The next day, the samurai all sit in Rikichi’s house to avoid a hard rain that is falling outside. Gorobei notes how quiet it is in the mountains, and Kikuchiyo complains that he needs a girl. Kyuzo stands and runs out, saying he is going up to the hills to practice his swordsmanship. Heihachi is sewing a flag, and Kikuchiyo asks him what he is making. He says it does not feel right to fight a battle without a banner to raise high, and he stands up to show the room the banner. It consists of six circles, a triangle, and a character. He points to the character at the bottom, explaining that it represents the village and the farmers. He says that the circles are the samurai, and Kikuchiyo asks if he has been left out because there are only six. Heihachi explains that the triangle represents him, Lord Kikuchiyo. Everyone present laughs, except Kikuchiyo, who looks around sulkily. Katsushirō realizes that he has an opportunity to leave unnoticed, and darts out the door while everyone is still laughing.
In the forest, Kyuzo stands above a stream and practices drawing his sword. After a couple of draws, he crosses the stream and walks toward the village boundary. He stops when he sees Shino, who stands outside her house, looking out for someone she expects to arrive. He sees her comb her hair, using a puddle of rainwater as a mirror. Kyuzo continues watching as Katsushirō arrives, carrying a wrapped up ball of rice. Katsushirō goes inside the entryway of Shino’s house, and encourages her to eat the rice he brought. He explains that he ate some millet that he got from Rikichi, and says he was barely able to stomach it. He begins to leave, but Shino stops him and tells him that she will not eat the rice. She tells him that she wants to take it to Kyuemon’s grandma. They leave Shino’s house together, and Kyuzo follows them at a distance. Later, as the samurai eat rice in Rikichi’s house, Katsushirō tells Rikichi that he is full and will save the rest for later. Kyuzo tells him to finish eating, and offers Katsushirō his leftovers to take, instead. Kambei asks what is going on, and a cut reveals the samurai all standing over an old woman, sitting on her knees, with a bowl of rice in front of her. Rikichi explains that the bandits killed or kidnapped the old woman’s whole family as the samurai look at her, horrified. The old woman speaks up, saying that she wants to die soon and quickly, but she worries that the next world will have just as much suffering as this one. Heihachi tries to comfort her, telling her that the next world has no bandits, war, or suffering. Kikuchiyo yells at him, asking him how he would know that the next world has no suffering, calls the old woman a worm for complaining, and throws a minor tantrum in the old woman’s house, spilling hay all over the floor. Kambei tells him to save his spit and fire for the bandits. Kyuzo walks outside and Katsushirō follows him. Katsushirō asks him why he did not tell the others about seeing him with Shino, and Kyuzo asks him if that’s what he wanted, and walks away.
The next morning, an establishing shot opens on a field of barley, swaying in the wind. A crowd of children stand at the door and windows of Rikichi’s house, begging for rice from the samurai. Kikuchiyo chases them outside and tells them that there is no rice. However, Katsushirō, Shichiroji, Kyuzo, and Heihachi emerge from the house carrying bowls of rice. Kikuchiyo takes one of the bowls and makes jokes with the children, saying that if they have the strength to beg for rice then they do not need it, and saying that if the samurai give up all of their rice they will grow too weak. He asks the children if any of them have a pretty, older sister, and Heihachi shoves him good-naturedly. Inside the house, Manzo tells Gorobei that they can begin to harvest the barley in ten days, and that it will take at least three days to finish harvesting. Gorobei says they can flood the fields as soon as the harvest is completed, and Kambei explains to the old man and the rest of the villagers present that they hope to create a moat to the south of the village to keep the horses out. Gorobei goes on to explain that the houses across the stream outside the village will need to be evacuated, including the mill. Mosuke, the old man, and his children become shocked and upset, and Kambei explains that it is absolutely necessary. Kambei holds a young child in a nurturing way throughout the scene
