Blu-ray: Yojimbo (Criterion)



English Blu-ray Title (Region A)



Japanese (1.0 Mono), Japanese (3.0 Stereo)

Aspect Ratio:

110 minutes
2.35:1 Anamorphic





  • Menus (English)
  • Chapters (27)
  • Trailers: Yojimbo (Teaser, Theatrical)
  • Commentary with Stephen Prince (English)
  • Toho Masterworks: Yojimbo (45 minutes)
  • Still Gallery
  • Booklet with an essay by Alexander Sesonske and notes from Akira Kurosawa



By: Anthony Romero

Criterion dips into updating their releases of Akira Kurosawa films to Blu-ray. While this particular entry owes much to the 2007 Yojimbo DVD, including the same extras, it's never the less a fantastic release as it boasts a great audio and video presentation, which takes advantage of the high definition format.

 Video: Star Rating

Dusting off the efforts spent on the 2007 DVD release, Criterion ups their game thanks to what the Blu-ray format allows. While this means a better video presentation, it does also highlight a few more signs of damage from the source that were less visible due to compression.

First, to take a step back, Criterion has been very committed to restoring Kurosawa's films. The results have been fantastic, generally producing the best looking versions of the movies available anywhere in the world on home video. Yojimbo is no exception. The movie here looks sharp, with great black levels and boasts a great restoration effort that has removed much of the source damage found on earlier releases prior to 2007.

Praise said, this is a film from 1961 and the source used was not flawless. While Criterion has does a great job restoring it, there are some signs of damage such as some scenes that have mild flickering and a few that cause the light sources to look a little overpowering as if they are smeared. There are portions where the noise level gets to be a bit too much as well, such as the opening sequence. These are again, though, isolated and brief.

Yojimbo is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is Anamorphic for widescreen TVs. Unlike the DVD release, this is not window boxed, meaning there isn't any black portion surrounding the image. This is a technique done to support a wider range of TVs, some of which can cut off the image, but sacrifices some of the resolution to achieve this.


 Audio: Star Rating

There are two uncompressed audio tracks available for this Blu-ray. The first is a one channel mono track while the other is a three channel stereo track, using Perspecta Stereophonic Sound. At the time of release, the stereo was a big deal, as can be seen that it's even touted on the title screen of the movie. Toho really honed in on the stereo technique of this time period, using this technology on King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), Gorath (1962) and other early 1960's movies. However, they quickly abandoned it as the decade rolled on, leaving the few that had it as diamonds in the rough for this era.

Anyway, quality wise both tracks are superb. Dialogue sounds crisp and is very audible, as are the effects such as the wind that plays throughout the movie. There aren't any overt signs of inconsistencies or damage in the source as well. As for the stereo track in particular, while the range is crude by today's standards it does elevate the presentation a little and is the superior choice of the two unless the viewer is accustomed to how it sounds in mono.

The disc comes with optional English subtitles.


 Extras: Star Rating

This Blu-ray replicates the wealth of bonus material found on the 2007 DVD release. This includes the amazing entry in the Toho Masterworks series focusing on Yojimbo. 45 minutes in length, the documentary is filled with interviews from surviving cast and crew about the movie covering elements from the soundtrack to the huge outdoor set used to create the town in the movie. Like every entry in the series, the video is very informative and interesting and well worth watching. The extra is in Japanese with English subtitles. Quality wise, it looks similar to as it did on the DVD release, although the colors aren't quite as vibrant.

Next is an audio commentary with film historian Stephen Prince, which debuted on the 2007 DVD release. Prince covers the production well during the commentary track, tackling not just aspects of the movie but also information on the movie staff as well.

Also found on the disc are two trailers. One is a teaser trailer, very early in production and features behind the scenes footage. The second is the main trailer, which was available on both of Criterion's DVD releases. The quality of both is good, although look on par with their standard definition presentations on DVD.

The last bit of extra content is both on and off the disc. This includes a small still gallery and also a 15 page booklet on director Kurosawa by film scholar Alexander Sesonske.

As a side note, there is a hidden extra found on the disc. This is billed as the "US theatrical version title sequence" and the quality is lacking, with notable damage and obvious edge enhancement to the point there are halos around all the titles. Accessing this extra will require watching in some way that allows the viewer to skip through the available video tracks, outside of the menu. This is the easiest on a computer.


 Overview: Star Rating

At the time of release, the 2007 Yojimbo DVD was the best home video release of the 1961 title. While this Blu-ray mimics much of that release, it does up the game a little and as a result takes the crown for best way to watch the movie today. So those looking to watch this classic entry from Kurosawa would be well advised to pick up this version.