"Age of Samurai: Battle for Japan" is a new exciting film on Netflix that tells the history of Japan's Warring States period (16th century) from division to unification. The plot focuses on the rise of the "Three Great Daimyo" of Japan: Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu.
Although many people criticize this series for neglecting many historical facts, what can you expect from a six-episode mini-series? At most, it can be seen as a simplified mini historical drama of Japan's Warring States period.
From my viewing experience, I would give it an 8 out of 10. The fast-paced rhythm, well-balanced plot, acting, and visual effects are all above average.
I didn't expect it to be highly respectful of history, nor did I expect it to depict a comprehensive picture of Japan's Warring States period. While watching, it fully stimulated my desire to explore that era. I compared the plot with Wikipedia, and most of the events are historically based, indicating that the screenwriters did put in effort.
This series reminded me of the book "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword," so after watching it, I picked up the book again and found that it also explained many "puzzling" plots in the series.
For example, "seppuku," the unique form of suicide. Japanese samurai often chose to commit seppuku when defeated in battle, which appears extremely painful to outsiders but is considered honorable in their eyes. In the series, seppuku is performed by one person, but it is known that actual seppuku generally requires a second person to decapitate the individual in pain.
One of the well-known seppuku incidents in modern times is the failed coup by the writer Yukio Mishima. Interestingly, as the second person, Masakatsu Morita failed to decapitate Mishima several times, and Mishima, in unbearable pain, even attempted to bite his own tongue. It was only when Hara-kiri Hōjō successfully took over that it was accomplished.
Similarly, the Japanese have a contradictory coexistence of loyalty and betrayal that is difficult to fathom. When describing the Japanese, the phrase "they..., but..." is often used to express this contradiction. "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword" describes how the Japanese are particularly sensitive to the opinions of others. One's guilt comes from their own criminal actions, while "shame" comes from the opinions of others, with the former often being overlooked. This also explains why many Japanese soldiers during the Second Sino-Japanese War would choose to join the enemy camp after being captured, as they believed that being captured meant losing honor and their days as Japanese were over. This was quite common during the war.
Furthermore, the Japanese believe that "spirit is superior to material," and this applies to all aspects of life, especially in times of war. They believe that under harsh conditions, one's willpower can overcome the scarcity of resources to a certain extent. The strategies of not surrendering and the Kamikaze squad are concrete manifestations of this belief. In modern society, many Japanese employees work intensively, which also reflects this deep-rooted understanding in their national character.