In the center of town, Gorobei explains how they will prepare for battle to a large group of villagers. He says they will be split into squadrons, harvest the barley together, and train together. Everyone must work for each other, and not for themselves alone. Kikuchiyo jokes that all the men should be sure to give their wives “plenty of loving” that night, and all the villagers and samurai laugh. Suddenly, Mosuke runs to the center of the crowd, throws down his spear, and commands everyone who lives across the bridge outside the main village to follow him. Five men follow him a little way outside the crowd at the center of the village, but still close enough for the rest of the villagers to hear and see them. He tells them to throw down their spears, and asks why they should give up their own homes to protect the rest of their village. He says they will defend their homes themselves. They begin to run away, but Kambei emerges from the crowd and orders them to stop, pick up their spears, and return to the line. They begin to turn away from him again when he draws his sword and starts chasing them. They run back toward their spears, pick them up, and get back in line as Kikuchiyo jabs at them with his sword sheath. Kambei orders everyone to fall in to their squadrons in a line in front of him, and the whole crowd runs to get in line. Kikuchiyo seeks Yohei out, who is in the wrong place, and drags him to where he is meant to stand. To the line, Kambei sternly explains that the village cannot risk the whole community to save just three houses, and that the three will not be able to survive on their own if the village is defeated. He tells them that the nature of war is such that by protecting others, one saves himself. He says that those who think only of themselves will be destroyed. He threatens the sword to anyone who breaks from their squad, and walks away.
[INTERMISSION OCCURS HERE]
The next shot opens on the villagers harvesting barley in the fields surrounding the village. Kikuchiyo notices that the fields are full of young women helping harvest the barley and he becomes excited. He chases around groups of young women to get a closer look at them, and lightheartedly scolds Yohei, asking where he has been hiding all the young women. He then goes up to one young woman, takes her scythe, and begins cutting barley for her, saying that he can do three times her share of harvesting but that in return she must get “nice and friendly” with him. He then starts wildly and excitedly cutting barley. In another part of the field, Heihachi stands on top of a rock, watching the farmers, while Katsushirō stands below him and Rikichi harvests nearby. Heihachi calls out to Rikichi, telling him that he should get a wife because married couples seem to be the most productive, and Rikichi becomes angry and storms off. Heihachi calls after him, asking why he gets so angry about stuff like that, and Katsushirō follows him. As Katsushirō chases him, he passes Shino cutting barley in the field. She stares at him longingly as he passes, and her father asks what she is staring at. Shichiroji, who is helping them harvest, stands upright and looks at Shino suspiciously, and follows her gaze into the distance. Shino notices his gaze and abruptly goes back to cutting barley.
In the next scene, all the samurai except Kambei and Gorobei walk through a bamboo grove near the village. The grove has been cut up and the bamboo is broken or cut in many places, causing Kikuchiyo to ask if the grove is a bear’s den. Kyuzo corrects him, saying that the bamboo looks like it was cut with a scythe, and Katsushirō explains that he lost Rikichi for a while but saw him leaving the grove looking angry and soaked in sweat. Kikuchiyo asks Heihachi what he said to Rikichi to make him so upset, and Heihachi explains that he only mentioned that Rikichi should try to find a wife. Kikuchiyo says he thinks something is bothering Rikichi, but Rikichi refuses to talk about it, and Heihachi agrees. Kikuchiyo suggests that Heihachi try to get Rikichi to open up about what is going on with him. That night, Heihachi approaches Rikichi as he sits by a fire in the village as a lookout. He tells Rikichi that he wants to have a chat, and gently explains that talking about one’s problems can help ease one’s suffering. He suggests that Rikichi is bottling something up, and asks him to let it out, bit by bit. Rikichi stares into the fire and says that he has nothing to say. Heihachi looks disappointed.
