Japan’s oldest motion picture studio, Nikkatsu (Nippon KatsudÅ Shashin), which incidently gave Akira Kurosawa his start, produced- “Plains Wanderer” in 1960. Daisogen no wataridori is film number five in the nine-episode “Wandering Guitar” series, where idol Akira Kobayashi is Taki, a wandering symbol of justice across Hokkaido for the oppressed. Taki is equipped with all the accoutrements for righting the wrongs of society: a pistol, a trusty steed, a black fringed leather outfit and crimson scarf.
As the quintessential lawman without a home, Taki finds himself in the domain of the Ainu people (the indigenous people of Japan), coming to their rescue against a diabolical land baron named, Kodo (Nobuo Kaneko), who has machinations of taking over the ancestral lands for his own evil and avaricious designs. It’s an inevitable battle between nature versus manifest destiny and Taki defends the tiny community which welcomed him.
The story takes a quick spin when it is discovered that the young lad, Nobuo (Toshio Egi), who rides with Taki is none other than Kodo’s lover, Kazue’s (Yoko Minamida) child who was cast away by her. Taki makes a solemn promise to unite the son with his mother and in the interim, plays surrogate father to the determined boy.
Antagonistic toward Taki, are Kodo’s gang of miscreants, one in particular is Masa (Jo Shishido), who is a veritable thorn in Taki’s side. Sometimes foe, sometimes friend, Masa plays his cards against Taki and proves to be a worthy adversary. The two play off each other and provide several humorous moments which make the film light hearted and tongue in cheek fun.
Across the vast expanse of terrain of Hokkaido provides a picturesque backdrop of the film. The film has all the rudimentary elements of the American Western and characters are likeable and sometimes innocent to malevolent outside forces. A hero enters and serves as a catalyst for change. Taki takes control of the situation (with his two fists) in order to attain balance again and as always, the hero strides off into the sunset (with some musical accompaniment).
Plains Wanderer was released for the first time in the US with new digital subtitles at the Japan Society in New York City.
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Weak: 1 Star Average: 2 Stars Good: 3 Stars Very Good: 4 Stars Excellent: 5 Stars