Women have been wielding swords in Japanese period actioners for decades now, from the days when Junko Fuji and Meiko Kaji were slicing up bad guys, Fuji with stoic grace, Kaji with icy rage.

But as good as Fuji, Kaji and other sword-wielding actresses have been, their films usually fall on the fantastic end of the genre’s spectrum. The more serious or realistic samurai films typically give the ladies little more weaponry than the switch Misa Uehara (Princess Yuki) brandishes in Akira Kurosawa’s “Kakushi Toride no San-akunin” (The Hidden Fortress, 1958).

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