In the middle of the night Kambei rises and wakes Gorobei to go on rounds through the village, checking in with the lookouts. Gorobei asks if they should wake Katsushirō, but Kambei says they should let him sleep. As they are leaving, they hear Katsushirō mutter “Shino” in his sleep, and both seem worried by the fact that it is a woman’s name. However, Gorobei jokes that “even kids can be charmers in their dreams,” and they move on without dwelling on it further. Once outside, Kambei says they should start their rounds in the place that worries them the most, and they both laugh. A cut reveals Kikuchiyo sleeping by the fire at his post, with his sword some distance away. Kambei’s and Gorobei’s expressions reveal disappointment but also some degree of amusement as they quietly take Kikuchiyo’s sword and hide behind a structure nearby. Gorobei picks up a rock and throws it into the stream closer to Kikuchiyo. Kikuchiyo jumps up when he hears the noise, and scurries over to where his sword had been, frantically reaching for it while looking in the direction of the noise and calling out “who’s there?” When he cannot find his sword he scrambles for something to use as a weapon, and picks up a large stick. He begins walking forward toward the stream, still calling into the darkness and asking who made the noise. Kambei and Gorobei silently walk up behind him, and Kambei sternly says Kikuchiyo’s name. Kikuchiyo spins around and relaxes when he realizes who it is, and Kambei tells him that he was lucky it was only them and not bandits, otherwise he would be dead. He gives Kikuchiyo his sword back and walks away with Gorobei, and Kikuchiyo sinks to his knees in front of the fire in disappointment.
The next morning, Kikuchiyo closely watches as Yohei and a woman drive an old, skinny horse to plow a field. Kikuchiyo asks Yohei what the horse is, and jokes that he thought it was a “big old mouse.” Later, the samurai watch on and supervise as the villagers dig trenches in the field to prepare the village’s defenses. Kambei measures the trench depth with a long stick. They then flood the trenches, and line them with sharpened bamboo sticks. Inside the village, a large group of children climb the wooden fence built to pretend the village, singing a children’s song about birds. Later, as Rikichi, Manzo, Mosuke, and Yohei thresh the barley in the village, they wonder why the bandits have not come yet. Yohei says that it would be a waste if the bandits never end up coming, considering how much it costs the village to feed the samurai. Mosuke calls him an idiot and says that of course it would be best if the bandits never ended up coming. Just outside the village, Kikuchiyo prepares to mount Yohei’s old and weak horse. Heihachi tells him not to, saying that the horse is too weak and that Yohei will be devastated if he breaks its leg. Kikuchiyo claims that he is a great horseman and can make even a terrible horse “soar into the sky,” and he rides off across the field gracefully. Heihachi relaxes his posture and comments “not bad,” just as Kikuchiyo rides behind a house on the other side of the field. Moments later, however, the horse emerges from behind the house without Kikuchiyo, who then appears a few seconds later, limping as he chases after it. Everyone watching laughs hysterically as Kikuchiyo tries to catch up to the horse, who trots away each time he gets close. Gorobei and Kambei emerge from the village behind the crowd, smiling as Gorobei notes that the villagers seem to be having a good time. He goes on to say that the villagers are now saying that the bandits might not come, but Kambei tells him that one is most vulnerable right when one thinks one is safe. He tells Gorobei to send all the villagers back to their posts.
In the next scene, Katsushirō and Shino walk through the woods, and come to rest in a grove filled with flowers (possibly the same one where they first met). They sit down, and Shino says that she wishes she had been born into a samurai family. Katsushirō replies that a farmer’s life is cruel, and he is ashamed of how easy his life has been. Shino explains that she does not wish to have been born into a samurai family so her life would be easy, but rather because Katsushirō is a samurai (and their different positions within the hierarchy prevents their marriage). She brings her face close to his but he does not kiss her, and she collapses backwards into the flowers, panting, and begins crying. She calls Katsushirō a coward, and commands him to “act like a samurai.” He looks worried and nervous, and just stares at her indecisively. They are soon interrupted by the sound of a horse neighing nearby, and rise to their feet. They walk over a small ridge and peer down through the trees, where they see three horses tied up. They both become worried by this, and turn to run back toward the village. Back in the village, Shichiroji enters Rikichi’s house and tells Kambei and Gorobei that three suspicious characters were spotted on the Western road. Kambei asks if the villagers noticed, Shichiroji tells him that they have not, which pleases Kambei as he does not want the villagers to sound the alarm. Katsushirō comes running in, panicked, and tells them about the three horses he saw in the woods, and Kambei tells him that they already know. Kyuzo enters next asking if the bandits are here, and when Kambei asks how he knows, he gestures at Katsushirō, saying that his panicking made it obvious. Katsushirō looks ashamed, Kambei rubs his head, and Gorobei grins. Heihachi and Rikichi enter next, asking from which direction the bandits are coming, and Kambei resignedly replies that they are coming from the West. He pushes Katsushirō’s shoulder dismissively as he leaves the house, and everybody follows him quickly outside.
