I was too hasty in drawing up my top ten of 2004, for I had not seen this film yet. When The Last Sword Is Drawn is a classic chambara (samurai sword-play) movie. It tells the complex story of a samurai, who unable to support his family on his meagre income as a school teacher and fencing master, turns his back on his clan and leaves to find work in Kyoto. Once in Kyoto he becomes embroiled in the battle between the declining Takagawa Shogunate and the Imperial Royal Family during the 19th century. Whilst the film does contain a lot of violence, it is used as a backdrop to the humanity of the main character and battles he faces between providing for his family and doing the honorable thing.
The plot is told through the recollections of others and finishes with the samurai's youngest daughter getting ready to leave Japan with her husband and set up a doctor's surgery in Manchuria (China).
Well worth a watch, the film is currently on limited release at the cinema, I saw it at the Odeon on Wardour Street.