Intense and minimalist, Kuru-Obi follows the physical and spiritual journeys of three karate journeymen in militaristic 1930s Japan. With the non-professional leads being black belts in real life, the film’s martial art sequences are as strong and straightforward as they come, but equally important is the philosophy behind the moves, and the internal and external conflicts brought about by violence. Kuru-Obi is also notably forthcoming about the historical background of the time, clearly setting up the militaristic atmosphere and corrupting forces surrounding the characters. Giryu (Yagi Akihito), Taikan (Naka Tatsuya), and Choei (Suzuki Yuji) study karate at a reclusive dojo in 1932 Kyushu under master Shibahara (Owada Shinya). When the military come to take over their dojo, the students resist and peace-loving Giryu easily fends off military commander Tanahara (Hakuryu) in a duel. Shamed by his loss, Tanahara commits seppuku, and his wife and daughter come looking for revenge. Hoping to put an end to the violence, Giryu allows himself to be stabbed and incurs near mortal wounds. Taikan, meanwhile, can only submit to orders when the military return with guns. Joining the army as an instructor, Taikan becomes increasingly aggressive and brutal as he seeks higher opponents. His downward spiral paves the way to a showdown with former comrade Giryu who must learn to fight again.
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