Outside, the villagers are starting to panic and run around the village spreading the news. Kambei tells Rikichi to send all of the villagers to their homes and to tell them to stay quiet no matter what. Kambei then turns to the samurai and says that, because it is only three bandits, they must be scouts. He says that they cannot let the bandits see that there are samurai there, and they all run off to hide. As Rikichi disperses the crowd, Kikuchiyo walks into the center of town leading Yohei’s old horse, with a couple of children behind him, carrying his sword. Rikichi says something to Kikuchiyo, who excitedly asks where the bandits are, takes his sword back from the children, and begins strutting around the village. Meanwhile, the other samurai find a house in which to hide, and watch the scouts through the window. They see the scouts approach the fence, and try to peer through. The samurai are pleased that the fence took the bandits by surprise, and note that the bandits do not seem to realize that there are samurai there. They hope the scouts will return to the others and tell them that only farmers are in the village. Suddenly, the scouts begin to run away from the fence, and Kikuchiyo’s voice bellows from outside, asking where everyone is hiding. Heihachi mutters to the others that Kikuchiyo is an idiot, and calls to Kikuchiyo from the house in a hushed voice. Kikuchiyo saunters over, laughing, and begins to say that he heard the bandits had arrived when Heihachi reaches out, covers his mouth to shut him up, and pulls him into the house. Kambei says from the window that it is already too late because the scouts have seen them. Gorobei says that if the scouts report that there are samurai in the village, the bandits will defeat them (as they will come better prepared). Kyuzo says he will kill them, as he knows the mountains well. Kikuchiyo looks ashamed, and begins to make an excuse, when Kambei interrupts him and says he can make up for it by killing one of them. Kikuchiyo and Kyuzo then leave with Katsushirō, who knows where the horses are tied, to cut them off. As they leave, excitedly, Kambei calls Katsushirō back, and tells him he must only watch, and not fight. He agrees and runs off.
In the woods, Katsushirō shows Kyuzo and Kikuchiyo where the horses are tied. Kyuzo takes control of the situation, telling Katsushirō to wait in the hollow where the horses are tied and asking Kikuchiyo how he plans to fight. Katsushirō lies in a large bed of flowers and watches as Kikuchiyo climbs a tree and Kyuzo hides, seated, behind another to ambush the scouts when they arrive. Kikuchiyo tosses something at Kyuzo to let him know the bandits are coming, and Kyuzo does not react, but continues staring peacefully at a flower by his feet. When the three scouts pass Kikuchiyo’s tree and approach Kyuzo’s tree, Kyuzo stands up and stabs one of them, and Kikuchiyo jumps out of the tree and tackles another. Kyuzo chases the third, who begins to flee, and soon catches up and stabs him as well. He calls out to Katsushirō that it is safe to come out, as Kikuchiyo continues wrestling the last surviving bandit scout.
A short while later in the center of the village, Kikuchiyo holds a rope tied to the surviving scout, who squirms on the ground. The other samurai surround him, holding back a massive crowd of angry villagers that tries to attack the captured bandit with farming tools and homemade weapons. Kambei rushes into the center of the crowd and yells at the villagers, telling them that the captured bandit has confessed and is begging for his life, and the villagers cannot just chop him to pieces. The villagers do not listen, however, and continue trying to attack. One man yells at Heihachi to “stay out of it,” as Heihachi tries to hold him back, and Rikichi grabs a hoe from someone and tries to attack, saying “let me do it,” before Kambei restrains him. The crowd suddenly calms and grows quiet, and the camera follows Rikichi’s gaze to find the old woman (Kyuemon’s grandma), walking slowly toward the bandit, carrying a hoe. The old man says the village should let the old woman avenge her son’s death, calls for someone to help her, and Rikichi quickly volunteers. The samurai look disappointedly at the ground but say nothing, and walk away in silence.
