Review: ‘Kingdom’s’ sword-wielding manga heroes go to war in a thrilling flurry of action


Based on Yasuhisa Hara’s long-running manga, ”Kingdom” is a sprawling fantasy-adventure set near the close of China’s Warring States period (475-221 BC).

Xin (Kento Yamazaki) and Piao (Ryo Yoshizawa) are slaves who dream of escaping and becoming great generals. They train themselves rigorously in swordsmanship and martial arts. Because of his resemblance to the young king of Qin, Ying Zheng (also Yoshizawa), Piao is chosen to serve as the stand-in. When Piao is killed by rebels serving Zheng’s usurping half-brother Chang Jiao (Kanata Hongo), Xin joins the deposed monarch to avenge his friend.

A prolonged series of elaborately choreographed duels and battles ensues. Swords, axes, darts, clubs, feet and fists fly as Xin beats assorted robbers, assassins, soldiers and turncoat generals. To recapture his kingdom, Zheng joins forces with Yang Duanhe (Masami Nagasawa), the sword-wielding queen of the Mountain Tribesmen. Chang’s vast army doesn’t stand a chance against this stalwart band. After defeating his nasty sibling, Zheng announces his plan to conquer and unify all of China — with Xin at his side. (Zheng became the emperor Qin Shi Huang, who built the Great Wall.)

Brash but devoted to his friends and his dreams of greatness, Xin may remind viewers of another popular come-from-behind manga hero, Masashi Kishimoto’s Naruto. Like Naruto, Xin is caught up in a war between moustache-twirling Bad Guys and heroic Good Guys. Director Shinsuke Sato’s film may lack nuance, but fans of martial spectacles will have an enjoyable if exhausting time.



In Japanese with subtitles

Rated: R, for violence

Running time: 2 hours, 14 minutes

Playing: Starts Aug. 16 in limited release