Path of Blood Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Synapse Films
Written and directed by Eric Power
2013, 62 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on March 13th, 2018
Kenji Kiuchi as Kazuo (voice)
Yoshi Okai as Toranosuke (voice)
Leo Shue Schuster as Osamu (voice)
Shinya Wakao as Hajime (voice)
In 1614 Japan, the war is over and samurai, uprooted by defeat or reform, walk the earth as ronin in search of honorable work. Kazuo hears tale of a place in the mountains where brave men can make a decent living. The path begins in a forgotten village where it is said that those who accept this challenge are never heard from again. Kazuo is joined by a pair of fellow ronin on this difficult quest and the trio share tales of the legendary Osamu, who is rumored to be the leader of their remote destination. The journey is arduous and they frequently come under attack by roving swordsmen or deadly ninjas. Kazuo proves himself to be a highly skilled fighter, but will he be strong enough to face the final test?
Path of Blood is a highly stylized tale that serves as a love letter to the works of Akira Kurosawa crossed with the extreme violence of the Lone Wolf and Cub series. It plays as an homage to many traditional samurai films, though told by way of paper animation similar to that of early South Park episodes. It is writer/ director Eric Power’s first animated feature film. The picture was meticulously shot frame by frame using traditional stop-motion techniques to bring countless paper clippings to life. Power worked alone for two years creating and filming all of the individual elements and his hard work pays off in highly entertaining results.
Eric Power is an excellent storyteller and keeps the plot moving at a decent clip without making things feel rushed. He takes time out to study the surrounding elements in nature, such as birds in trees and fish in the river. Early on, it appears Kazuo is set to take on an apprentice before meeting up with fellow ronin. His interaction with the boy reveals a nice bit of character strength in an organic manner. Once he reaches the remote village, we find it to be rich with character and detail. Our hero’s travels are anything but peaceful, as he is frequently faced with would-be assailants. The resulting battles are swift and always bloody with a high level of carnage that must be seen to be believed. Kazuo is no joke with a blade and makes light work of those that wish him harm.
Path of Blood started life as a short film that garnered enough notice to merit the expansion to a feature-length piece. I had missed it before this new Blu-ray crossed my desk and I am glad it did, as it really is a satisfying picture. Power is currently hard at work on his follow-up project Attack of the Demons and I look forward to see how he one-ups himself.
Video and Audio:
With this crisp new transfer presented in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Path of Blood looks fantastic. Colors are vibrant and there is plenty of detail on display as we can see grain in the paper used for the animation.
A respectable DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track maintains clear Japanese dialogue throughout while music cues are rich without becoming intrusive. The atmospheric sound effects feature some nice separation, including the environmental ambience of birds or running water.
English subtitles are available for those in need.
Up first we get a making-of featurette (11 minutes) hosted by Eric Power, who describes his efforts in creating the film. He guides us through the animation process and reveals how he achieved some of the trickier shots via layering. We get a look at the recording sessions of music and dialogue as well as a few choice death screams. This is a very informative and fast-moving segment.
Next we get a look at the original short film (4 minutes) that inspired the feature. It tells the same story in an abbreviated fashion and is highly enjoyable.
The original promo trailer is included as is an alternate trailer presented as an 8-bit video game.
An image gallery rounds out the supplemental material.
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