Later, inside Rikichi’s house, the samurai discuss plans to attack the bandit fort. Some of them think it will be easy to sneak in and attack, but Kambei says that they cannot afford to lose a single man, even if they kill five bandits for each of their own men lost. Kyuzo says that three of them could take out ten bandits without any losses on their own side. Rikichi tells them that the bandit hideout is at least a day’s journey, but only half a day by horse, and Kikuchiyo reminds them that they captured three of the bandits’ horses. There is a long silence in which everyone stares at Kambei expectantly. Finally, Kambei says that they will attack and can leave immediately to be sure to arrive at the hideout before dawn, but asks who will go. Heihachi and Kyuzo immediately stand to go. Katsushirō stands a moment after them, but Kambei tells him that he cannot go. Kikuchiyo then rises, laughing at Katsushirō, and says that he will be the third. Rikichi comes forward excitedly, saying that the samurai will need a guide to get there, but Kikuchiyo points out that there are only three horses. Heihachi tells Kikuchiyo that he can take Yohei’s horse, joking that the only man yet to master it is “Lord Kikuchiyo.” They all laugh, except Kikuchiyo, who looks embarrassed and angry.
Rikichi, Kyuzo, and Heihachi ride through the woods toward the bandits’ hideout, while Kikuchiyo rides a short distance behind on Yohei’s horse. The horse suddenly turns around and begins riding back toward the village, despite Kikuchiyo’s maneuvers and pleas to turn back around and follow the others. Finally, Kikuchiyo climbs off the horse and tries to drag it the other way by its reins, but the horse stands firm. He yells at the horse, calling it stupid, and suddenly the horse begins galloping very quickly in the right direction, leaving Kikuchiyo behind. He chases after the horse, yelling for it to wait for him and apologizing for calling it names. Later we see the other three riding across a ridge, and Kikuchiyo back up on his horse riding a good distance behind them, furiously beating the horse to ride faster. In the next shot, the four riders arrive under a waterfall near the bandits’ hideout and tie up their horses. They wade through the stream beneath the waterfall, climb out onto the bank further down, and run up to the outside of the main structure in the hideout. They peer inside and see dozens of bandits and women sleeping, with the room in disarray and smoke rising from several candles or a small fire that we do not see. Kikuchiyo says that they should light the place on fire, and Heihachi agrees, saying they can cut the bandits down as they come running out. Rikichi runs off to start the fire, while the three samurai continue staring through the front entrance at the mess of sleeping bodies and prepare for the fight. Kikuchiyo is excited by the many naked women, and all of the samurai notice a young woman who is sleeping alone. She wakes up and looks around, with a sad and lethargic expression on her face. Suddenly, she notices the fire that has started on the other side of the building, and becomes alarmed. She looks around for a way to escape, but her expression soon relaxes again, with an almost satisfied expression, and she seems to change her mind an begin laying back down. It is unclear whether she has decided that she wants to die in the fire or whether she has decided not to warn any of the others because she wants the bandits to die. The samurai look alarmed after watching her do this, but are soon interrupted by Rikichi, who runs back over to them, and all four prepare for the bandits to come running out. Several women come running out first, and the samurai push them out of the way. Next come a few bandits, who the samurai immediately kill, as well as some more women. The crowd continues to pour out and the samurai separate the bandits from the women and kill the bandits. The fight becomes more chaotic as several bandits realize what is going on and come out brandishing swords, but the samurai continue to dispose of them with relative ease. The samurai then run and hide behind a rock on the other side of a bend in the river, still within view of the burning house, and watch the struggling bandits form relative safety.
