The Hidden Blade is another masterful work directed by Yoji Yamada in his thematic trilogy, focusing on the humanistic portrayal of Tokugawa period samurai. In this particular film, the protagonist Munezo (Masatoshi Nagase) is confronted with two major problems. The first occurs when a former servant of his, Kie (Takako Matsu), marries into a household that abuses her and neglects her health. The second arises when and old friend of his is arrested in Edo for taking part in an attempted rebellion. To prove his loyalty, he is ordered to kill his old friend, who has escaped from captivity and is holding a village family hostage.
Munezo is a remarkable character because he is unafraid to act on what he believes to be the necessary course of action, despite the public opinion that may form as a result. In a society where maintaining a favorable public perception of one's family is critically important, Munezo chooses to follow the instincts of his heart and moral conscience -- a substantial choice that is both valiant and highly risky.
Despite a rather corny ending, The Hidden Blade is a thoroughly engaging and compelling film. Themes of familial loyalty, the battle between duty and desire, and the underlying theme of the progression of modern warfare and its replacement of traditional ways combine to make this film a powerful look at a heroic samurai. In this sense, it is similar to the other two films in this trilogy, Twilight Samurai and Love and Honor, but possesses enough unique elements to set it distinctly apart.