When we’d last seen Meiko Kaji’s Lady Snowblood, she was passed out face down in the snow at the end of a climactic battle. Any worries or reports of her demise have been greatly exaggerated, as this film starts off with her already in the midst of a battle, as she walks toward the camera cooly dispatching one enemy after another.
It turns out that she’s in a pitched battle with the police, who soon prove to be too much for her. She’s arrested, tried and sentenced to hang. However, she’s rescued by the head of the Secret Police, Seishiro Kikui (Shin Kishida, who is kind of like the Japanese Christopher Lee, as he appeared in the Hammer-inspired Chi o Suu vampire movies).
He wants her to spy on the anarchist Ransui Tokunaga, who owns a document. that is crucial to the government’s stability. If Lady Snowblood can deliver that document, she’ll be given full immunity and allowed to disappear.
Snowblood acts as a maid, infiltrating the home of Ransui and looking for that document. However, she begins to question why she’s there. It also turns out that her target knows who she is and still trusts her, asking if she will deliver that crucial document to his brother Shusuke (Yoshio Harada, Stray Cat Rock: Beat ’71).
Despite being shot numerous times by the police and falling off a bridge, Snowblood survives to bring that document — which details how the Secret Police and the government rose to power based on lies — to Shusuke.
Ransui is captured and tortured by the police as Snowblood heals from her wounds in the slums of Samegabashi, a lawless land where the police refuse to venture. She asks Shusuke why he doesn’t save her brother, just as his wife comes and begs for help. Yet he still refuses.
Even healing from her wounds, Snowblood remains deadly. With one throw of a knife, she chases off a spy that had been watching her every move. Meanwhile, Shusuke explains how he is different from his brother. While Ransui wanted to change the world with the document, he’ll only use it to gain wealth and power.
While the spy soon escapes, despite being tortured, Ransui isn’t so lucky. He barely makes it back to Samegabashi, more dead than alive. That’s because the Secret Police injected him with the plague, using him as a weapon against the slum and anyone in it. Shusuke nails his brother into a building to die, warning Snowblood to not try to save him.
The police and Ransui’s wife takes one of their eyes before being killed. Her body is set ablaze and sent out to see as we see the need for revenge growing within Snowblood all over again.
The Japanese dialogue refers to Lady Snowblood as an asura, a Buddhist demigod who becomes obsessed with its desires, whether that be for wealth, knowledge or — in the case of our heroine — bloody violence. Its thirst for whatever it craves can only be slaked by death. As Snowblood stands on the gallows earlier in this film, she’s already accepted death: after all, the only reason she was only born was to serve as the instrument that would finally gain her mother’s revenge.
Seeing as how the original film really was to end with her death, this second film feels superfluous. It’s less about the action and more about political intrigue, though there are some great battles at the start and end of the film. And I love the visual of the man Lady Snowblood kills at the beginning, as he falls into the water and stains it with his neon blood as she kneels and drinks.
Back to the plot — it’s revealed that Shusuke once dated Ransui’s wife and she was the only thing that kept him alive in the midst of war. When he made it home, his brother had married her, so he cut himself off.
Snowblood goes directly into the lair of the Secret Police and tries to make a deal, which they laugh at. However, she uses her only iron will and the threat of the plague to turn the tables. But they still intend to burn the slums to erase their enemies and the document.
The police make their move on Snowblood, who quickly rises back to her deadly promise, wiping them out one by one. She finds Shusuke, who tells her that everyone in the village has been burned to ashes.
The remaining Secret Police, mostly just Seishiro Kikui, are confronted by a half-dead Shusuke and Snowblood, who appears to rise like a vengeful demon behind him. She quickly slices the arm off the first person who attacks them and as the rest of the police battle up the steps, she descends, tearing them to pieces, just as she did the men at the start of the film.
The battle through the Shinto shrine is exactly what I wanted to see from the very start of this movie. Despite Kikui shooting them numerous times, he’s impaled and a bloody Snowblood soon slices him, sending arcing sprays of blood everywhere.
Somehow, she can shrug off being shot, but Shusuke isn’t as lucky. He begs for her to kill him, which she does with little show of emotion. Water flows from the cut of her sword as he dies. Snowblood is framed by the flags of Japan and the bodies of her enemies as the film closes.
While this isn’t anywhere near the delirious violence of the original, it’s not a bad film. It just will never compare, but that’s an impossible task.
You can get this movie on the Criterion set of both Lady Snowblood films from Diabolik DVD.