The woman who the samurai were staring at when the fire started emerges from the house and looks around. Rikichi sees her, immediately runs up to her, and stands a few feet in front of her, saying nothing. The woman looks at him, begins to panic, screams, and runs back into the burning building while the samurai yell for Rikichi to come back, because exposing himself will put him in danger. Rikichi tries to run into the building after her but is kept at bay by the flames. As the building begins to crumble, Heihachi runs out from behind his rock to try to pull Rikichi back to safety, and as he is doing so, is shot by one of the bandits from off-screen. The other two samurai run out to help him up, and the four run back into the stream and toward their horses, helping Heihachi the whole way, who is still alive and able to walk with help. When they get back to the waterfall, they lay Heihachi back on the ground and Kikuchiyo hits Rikichi, scolding him and asking who the woman was to him, while Kyuzo tends to Heihachi. Rikichi collapses on the ground, exclaiming that the woman was his wife, and Heihachi collapses down onto the bank of the stream. The three struggle to pull him back out, and the anthem of the samurai begins to play in a somber and melancholic tone. Back in the village, the music continues as the village and the samurai perform a funeral for Heihachi. He is buried under a mound on a ridge above the village, and the samurai, and a few important villagers, stand close to his grave while the rest of the villagers are gathered in a semicircular crowd around them, further away. Kikuchiyo plunges Heihachi’s sword into his grave and sits down mournfully, and the villagers all mimic him by sitting or kneeling. Kambei turns to Gorobei, reminds him of his own words earlier in the film, that Heihachi would “be a treasure in hard times,” and laments that “the hard times have only just begun.” Suddenly, Rikichi collapses on Heihachi’s grave, crying. Kikuchiyo yells at him to stop crying, and then runs around yelling at other villagers to stop crying as well. He then runs away from the crowd, through the village to Rikichi’s house, and takes the flag of the seven samurai that Heihachi sewed earlier in the film. He climbs onto the roof, and plants the flag in the roof as the orchestral score grows more determined and march-like. The crowd at the funeral stands when the flag is raised and watches, with tears in their eyes, as it flaps in the wind. Kikuchiyo sits sulkily beneath it on the roof.
The film is known for intricately detailing the relationships between various characters, and the full characterizations that come from this. Though we have already been introduced, with some detail, to our central characters and seen the way they interact as a group, Kurosawa continues throughout the film to take us through the dynamics of several different one on one character combinations. This is because the film at its core is mostly about the development of these characters, who are all ‘misfits’ samurais in their own unique and interesting ways. Though the culmination of the film is the battle with the bandits, this takes up relatively little time in the film when compared with the long, character-building lead-up. When Kyuzo sees Katsushirō bringing rice to Shino, we are given the first indication that the relationship between these two samurai will become important. Immediately, Kyuzo acts in line with his earlier characterizations: serious and quiet, he makes a moral judgment that there is nothing inherently wrong with Katsushirō and Shino's relationship, and that nothing stands to be gained by anyone if he tells the other samurai about what he has witnessed. Though the social structure of the time dictates that this relationship is wrong, he sees the nature of their relationship and approves—when he later offers to take his rice to the old woman he implicitly sanctions their actions, expressing concern only for Katsushirō’s self-starvation. Of course, this scene also characterizes Katsushirō and Shino as caring people, both foregoing a good meal to help someone else, which further strengthens the viewer’s idea that their relationship is good, and whatever rules prevent them from being together are wrong.
