After the Rain is an endearing, exceptionally tranquil yet expressive samurai film based on a short story by Shūgorō Yamamoto. Akira Kurosawa, who wasn’t able to finish the project due to a sudden death, wrote the script and was right in the middle of the production phase. Takashi Koizumi – one of Kurosawa’s most prominent partners in the filmmaking business – promised to finish what his mentor has started. Looking at the final result it’s perfectly safe to say that After the Rain is a mightily climatic and genuinely enthralling homage to the late director’s unforgettable works. All it takes is just five minutes, and I’m sure that one won’t be able to overlook many of the resemblances that emerge from the screen. As silly as it may sound, After the Rain looks at times as though Kurosawa directed it from beyond the grave.
The film, set in the Edo period, follow closely the adventures of a traveling ronin Ihei Misawa (Akira Terao). He has all the attributes of a true samurai, yet there’s something very different about him. Namely, he stands out from the crowd of many anonymous sword-carrying warriors due to his overly joyful and helpful attitude towards those in need. During a heavy rain that floods the only way across the river, Ihei – wearing an enormously friendly smile – decides to invite all the locals, taking shelter in a nearby hotel, to a huge feast. Through his good deeds, unselfish behavior, and most-positive nature he quickly becomes a hero of sort for all the guests. When the rain stops and Ihei is finally able to roam further, he encounters a bunch of up-to-no-good swordsmen. Stopping the probably deadly fight and winning the approval of a passing officer leads to a surprising invitation from a local lord, Shigeki (a showy and exuberant yet graceful performance by Shiro Mifune, Toshiro Mifune’s son). During their first meeting in the palace, Ihei reveals how – thanks to a most clever and fanciful plan – he got a hold of a huge amount of money: on his way to Edo (old Tokyo) the lone samurai visited many of the region’s dojos and tricked their masters into payment by way of premature surrender.
Impressed and jubilant Shigeki decides to name him the Master-of-Arms of the fief. However, the decision meets with fierce criticism coming from the side of a resentful group of masters, whom Ihei previously ridiculed. Put to an ultimate test, the ronin is forced to pass the traditional demonstration, in which he needs to beat every opponent willing to prevent him from getting the respectable title. Everything goes smoothly until the moment when Shigeki himself challenges Ihei to a duel. Defeated and insulted, the lord’s anger is indescribable, and soon he chooses to change his decision, making Ihei jobless once again. What’s more, on his way back home the lone samurai is forced to fight a group of the aforementioned angry masters, in the film’s only truly bloody scene.
After the Rain is a particularly feel-good samurai picture, which shows a very interesting insight into the protagonist’s rich life, his relationship with a vulnerable yet loving wife (Yoshiko Miyazaki), and – at the same time – proves to be a fascinating lesson about the culture and customs that ruled Japan more than 200 years ago. Moreover, by cutting the movie abruptly without a certain finale Koizumi only increases the viewer’s curiosity and anxiety concerning Ihei’s unknown fate. Looking at After the Rain as a whole, I’m really convinced that Akira Kurosawa would’ve been proud of this picture.