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Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx

The saga continues with more action…

Ogami Itto continues to roam the streets with his son, Daigoro, who is now three years old. His reputation as an assassin for hire has grown, and this has brought him money, but the constant hunting by the Yagyu clan seems to have taken its toll upon him. The Kurokawa ninjas, who have fallen in with Shadow Yagyu follow his every move and report to Sayaka, head of Akari Yagyu, a clan consisting of female assassins. As the original Yagyu branch cannot attack Itto, due to the events of the first part, Akari is tasked with his killing, with the help of the Kurokawa ninjas. At the same time, Itto is hired by a clan who task him with killing a fugitive of theirs, who is about to reveal their secret indigo dye process to the shogunate. The Hidary brothers, three notorious fighters are accompanying the fugitive.

Kenji Misumi’s second entry in the series focuses on the exploitation and action elements, much more than the first film. The battles are almost constant, with the sequence in the road where different teams of female ninjas attack the two protagonists being a great sample of the tendency. The fact that the ones killed, always in very bloody fashion, are women, definitely moves towards exploitation. Furthermore, the film is much crueler, not only due to the aforementioned, but also because the enemies seem to have no remorse in directly attacking 3-year old Daigoro, while Itto uses him and his cart as a weapon. The scene where the infant kills a woman by thrusting a secret blade in her middle area synopsizes the aesthetics of the film. Nudity is not totally absent, but is definitely toned down in comparison with the first part, with the focus being on action.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDURqqlhAuE

However, the film retains some humanistic elements, as Itto is presented hurt and vulnerable for the first time, while, the more intense focus on Daigoro results in some almost heart-warming scenes, which tone down the exploitation a bit.

Three sequences highlight both the impressive action and the excellent production values: The one in the forest, the one in the burning ship, and the final one in the desert, where Itto faces the Hidary Brothers. These scenes are benefitted the most by Toshio Taniguchy’s editing, Chikashi Makiura’s cinematography and Eichi Kusumoto’s fight choreography. Particularly the last one in the desert is quite impressive from the beginning, when the three brothers kill enemies hiding in the sand, to their confrontation with Itto. This last part, and the one that follows the battle in the desert, also feature Hideaki Sakurai’s the most memorable music, with tracks filled with rapid percussion, that suit the action perfectly.

The acting is on the same high level with the previous film, with Tomisaburo Wakayama being great, once more, as Ogami Itto and Kayo Matsuo presenting a majestic villain as Sayaka, head of the female ninja clan. However, the one who steals the show is Akihiro Tomikawa as Daigoro, who gives an amazing, performance for someone so young (He was 4 years old at the time).

Baby Cart at Styx is a great entry in the saga and a film that fans of exploitation are bound to adore.

Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance is released as part of the Criterion Collection Lone Wolf and Cub Collector’s Box Set on UK Blu-ray, which includes all six films plus Shogun Assassin, a 1980 English-dubbed reedit of the first two films, and many other extras.

About the author

Panos KotzathanasisPanos Kotzathanasis Panos Kotzathanasis
Panos has been a fan of of Chinese kung fu and Japanese samurai movies since childhood, cultivating his love during his adolescence to extend to the whole of SE Asia. Currently he writes for a number of sites regarding Asian cinema and also does some content writing. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter. More »
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3 thoughts on “Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx

  1. John Marsh says:

    This one is my favorite of the short series. Been watching these since they emerged in the US way back when (Shogun Assassin introduced the series to most Americans, but the Koksai (in SF) showed chanbara films regularly. I got the series on VHS, the ‘enhanced S-VHS’, then DVD, then Blu Ray and now Critereon Blu Ray. (No, I’m not obcesssed with these !!) “Great entry” indeed.

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