During the Edo period, Ito, daughter of a clan official, and Eguchi meet while admiring the cherry blossoms. She later asks her father to arrange a fencing match with bamboo swords against him, during which a spark starts between the two. But she's been arranged to marry another, and so has Eguchi, who is a low-ranking samurai, unworthy to marry Ito. However, Eguchi's wife is rumored to be cheating on him, and Ito witnesses that with her own eyes. When news that he committed suicide while on business in Edo reaches her, she decides to find out the truth behind it with the help of her betrothed.
When I first picked this movie up, I read the description and saw some of the promotional material thinking that I'd be treated to something in the same vein as Azumi. Set in the Edo Period, strong female warrior kicking ass, you know how it goes.
Actually, I quickly found that the plot for this movie was nowhere near as contrived, and in fact it kept introducing very slight twists at several key points throughout the movie, so just when I thought I had the movie figured out, it'd change its approach and leave me guessing some more. First it looks like a generic samurai movie, then a period romance, then a mystery, and so on.
The acting was superb. At times it can feel a little wooden for a western viewer, simply because the setting is one where Japanese people were expected to behave in a more reserved manner, and public shows of emotion were taboo.
But Kitagawa Keiko has her character down perfectly, and it didn't take long for me to warm up to her character. Her character developed well throughout the film, and by the end there was a real sense of genuinity in how she was portrayed.
The movie also goes to great lengths to portray the etiquette expected of both men and women during the period, such as the reservedness of the characters and particularly the way the interacted with their peers and with the opposite sex.
While I advise you to be cautious with your expectations, as this may not be the movie you thought it was going to be, I still can't reccomend this movie enough, whether you just like romance movies, or if you particularly enjoy period pieces such as this.