Lady Snowblood (film)

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Lady Snowblood
Lady Snowblood (film).jpg
Japanese release poster
Directed by Toshiya Fujita
Produced by Kikumaru Okuda[1]
Screenplay by Norio Osada[1]
Story by
  • Kazuo Kato
  • Kazuo Kamikura[1]
Music by Masaaki Hirao[1]
Cinematography Masaki Tamura[1]
Edited by Osamu Inoue[1]
Tokyo Eiga[1]
Distributed by Toho
Release date
  • 1 December 1973 (1973-12-01) (Japan)
Running time
96 minutes[1]
Country Japan
  • Japanese
  • English

Lady Snowblood (Japanese: 修羅雪姫 Hepburn: Shurayuki-hime?) is a 1973 Japanese action thriller film directed by Toshiya Fujita and starring Meiko Kaji.[2] It is based on the manga series of the same name, recounting the tale of Yuki, a woman who seeks vengeance upon three people who raped her mother and killed her mother's husband and son.

Story structure[edit]

The scenes of this film do not appear in chronological order. Each paragraph below represents a passage of the film in the order it appears.


In 1874, a baby is born in a women's prison. Her deathly-ill mother names her Yuki (snow).

A woman blocks the path of several men and a rickshaw, and kills them using a sword concealed in the handle of an umbrella. She tells the last man to die, Shirayama, that her name is Shura Yuki-hime. She appears in a poor village looking for a man called Matsuemon, the leader of an underground organization, and asks him to find four people for her, having killed Shirayama for him.

In 1873, a teacher, his wife Sayo, and their son are attacked by four criminals. One of the criminals, a woman named Kitahama Okono, holds Sayo while the three men – Takemura Banzō, Shokei Tokuichi, and Tsukamoto Gishirō – murder the teacher and his son and rape Sayo. Tokuichi secretly takes Sayo far away to work for him. Sayo kills him with a knife and goes to prison.

In the women's prison, after the baby is born, Sayo tells her story. She has seduced a prison guard to conceive the child. She tells the other women to raise the child for vengeance, then dies.

In Meiji 15 (1882), the child Yuki trains in sword fighting with a priest called Dōkai.

Yuki, now twenty, finds Banzō's daughter Kobue. Kobue is a prostitute, and her father is now an alcoholic wreck with gambling debts. At a gambling house, Yuki plays cards with Banzō, who is caught cheating. He is about to be killed. Yuki persuades the owners to pardon him, then leads him to a beach and kills him.

Learning that Tsukamoto Gishirō has died, she visits his grave. She cuts the flowers and then the gravestone. Matsuemon and his friends notice that Gishirō died just when Yuki started trying to find him – three years ago.

A reporter named Ryūrei Ashio sees Yuki attack the grave and follows her. He questions her past, and Dōkai tells him her story, then persuades him to publish it. Ashio writes and sells the story (which, on the screen, is told using frames from the original comic). It is revealed that Dōkai planned this to get Kitahama Okono to reveal herself.

Okono sends men to kidnap Ashio. They torture him for Yuki's location, but he refuses to tell them. Yuki enters the estate and kills several of Okono's men and is fired upon by Okono. While Yuki fights and kills Okono's men, Okono hangs herself. Yuki slices Okono in half before her heart can stop beating.

Yuki learns that Gishirō is still alive, having faked his death when he learned of Yuki's mission. She finds him at a masquerade ball and kills him, but the dead man is not really Gishirō. Ashio and Yuki find and follow the real Gishirō, who shoots Ashio. Wounded, Ashio stops him from shooting Yuki as she swings on a lamp between balconies. Yuki stabs through Ashio into Gishirō's chest. She then cuts Gishirō's throat, but as he dies he shoots her. He falls over a railing and onto the ground floor full of guests.

Yuki, wounded, stumbles outside. Kobue suddenly appears. She stabs Yuki then runs away. Yuki falls on her face.

The film ends with Yuki opening her eyes the next morning.


  • Meiko Kaji as Yuki Kashima, aka Lady Snowblood
    • Mayumi Maemura as young Yuki
  • Kō Nishimura as Priest Dōkai
  • Toshio Kurosawa as Ryūrei Ashio
  • Masaaki Daimon as Gō Kashima
  • Miyoko Akaza as Sayo Kashima
  • Eiji Okada as Gishirō Tsukamoto
  • Sanae Nakahara as Kitahama Okono
  • Noboru Nakaya as Takemura Banzō
  • Takeo Chii as Shokei Tokuichi
  • Hitoshi Takagi as Matsuemon
  • Akemi Negishi as Tajire no Okiku
  • Yoshiko Nakada as Kobue Kitahama


The film was produced on a low budget and filmed with a minimal length of film (20,000 feet). At one point, a special effect blood spatter went wrong, covering Meiko Kaji in fake blood.[3]


Lady Snowblood was released in Japan on December 1, 1973, where it was distributed by Toho.[1]

Both Lady Snowblood films are now available in a restored Blu-ray edition from The Criterion Collection.[4]

Sequel, remakes, and homages[edit]

The film spawned one sequel, entitled Love Song of Vengeance. A 2001 science fiction remake, The Princess Blade, stars Yumiko Shaku.

It was also a major inspiration for Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill. According to Meiko Kaji, Quentin Tarantino made the staff of Kill Bill watch DVDs of Lady Snowblood during break times.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Galbraith IV 2008, p. 292.
  2. ^ Thompson, Nathaniel (2006). DVD Delirium: The International Guide to Weird and Wonderful Films on DVD; Volume 3. Godalming, England: FAB Press. p. 327. ISBN 1-903254-40-X. 
  3. ^ a b Shinsuke Kasai (interviewer), Meiko Kaji (interviewee) (2012). Nihon Eiga Retorosupekutibu (in Japanese). Nihon Eiga Senmon Channeru. 
  4. ^ "Lady Snowblood Complete Collection Blu-ray". Criterion Collection. Retrieved November 10, 2016. 

External links[edit]