The rain coming down in this scene is also a typical technique of Kurosawa’s. He is known for using environmental motion, such as rain, wind, and smoke, to create dynamic shots that keep the viewer engaged and focused on certain aspects of the scene. This photographic goal of the rain is especially apparent as Kyuzo practices drawing his sword in the forest: the rain’s vertical motion creates a contrast with the horizontal movement of Kyuzo’s arm and sword, sharpening Kyuzo’s action and creating a visually pleasing grid within the frame. We also see the rain draw attention to the puddle in front of Shino’s house (because the drops that land there create a constant patter of splashes), which is then used by Shino as she fixes her hair. Additionally, the rain provides a mood for the film during this waiting period before the fighting happens, casting the village valley into a dark shadow and creating a dismal atmosphere. This helps to magnify the tension when we meet the old woman, who speaks of the desperation felt in the village and the depressing and difficult life the farmers have suffered. Finally, the rain may also hold meaning as a cleansing agent—after the explosive words exchanged between Kikuchiyo and the other samurai over the villagers’ stolen armor and weapons, he is back with them in Rikichi’s house, wise-cracking as usual. The rain here may metaphorically suggest that the tension between them has been washed away, driving home the idea that the other samurai did indeed listen and take to heart Kikuchiyo’s words, have forgiven the villagers, and do not hold any bitter feelings toward Kikuchiyo because of his status. Finally, the rain creates a necessity for the samurai to wait inside, allowing Heihachi to sew his flag (likely because he needed something to occupy time), which will become an important symbol for the rest of the film. The rain may also serve here to give a sense of the passage of time. Earlier we saw it more explicitly used in this way, when the four farmers notice the barley ripening in the rain in the larger town, reminding them of the urgency of their task. Here, the rain's connection to the passage of time is brought out by the cut to the next shot of the barley, now nearly ripened, swaying in the breeze the next day. We immediately understand the association here, as earlier, between rainfall and the maturation of their crops, and in this way the rain also serves the exposition.
When Mosuke tries to desert the rest of the fighters, the theme of security in unity arises in both in the imagery and the dialogue. The villagers are shown in a crowd, and filmed from within this crowd in such a way as to prevent the viewers from seeing outside of it. This imagery is not new to the film—several earlier scenes show the villagers gathering or moving as a unit, and filmed in such a way as to show only the crowd within the entire frame. In particular the opening scene of the villagers meeting for the first time, after they find out that the bandits plan to attack again soon, bears quite a bit of similarity to this scene. This parallel is magnified when Mosuke stands and runs away from the group, much as Rikichi had stood and ran outside of the circle earlier, physically reflecting his decision to split with the rest of the village. When this happens, the film places us outside the safety of the group for the first time and a wider shot highlights his distance and isolation from the group after running away some distance. Of course, Kambei then articulates this problem of isolation: in abandoning the group, more than simply weakening the group as a whole, one isolated oneself, increasing ones vulnerability. This speech is one of the many lessons that the samurai, Kambei in particular, impress upon the villagers, and it is both a strategic and a moral lesson. Kambei addresses the problem with selfishness to the villagers and explains why they must act as a cohesive unit. But the speech is not only addressed to the villagers. Though in this scene the other samurai make the villagers get in line and listen to Kambei, the speech's lesson about unity also applies to them, even if they do not realize this, creating an underlying irony to the scene. This irony reflects particularly on Kikuchiyo, who helps Kambei get the villagers in line with the sheath of his sword and seems particularly angry, especially at Yohei, but does not realize that he himself often acts selfishly and endangers his comrades. This becomes especially poignant later, when Kikuchiyo abandons his post to steal a musket and grab for glory, leaving Yohei in charge, therefore allowing an attack that eventually kills Yohei and several others.
During the harvesting scene, Kikuchiyo's reaction to the young village women and his behavior toward them are set up as a foil to Katsushiro's behavior with Shino. Kikuchiyo represents the type of behavior of which the villagers were afraid earlier in the film—he seeks physical comfort and is not afraid to aggressively pursue the women. He indiscriminately moves from woman to woman, trying to get the attention of whichever one is willing to give it to him. This directly contrasts with the way that Shino and Katsushiro treat each other: moments later, we see Shino staring longingly after Katsushiro as he runs after Rikichi. Though this particular instance focuses mostly on Shino's gaze, the two of them exchange longing glances throughout the film and exhibit real care for each other, which is absent from Kikuchiyo's behavior. These two romantic or sexual plot lines are shown in sequence with Rikichi's outburst, which brings out its thematic connection and shows that his anger has to do with his romantic life. The common ground of romance and love will become a uniting force between the samurai and villagers—despite many differences between them, we are clearly shown here that both groups struggle with various problems in this area, and that shared experience and mutual understanding will allow them to connect and get past their differences. We soon see this happening when Heihachi tries to get Rikichi to open up to him about his problems. Of course, Rikichi’s resistance to Heihachi’s efforts prevent them from really coming to a full understanding of each other, and this failure will lead to Heihachi’s death, solidifying the idea that the farmers and samurai must understand each other and work together to succeed.
