Finely woven with light threads of wisdom and meticulous expertise, HANA is Hirokazu Kore-eda's first-ever samurai film. Like a graceful yet powerful new creation blossoming in the exploited land of the genre, this gentle period drama is far from the customary tales of courage and honourable deaths inspired by Hagakure, the book of the Samurai.
Winds of war are now sweeping the earth. But, once upon a time, at the turn of the eighteenth century, the city of Edo - now known as Tokyo - was at peace and beaming with prosperity. The industriousness of the era left little space for the feats of the samurai.
An Edo tenement in the year 1702 provides the backdrop for this story. A young samurai, Sozaemon Aoki (Junichi Okada), arrives in town, intent on avenging the death of his father. He begins stalking the killer, Jubei Kanazawa (Tadanobu Asano). But gradually, his quest loses momentum, transforming into an escape from his family obligations. Meanwhile, his sterile sense of honour is gradually converted into an awakened understanding of his actual, useful place in society: Sozaemon begins teaching children how to read and write and falls in love with Osae (Rie Miyazawa), a beautiful widow. From a cowardly, inept warrior who doesn't even know the proper way to wield a sword, he slowly turns into a subdued hero whose modesty and peacefulness become a blessing to the entire community.