Overly long but stately samurai epic, When the Last Sword is Drawn is based on an epic novel by Jiro Asada. At the centre of the story is Kanichiro Yoshimura (Kichi Nakai), a warrior steeped in the traditions of his forefathers but one who finds it difficult to make ends meet.
History is one thing, but it doesn't put food on the table for his wife and family, so when Yoshimura decides to leave the honourable brotherhood to work as a hired, ahem, sword for the Shinsen-gumi, his peers see it as an abject betrayal of their ways and centuries-held beliefs. Saito (Koichi Sato) is a particularly reckless member of the Shinsen-gumi and rarely misses an opportunity to provoke Yoshimura or get involved in a ruck.
However, as their respective destinies and the encroaching tide of modernisation changes the physical and moral landscape around them, Saito begins to realise that Kanichiro's forced rejection of his values is the very definition of honour.
Gorgeously filmed, the rather violent When the Last Sword is Drawn overstates its case a trifle and perhaps could have done with some loosening up. Still, even if director Yojiro Takita approaches the subject matter with a little too much reverence, there's a quiet dignity at the heart of When the Last Sword Falls that is impossible to dismiss. In other words, The Last Samurai, it ain't.