Based on a Japanese comic (manga) the movie has the look and feel of an anime film. It's characters can fly through the air as they cut down hundreds of opponents without getting a scratch themselves. The dialogue is modern and the background music is rock and roll.
The movie follows the story of an ex-samurai, Gessai Obata, who becomes the master to ten children who he trains in the martial arts. The master is looking to head off civil wars that will be caused by warlords looking to gain power. So he trained the ten as assassins, who will eliminate anyone who would endanger the peace.
When the students, who are really trained as assassins, are ready he has them pair off and fight to the death. Now there are only five and one is a girl named Azumi. They then see a village, where the people are being slaughtered, but the master will not let them intervene. It is not part of their mission.
The master identifies three warlords who endanger the peace and the group sets out to eliminate them. They quickly find the first two and kill them along with dozens of their retainers, some of whom are ninjas. We then find out that one of the warlords killed, Kiyomasa Kato, was just a double. Kiyomasa still lives and sends three brothers to hunt down the band of young assassins but they are quickly killed off. The group them loses Amagi who had been wounded by the poisoned blade of one of the ninjas.
Kiyomasa then gets the ninja Saru out of prison to battle the band. Azumi is becoming disillusioned. First they killed their friends, then they stood by and watch the villagers get killed, now they are leaving their dying friend.
Next a samurai in a white outfit carrying a rose, Bijomaru Mogami, shows up. He has no hand guard and never defends. He finishes his opponents with out defending with his sword. Hyuga is quickly killed and now the band is down to three.
With Azumi missing, the master and two of the band are attacked by a hired village of assassins. Hundreds fall and the master comes face to face with Kiyomasa and then he is captured. Mogami then shows up and another of the young assassins is killed.
Azumi tried to escape to a normal life, but she is drawn back in when her and a friend are attacked by a group of men. Azumi heads back to find the master. The master is a captive, hung on a cross, being used as bait to pull in Azumi. Azumi enters in and the body count goes up quickly. After all the others have fallen away it comes down to Azumi and the white samurai. Azumi kills the white samurai, who can't believe he has been defeated. Azumi goes to the master but he is dying too. Everyone in the town is dead except for Azumi.
Kiyomasa is planning a war, but Azumi catches up with him to finish the mission. Nagara has some how also survived the slaughter and he meets up with Azumi. Azumi tells him there is one more target they must go after and the movie ends.
Not really a samurai movie. More of a manga, ninja, samurai mash of a movie. It did have a story about ending the civil wars by killing the warlords but the story was secondary to the style and the action scenes. Too long and the master was not much of a hero. The CGI also took away from the movie and Azumi wasn't really too good with the sword. Manga followers will probably like it, Kurosawa followers probably will not.