Seven Samurai

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"This is the nature of war. By protecting others, you save yourselves."
Kambei Shimada

Seven Samurai is a 1954 Japanese film directed by Akira Kurosawa; it starred his longtime collaborators Takashi Shimura and Toshiro Mifune in two of the lead roles. It is considered by many Western critics to be the finest Japanese film of all time, and a few of them consider it to be the finest film ever made, period.

Menaced by an army of bandits and on the brink of starvation, a village in medieval Japan decides to hire a small, motley collection of Ronin to defend them. Pity they have nothing to hire them with but rice...

It has been remade, homaged, or flat out ripped off numerous times, in genres ranging from western (The Magnificent Seven) to science fiction (Battle Beyond The Stars, Samurai 7) and, if you're willing to stretch a bit, anthromorphized animals (A Bug's Life).

This film has a serious claim to not only being the forebearer to pretty much every getting-the-team-together-for-a-mission movie -- whether it's a Hitchhiker Heroes, Ragtag Bunch of Misfits, Putting the Band Back Together, or even The Caper -- but also to being the first modern action movie. While it wasn't the first movie to use such tropes as dramatic slow motion or a reluctant hero, it was the first to bring them together in such a way that would be instantly recognizable and familiar to the present-day audience.

Tropes used in Seven Samurai include:
  • Anyone Can Die: Four of the seven
  • The Archer: Gorobei. Kambei replaces him after his death.
  • Avengers Assemble: If not the first movie to detail a recruitment of heroes to fight for a cause, it's definitely the one to codify it.
  • Badass: All the samurai in varying degrees but Kikuchiyo (Mifune), Kambei (Shimura), and Kyuzo especially.
  • Badass Mustache: Kambei. Aw yeeah.'
  • Bald of Awesome: Again, Kambei
  • Batman Cold Open: One of the earliest examples of this trope in Kambei's introduction -- rescuing a boy taken hostage.
  • Battle in the Rain: Arguably the Trope Maker for film.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Mentioning wives or marriage around Rikichi. It's because his village traded his wife along with grain and horses for safety from the bandits when they attacked the village last time
    • While not exactly the paragon of calm, Kikuchiyo will flip out spectacularly if commoners are being endangered.
  • BFS: Kikuchiyo's nodachi is almost as big as he is.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Kikuchiyo is THE Trope Codifier, if not the Trope Maker of this.
  • Butt Monkey: Subverted with Kikuchiyo. The other samurai mock him repeatedly, but eventually accept him as a teammate. Kikuchiyo performs heroically during the final attack and even earns a samurai's death.
  • Cool Old Guy: Kambei.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Kambei shaves his head within his first scene (thought to be a loss of honor) so he can trick a bandit into thinking he is a monk and save a child. Heihachi mentions how he usually runs away from battle when he's about to die. Other samurai mention less-than-noble (from the standpoint of a samurai) tactics used for survival. The film takes place before the Edo period, when samurai really took Honor Before Reason Up to Eleven.
  • Debut Queue: We meet the Samurai one at a time as they assemble the team.
  • Deconstruction: Being samurai sucks. They aren't allowed to change jobs to earn money. They can only rely on their martial prowess to make a living. The possibility of death is very high.
  • Determinator:
  • Don't Make Me Destroy You: Kyuzou doesn't like killing people; he's also considered one of the finest swordsmen around. This is seen early in the movie when he is shown dueling; he begs his opponent not to challenge him with real swords, because the opponent would quite certainly die. He does.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Kikuchiyo sees a quick opportunity to grab one of the muskets by quickly plundering a fallen bandit's gear, then walking right up to the musketeer and talking to him. The musketeer eventually realizes no bandit would carry a 5 1/2 foot nodachi.
  • Dwindling Party: Four of the seven samurai get bumped off throughout the story, starting fairly early.
  • End of an Age: The samurai who die get killed by firearms.
  • Enthusiasm Versus Stoicism: Goes all the way from Kyūzō who probably has icewater in his veins over to Kikuchiyo, who's a hop and a skip away from being stark raving loony.
  • Epic Movie: This cost about $500,000 and a year to produce. Most films at the time took 1 month to film and cost $70,000! The combined production of this movie and Godzilla (budgeted at an estimated $1,000,000) nearly drove Toho into bankruptcy.
  • Field of Blades
  • Four Is Death
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Four of the samurai die. Kind of counts as an It Was His Sled because samurai want to die heroically defending someone. We're just hiding the count.
  • Honor Before Reason: Rikichi's wife does not care about the fire at the bandit camp that she is in. She is also so ashamed over what happened to her she runs right back into the flames when she sees Rikichi trying to rescue her.
  • Hot-Blooded: Kikuchiyo
  • Hypocritical Humor: At one point Katsushirou is lazily picking flowers in the mountains when he happens across a young woman dressed as a boy (Shinou), also picking flowers. He angrily tells her that an able-bodied young man should not be picking flowers at a time like this... emphasizing his point by gesturing with the flower he's just picked.
  • Important Haircut:
    • Kambei cuts his hair (a sign of his samurai status) in his first scene to rescue a child hostage, proving he cares more about life than personal dignity.
    • Manzo, worried about womanizing samurai coming to town, tries to cut his daughter Shinou's hair and disguise her as a boy. It doesn't work. Good news is, the just-as-innocent Katsushirou is the one who finds Shinou and begins a humorously sweet courtship with her.
  • Intermission
  • Japanese Pronouns: But of course. The peasants all use "ora," regardless of gender. Noble-born Katsushirou uses "watakushi" when talking to the samurai, and "ore" with Shinou. The samurai use "sessha" when they first meet, but later on they all switch to "ore" except for Kanbei who uses "washi." Kikuchiyo uses "ore," and "ore-sama" when he's being boastful.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Kikuchiyo
  • Katanas Are Just Better: Averted, as there's little they can do against muskets at range
  • Kid Samurai: Katsushirou
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Subverted. The samurai are enraged when they discover that the villagers whom they are defending have in the past sometimes killed samurai escaping from battles and stripped them of their armor and weapons. As the other samurai begin muttering about how they'd like to slaughter the entire village, Kikuchiyo (who was born a commoner) angrily reminds them that it was living under samurai rule that forced the villagers to live like that in the first place. This case of Writer on Board is widely held to be an apology by Kurosawa, who was from a family with samurai heritage.
  • Large Ham: Kikuchiyo again.
  • The Magnificent Seven Samurai: Trope Maker
  • Manly Tears
  • Master Swordsman: Kyūzō is the best example. Kambei certainly counts as well.
  • Mood Whiplash: The first samurai's burial scene goes through no fewer than four intense emotions in less than 30 seconds.
  • No Indoor Voice: Kikuchiyo. Never is this more clear than when the 7 visit an old lady. He's even asked "Why the hell are you always screaming?"
  • Number Two: Gorobei
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Heihachi Hayashida, who is not very skilled, is recruited mainly in hopes he can be this during adversity. However he is the first one killed before the big battle.
  • Pyrrhic Victory

