Bushi no Ichibun (Love and Honor)

Titled “Warrior’s Honor” in Japanese but marketed as Love and Honor in North America, this film is set during the Edo period and centers on a low-level samurai named Shinnojo. Shinnojo chafes at his assignment as a food-taster for the local feudal lord, and dreams of opening a kendo dojo. Just as he’s starting to make plans to quit, Shinnojo is poisoned by an out-of-season shellfish and spends three days unconscious with a high fever. He finds himself blind upon awakening, and though he initially tries to hide it from his wife Kayo, he can’t keep up the pretense for very long. He considers suicide, but his faithful servant Tokuhei has hidden his sword.

Once Shinnojo’s extended family finds out, they immediately summon Kayo to a meeting and demand to know how the couple will continue to support themselves. At a loss, Kayo remembers a high-ranking samurai named Shimada had offered his aid. The family insists she take him up on his offer, though Kayo is uncomfortable with it. Shimada promises to arrange for Shinnojo’s yearly stipend of rice to remain the same, and forces himself on Kayo. He also blackmails Kayo into visiting him three more times, during which she’s seen by Shinnojo’s aunt. Shinnojo has Tokuhei follow her to confirm the aunt’s report, but Kayo confesses before the servant is forced to tell his master.

Shinnojo angrily divorces Kayo and sends her away, making plans to get revenge on Shimada. He visits an old swordfighting teacher to practice, punching several holes in the shoji in the process. He also discovers that Shimada actually had nothing to do with the decision to maintain his yearly stipend; their lord had ordered it maintained as his duty to his loyal vassal. Tokuhei is sent to Shimada with the message not to underestimate him even though he’s blind, and the two arrange to battle it out near the river.

This movie does not fall prey to the trope that a blind person–especially one newly blind–can use supersonic hearing to determine his opponent’s position and stance in battle. Shinnojo struggles initially, and first blood goes to Shimada. But Shinnojo doesn’t need a clean cut or an elegant move to win; he gets in close enough, thrusts the pointy end in Shimada’s general direction, and messily hacks off part of his arm. Shimada crawls home, arm dragging behind him, to commit suicide at the shame of being bested by a blind man.

Shinnojo has his revenge, but without Kayo his life is empty and his house is in disarray. Tokuhei asks for permission to hire a girl to do the cooking, and quietly brings in Kayo. Shinnojo recognizes the familiar flavors of her cooking, and calls for her to be brought to him. Now reconciled to his blindness, Shinnojo apologies to Kayo, and the two are reconciled as well.

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