Known as the “greatest samurai novel in Japan”, this drama is based on the novel by Kyokutei Bakin. The novel was actually completed within the span of 30 years; Bakin had already gone blind by then and so the final part of it was dictated to his daughter-in-law Michi.
I haven’t seen the first 2 TV series based on this novel but the last one, I just had to find. And I think people who know me enough already knows why…it stars Tackey! What else!?
The story takes place during the beginning of the Sengoku Jidai in Awa, a tiny province that is currently a part of modern-day Chiba Prefecture. In the kingdom of Awa, on the southernmost part of Kanto, Sadakane and his wife Tamazusa abused their positions and brought poverty and grief to the people of that region. Eventually the commoners sought help from the great commander Satomi Yoshizane, the hero of the Yuki Battle, to over throw the cruel monarchs. Satomi took his army and invaded the southern kingdom, killing Sadakane and at the point of killing his wife Tamazusa; the woman begged forgiveness and explained that she had nothing to do with her husband’s cruelty that she was but a mere follower unable to say ‘nay’ to his demands. Being a compassionate man by nature Satomi took pity on Tamazusa and ordered his men to set her free. But his advisers brought about facts statingthat Tamazusa was actually the driving force behind her husband and she was in fact a willing participant in his cruelty. At this juncture Yoshizane was left with no choice but to take back his word and asked Tamazusa to do the honorable thing and commit seppuku.
Tamazusa was angered at Yoshizane for taking back his word and promised to extract revenge. She cursed Satomi and his descendants including his kingdom. Now unknown to those present Tamazusa was a very powerful witch and certainly able to fulfill her curse. Yoshizane’s men killed her then and at the moment of her dead lightning struck her and Tamazusa disappeared leaving behind nothing but a huge imprint of a giant spider on her place. Tamazusa’s curse said that she would change men’s desire into dogs. By this she meant everything that was reprehensible about man.
From that day forward Awa was shrouded in clouds, the crops would not grow due to lack of sunlight and the weather was always cold. Years later the Satomi clan was attacked by neighboring kingdoms and in order to save the family line. Yoshizane implored the remaining princess to flee together with her fiance Daisuke, she was to be the last of their line; the younger princess had been taken by an eagle and was lost many years back.
On their way from the castle, they encountered some of the attacking soldiers and Daisuke asked the princess to escape through the woods. There the princess encountered Tamazusa, and she reminded her of the curse. Tamazusa informed Hime (princess) that she was pregnant with the curse children that will sow – strife, jealousy, betrayal, murder….
Hime refused this fate. It was then that Daisuke came looking for her and at the sight of Tamazusa he loose an arrow to kill the witch but Tamazusa disappeared and Hime was struck with the arrow through the heart. With her dying strength Hime took her knife and stabbed herself, giving her life in exchange for the children in her womb. With her sacrifice she changed the fate of the children in her womb to the good virtues of men. The spirit of these children was scattered throughout the land at her death and landed on 8 male children who were to become the 8 dog warriors of Satomi who will someday destroy the curse on the land.
What followed was the adventure of the eight dog warriors. Throughout the series, each dog warrior recognizes the other through three distinguishing features: a last name starting with the word “inu” (meaning dog), a birthmark in the shape of a peony (the emblem of the Satomi clan) and a bead containing a kanji character that reflects eight of the fundamental virtues of Confucianism. They are:
- kō (孝) – filial piety; devotion
- gi (義) – duty and obligation, but it can also be translated as righteousness
- chū (忠) – loyalty
- shin (信) – faith
- tei (悌) – brotherhood; brotherly affection
- jin (仁) – sympathy and benevolence, but note that, according to Confucianism, “jin” is also the greatest and most perfect virtue of all. It should come as no surprise that the bearer of this bead also happens to be the most powerful warrior of the eight.
- chi (知) – wisdom
- rei (礼) – courtesy, but this can also be translated as proper form, i.e. an extensive knowledge and proper observation of tradition and manners.
The adventure of the eight dog warriors started with Inuzuka Shino-Moritaka (Tackey) as he was the first to find another man with the same birthmark as his and has a crystal bead with a virtue written in kanji inside it. From Shino the story moved forward as he proceeded to carry our his father’s dying wish but along the way meets other dog warriors. They eventually found Daisuke who had by then become a travelling monk seeking out the dog warriors and he explained to them he significance of their mark and their role in Satomi.
As for the rest you’ll just have to watch this movie to find out…sorry but I think I would not be able to do justice to the series so you’ll have to see it for yourself.