Seven Samurai

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Shichinin No Samurai

The film The Seven Samurai is a classic example of late 16th century samurai engaged in warfare. Throughout the film we are able to get a real sense of what values samurai hold, as well as some techniques used in battle. The film also provides some insight into how a samurai might define himself as a samurai. Though the seven samurai came from different backgrounds and are vastly different people, they share one common trait which is the label of samurai.

Throughout much of the first half of the film we are able to see the separation between the regular townspeople and the samurai. The townspeople are stationary and live more or less by daily routine, whereas the samurai are mobile and are defined mainly by how good they are with a sword. This is evident relatively quickly in the film as two samurai fight to the death in the streets. The townspeople and farmers live a meager existence that is dictated by the growing and harvesting of annual crops. Both the portrayals of samurai and farmer mirror the socio-cultural landscape of the time. The vast majority are poor and unprotected by laws or any sort of authority. Random violence is widespread and common to the point where it is not unusual to see people getting killed in the streets. I got the feeling that being a samurai fits into this scheme almost as a means of survival. They are able to continue living day-by-day because of their proficiency with a sword.

Still, it is not entirely correct to classify a man who is good with a sword as a samurai. A farmer may be a good swordsman but if he does not make his living by using weapons then he would not be considered a samurai. Whereas farmer or merchant is an occupational title, samurai could well be thought of as an occupational title also. The samurai have devoted their lives to the mastery of weapons usage, particularly the sword. This could be the most dominant shared characteristic among samurai.

However, the samurai...
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