The film The Last Samurai is now considered a cinematic masterpiece. This film brings together 3 cardinal elements:
- a well-crafted scenario
- excellent actors (including Tom Cruise)
- an unknown and fascinating historical context
Some of you may wonder whether the events described actually happened…
Here is our objective opinion on the film, under the prism of the historical reality of the facts!
A quick overview of the film’s history
We are immersed in the 19th century in a Japan in full modernization. The Last Samurai tells us the story of a Japanese rebellion that really happened.
However, the director did not hesitate to embellish the film with more fanciful elements…
We follow a character named Nathan Algren, a member of the U.S. Army. The latter’s mission is to fight the rebels scattered throughout the country. During a confrontation with a group of samurais, Nathan fights with all his strength but cannot resist against the number of his enemies.
However, his valour challenges Katsumoto, a rebellious samurai. The latter takes care of him andwelcomes him in his home. He will then teach him the traditions and customs of the samurai. Nathan will then go through a whole bunch of events that will change his vision of the conflict.
True elements of the movie The Last Samurai
Even if the film seems very realistic, the director did not hesitate to embellish the true story of the last samurai for the big screen. Nevertheless, it is based on a true story.
Real main characters
1. Jules Brunet:
The character played by Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai is based on the true story of a French soldier who was sent to Japan. It is inspired by the story of Jules Brunet, who deserted his army to join the samurai camp in the Boshin War.
Another real element, Jules Brunet had indeed already fought in the American Civil War and the American Indian Wars. He also distinguished himself during the Franco-Mexican War, which earned him the rank of general.
2. Saigô Takamori:
The samurai of the film, Katsumoto Moritsugu, is inspired by the famous Saigô Takamori. Saigô had also experienced a similar journey to Jules. He had indeed fought for the imperial forces and had even won the historic battle of Toba-Fushimi.
He later sided with the rebels, before dying on the battlefield at the Battle of Shiroyama. The Satsuma rebellion perished as a result of this battle.
The cast of The Last Samurai allows us to live the story in an interesting way. In this respect, he succeeded perfectly in making us live a taste of the Japanese culture of yesteryear.
Even if the story of the film follows the main lines of the historical facts, it totally reinvents the relationship between the two main characters. In general, the film adds many fictional elements:
1. For example, at the end of the film, Nathan stays with Katsumoto’s sister to live happily in Japan. Even if in reality, Jules Brunet left Japan shortly afterwards to return to France…
2. The Last Samurai deceives the viewer by its lack of nuance. The camps were not divided into “good and evil”. Lhe samurai rebellion was not only due to the desire to maintain a traditional Japan with strong values. The latter wanted to keep their privilege acquired by the status of samurai.
3. The samurai depicted in the film are provincials from small remote villages. In fact, they held important positions in Japanese society and worked to strengthen Japanese society.
4. The final battle as presented in the film takes us back to a unequal fight. You can see samurais running headlong into the guns of the opposing camp, bravely brandishing their katana. In fact, they were also fighting with modern weapons. We are far from the Dantesque duel between tradition and modernization as depicted in the movie The Last Samurai…
The death of the last samurai: the historical controversy
Concerning the death of the last true samurai, there is a debate:
1. For the samurai, it is the death of Saigô Takamori that puts an end to the samurai era as we know it.
2. For the purist historians, it is the death of Tôyama Mitsuru. The latter was part of the pure line of samurai. He died in 1944.
But the status of Tôyama is still debated… Although he is a direct descendant of samurai by blood, he has greatly distanced himself from the samurai culture.
3. Other people believe that The Last Samurai is a man named Tadataka Hayashi, a feudal samurai leader.
As you will have understood, the name of the last samurai is still much debated. On this occasion, the film decided to honor Saigô Takamori by declaring him the last samurai.
Does the film deserve its success?
It is a masterpiece of achievement that is a must-see. You’ll even want to see it again if you’re a fan of Japanese culture.
Despite some historical approximations, this does not detract from the quality of the film. You will discover a thrilling story, engaging characters and music that will transport you.
Moreover, the film retranscribes the way of life of the samurai. We discover their way of life, the landscapes of Japan and the Zen attitude so well known now.
The place of the katana in The Last Samurai
Throughout the film, the katana occupies a discreet but permanent place in the scenes. One can find there the close link that the samurais have with their sword. Nathan is given a katana through a very codified ritual that is well highlighted by the film.
⚔️ The katana is inseparable from the samurai. The film puts a little more emphasis on this aspect during the final battle. The protagonists rush into a desperate fight, with honor, brandishing their sword as an extension of their soul.
Where to find a katana like the one in the movie The Last Samurai?
The katana in the film are made in the traditional way. These are models forged in the purest tradition.
TheMeiji era is not the best period for Japanese sword making. The swords used by the samurai in the film are more in line with swords forged during the Golden Age.
Are you interested in owning a katana? Discover our katana store!
The story of the film is partly true. It tells the story of a Frenchman who was captured by samurais and fought for their cause. However, the story has been Americanized.
Just visit our online store. We offer katana made according to the Japanese tradition. We choose our models only from Japan!