPCM 2.0 Mono, English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
  • Region: A
  • Released: 4/24/2012

Lone Wolf & Cub (itself an adaptation of a very popular manga) has influenced so many mediums, it's almost impossible to not have inadvertently or obliviously crossed paths with it. Whether it be from Quentin Tarantino's wink-wink homages in Kill Bill or GZA's sample heavy groundbreaking album "Liquid Swords", it's impact and importance reaches far and wide. Long before any of that though - during the heyday of the drive-in circuit, studios and producers were scouring for films they could acquire, recut and present to audiences across the country to turn a profit. By dubbing over the Japanese language with an English voice cast, combining the first two source films Lone Wolf & Cub: Sword of Vengeance & Baby Cart at the River Styx and radically editing them; Shogun Assassin was born.
Unchanged are the films iconic heroes - the master swordsman turned revenge fueled-ronin warrior Ogami & his young baby cart bound son Daigoro, who walk the long "road of hell" so that they may avenge the murder of his wife committed by ninja spies sent by the evil ruling Shogun. What follows is an 85 minute cinematic fury of arterial spraying & mind shattering sword play that will cripple you in amazement. You will witness blood viciously eject from bodies, heads gruesomely sliced in half and countless limbs swiftly detached. Shogun Assassin & it's re-edited sequels are a carousel of carnage all set against an explosive heart-beating synth score that furiously drives the film from one insane moment to the next.
While I dig the abridged mix-tape feel of Shogun Assassin & it's sequels, it's left me jonesing to experience the original Lone Wolf & Cub films in their native language to see how radically different they are. While these are readily available on DVD, it's been announced that AnimEgo is bringing Lone Wolf & Cub and it's 5 successors to Blu-ray later this year! This is without a doubt an exciting time to be a fan and newcomer to these cinematic ragers.

  • Video
Each included Shogun Assassin film is granted an 2.35:1 framed, 1080p high definition transfer that expectedly shows their decades old age at times, looks stunningly sharp and vividly colorful. Shogun Assassin is presented on a single BD disc while the remaining other films are each placed onto one 50gb BD disc. Now usually that latter bit of information would be a warning flag, tech wise. The average runtime for the sequels clock in around 90 minutes so the total is about 360 minutes - more than enough data room for a 50gb disc. Specks pop up throughout and the picture leans a tad on the softside in some instances but overall I must say these films really look exceptional in HD.
  • Audio
The first Shogun Assassin is the only film granted an LPCM mono track, while the remaining films are given a meager lossy Dolby Digital Mono. A bit of a bummer that the sequels are denied HD audio in favor of lossy tracks is disappointing and will turn in-the-know AV customers off. The LPCM track is nicely balanced and comes off with an aggressive range that really pumps out the dynamic soundtrack. As for the Dolby Digital Mono, these are sufficient mixes but really lefts more to be desired.

Bonus Features
  • Audio Commentary - Producer David Weisman, Illustrator Jim Evans, Voice Actor Gibran Evans
  • Audio Commentary - Film Scholar Ric Meyers & Martial Arts Expert Steve Watson
  • Interview - Samuel L. Jackson
Not only is Samuel L. Jackson a master badass, he's also a devoted Asian film enthusiast and a huge fan of Shogun Assassin and Lone Wolf & Cub. Jackson talks about how he discovered these films in $1 theaters back in the heyday on 42nd Street, where they'd run triple features all day. It's really cool to see Jackson geek out and show a great deal of respect for these films.
  • Trailer - Shogun Assassin, Shogun Assassin 4 & Shogun Assassin 5
HD trailers are included for 3 of the 5 films.
  • Restoration Gallery
This quick feature serves as a comparison between three different releases of Shogun Assassin, a bootleg and AnimEigo's DVD & BD discs. The difference between them all is night and day and shows AnimEigo's releases are truly top notch.
  • Program Notes
A text based feature that's filled with factoids regarding this releases and the history of Shogun Assassin. Definitely recommended for those who want to know all and everything about Shogun Assassin.
  • Cast and Credits
Another text based feature which translates all the film's Japanese credits into English, very useful if you're dying to know the unsung heroes involved behind-the-scenes.