Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in the Land of Demons

Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in the Land of Demons ★★★½

Lone Wolf and Cub 5!

Misumi is back to direct this film, and I did very much appreciate the return to the beautiful nature-filled scenes as Itto and Daigoro travel and are accosted by the five assassins who both test him and offer progressive fifths of a contract. (Cue the crazy death sequence of the guy who delivers his portion of the story while both bleeding out AND on fire.) And then there is the sword mistress Shiranui who delivers a second contract and is probably the least-misused female character in the series.

I really liked how this installment got a bit more into the spirituality of the time period (Itto hesitates to kill the Abbot while the latter is meditating, only to take him out in spectacular fashion later) as well as the politics (the second contract exists to remove a daimyo lord who negates the inheritance of his legitimate son by stating that his illegitimate daughter is his only son). The final fight sequence is spectacular, without the other-worldly ninja skills, so it's just Itto and his sword versus about 25 other guys and then he returns to his role of Executioner with perfection.

Could have done without the "Daigoro keeps his promise to a pickpock and gets flogged" scene, which to a 21st century audience is very uncomfortable, but I suppose goes toward Itto's philosophy of how he and his son walk through the world.