Media Blasters // 1990 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Joel Pearce (Retired) // May 17th, 2006
"When you're dealing with someone's life, you only get one chance to do it right." -- Baian
Since I just reviewed the first volume of Baian the Assassin about a week ago, I find myself with little new to say about the series this time around. It has started to grow on me though, as I hoped it would after my original mixed review.
As the series continues, the plot has settled into a comfortable routine. In each episode, Baian is approached by his motojime (boss), who hires him to take on an important and potentially dangerous mission. Baian reluctantly accepts, and begins to research the target. He quickly confirms that the target is, indeed, dangerous, then turns to his good friend Hikojiro who helps him devise the best way to do away with this horrible evildoer. There is generally another plot (usually a revenge plot), which comes to play a major role in the climax.
Like the first volume, this second installment of Baian the Assassin contains a mere two episodes. Last time around, that wasn't a problem, since they were close to feature length. This time, the episodes have settled into a much more manageable 45 minutes. But that means there's a lot less to watch. At the same time, the episodes included here are much better than the first two, a superior demonstration of the Baian the Assassin's real potential.
The big difference is the length of the episodes. The longer running time allowed the series' creators to stretch out the stories far too much. The stories this time around are just as rich and complex, but they are also much more concise. The first episode tells the story of a woman who is sorely wounded when she tries to avenge her daughter-in-law. It is a touching take on the overused revenge story, and it also takes the focus off of the two assassins for a while. The second story cuts to the heart of the assassins' code, and offers a deeper look into Baian's personality.
At first, it's a bit hard to get around the notion that assassins in feudal Japan are taking care of an important social function. We think of assassins as hardened killers, willing to do anyone in if the price is right. We would expect the story of Baian to show the paradox between the two parts of his life. As I watched the first disc, I thought that's what they were doing. Watching the second disc, I realized that it's more complicated than that. Baian isn't a healer and a killer: He simply heals society the same way that he heals his patients. As a doctor, he cures pain by applying acupuncture needles in the right place. As an assassin, he does ostensibly the same thing. He uses his needle, and applies it in the right place to ease the pain of society. Although he accepts that he will probably end up in hell for all of the murders he has committed, he sleeps well at night knowing that he is protecting the innocent. Clients who hire assassins for selfish reasons generally come to a bad end.
Technically, this disc is identical to the first volume. Baian the Assassin has been remastered well, and looks much better than many of its contemporaries. It sounds strong as well, and the subtitles are well translated. Like the first volume, no special features have been included here.
If you liked the first volume of Baian the Assassin, you will like the series even more as it continues. It has a nice rhythm, and the focus on social responsibility and character means that it has something different to offer in a crowded genre. Be aware that this is a drama, not an action series. Only offering two episodes on each disc is a bit suspect, so many people will be satisfied with a rental. These first two volumes of the series have been a nice diversion, but I can't see myself returning to them anytime soon.
Baian is free to carry on with his work, though Media Blasters gets a stiff fine for putting only two episodes on the disc.
Review content copyright © 2006 Joel Pearce; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Media Blasters
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1990
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* DVD Verdict Review of Volume One