"So, again we are defeated. The farmers have won. Not us."

  • The Quiet One: Kyūzō.
  • Rape, Pillage and Burn
  • Rated "M" for Manly
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: In possibly the most emotionally-charged scene of the movie, Kikuchiyo delivers an epic one to the farmers, then turns around and delivers an equally scathing one to the samurai, setting up The Reveal.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Kikuchiyo
  • The Reveal: Kikuchiyo is revealed to be a common-born farmer's son. This explains his reactions to the villagers, lack of training, and his unwitting assumption of a child's name. But it was quite obvious very early on.
  • Ronin: The "seven samurai" are actually ronin, samurai with no master, and Kikuchiyo's technically a peasant.
  • Samurai: Obviously!
  • Scenery Porn: And how! It is Kurosawa, after all. Only natural lighting, and quite minimalistic.
  • The Siege
  • Single-Stroke Battle: Early in the film, Kyūzō is seen holding a duel with another swordsman. They face off, neither moving for some time, Kyūzō draws and swings, his opponent falls to the ground, dead. It's possibly the most famous SSB in film history.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Either Katsushirou and Shinou or Katsushirou and Kyūzō, depending on your interpretation. Or possibly all three.
  • The Stoic: Kyūzō is a man of few words and has an unshakeable composure, although he's seen smiling and laughing with the others.
  • Taking You with Me: Kikuchiyo kills the bandit leader before dying of a fatal gunshot wound.
  • The Team Wannabe
  • Technician Versus Performer: Kyūzō and Kikuchiyo are the extremes respectively of this trope in terms of samurai.
  • Theme Naming: With the exception of Kambei all samurai have numbers in their names. Katsushirou: 4, Gorobei: 5, Shichirouji: 7, Heihachi: 8, Kyūzō: 9 (the kanji is different but the pronunciation is the same), Kikuchiyo: 1000. Probably intentional, but leaves one wondering why Kambei is an exception.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Kikuchiyo prepares for the last battle by stabbing several swords into the ground. His response why? "I can't kill five bandits with just one sword!" After his signature nodachi breaks, he starts to use his spare swords until only two remain. Interestingly enough, he kills exactly five bandits in this final decisive battle.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Subverted. Kyūzō does this, but only to show the others where his attackers are hiding before he dies.
  • Training the Peaceful Villagers: Trope Maker
  • Warrior Poet: Kyūzō, the most skilled samurai of the group, plays with wildflowers right before pulling off an ambush with Kikuchiyo.
  • Weapon Tombstone
  • You Don't Want to Die a Virgin, Do You?: Katsushiro and Shinou realize it's now or never. Probably.