Kikuchiyo’s falling asleep at his post is important for a few different reasons. It suggests that the reason the other samurai do not take him seriously is his proven lack of skill and discipline, rather than his low birth. It also foreshadows the biggest mistake he will make in the film: deserting his post to try to steal a musket. It is also one of many in a series of mistakes that Kikuchiyo makes while still trying to learn to be a real samurai before he performs his final heroic act and kills the last bandit while dying himself. Indeed, he is shown before this final act to have a way of making up for his shortcomings with acts of skill or heroism; he makes several big mistakes, but also consistently proves to be crafty, a skilled swordsman, and a competent fighter. This is most clearly demonstrated when the three bandit scouts come to the village and Kikuchiyo gives away that there are samurai there by sauntering around the village foolishly while the others are hiding. However, he makes up for it with his competence as a fighter and his clever sneak attack from the tree above the bandits’ horses. Aside from exposition, the main function of this sequence is to provide us with these details about Kikuchiyo’s character. Similarly, when he earlier tries to ride Yohei’s horse we do see that indeed he is quite a capable rider—though he is eventually thrown from the horse, he rides it briefly with some grace and skill, impressing Heihachi. These moments also provide comic relief (his physically humorous limp while angrily chasing the horse that threw him, and his attempt to urge the same horse forward later, while riding to the bandit hideout, are good examples of this). But these comic scenes with Kikuchiyo contain more serious lessons. When Kambei says to Gorebei that one is most vulnerable when one thinks one is safe, we can see how his words might apply to Kikuchiyo’s falling from Yohei’s horse: he only made a mistake and was thrown when he was behind the farmhouse, and likely felt confident because he was riding in front of others. And perhaps when Kikuchiyo fell asleep on duty the previous night it was because he felt sure that the bandits would not be attacking that night. Later, he will excuse his desertion by telling Yohei that they are safe from any attacks from that direction, and is proven vulnerable, as Kambei warns, when the bandits do attack from that direction and wreak havoc.
The problem of being a ‘real’ or ‘true’ samurai, which Kikuchiyo struggles with, is interestingly reflected in the love scene in the woods between Shino and Katsushirō. Though Kikuchiyo may have earlier worried about being a ‘real’ samurai in the sense of his birth status, we learn over the course of the film that what really matters are one’s skill, intelligence, honor, and righteousness. When Shino expresses disappointment that Katsushirō does not “act like a samurai,” indicating that she wants him to have sex with her, she is also suggesting that that actions define a samurai—but not in the same way we have come to think about them. She refers to the expected actions of a samurai, based on the general consensus. But this code of actions, we have learned, is defined mostly by dishonorable samurai. Early in the film we met many samurai who are selfish, bound by a false honor code, and obsessed with hierarchy, and we have heard up to this point that a common behavior among samurai is to take advantage of those placed below them in the social structure, whether that be young women or whole villages whose food they steal and whose citizens they enslave. It is important, then, that it is Katsushirō who is asked to be a "real samurai." Katsushirō is young and still trying to form his own set of values and his own idea of what it means to be a samurai, and his hesitation and uncertainty in response is in line with his characterization. His hesitation might also demonstrate a struggle between how he knows a good samurai, according to his role models (like Kambei), should act—not taking advantage of his status and the power structure to have sex with villagers—and how a villager expects him to act, based on his status as a samurai. This conflict draws out the way in which the best interests of some characters can be opposed to the morals that our ‘good’ samurai promote. Shino has been sexually repressed and physically abused by her father, and in Katsushirō she seeks an escape and freedom to express her sexuality. As noted earlier, because we understand the nature of their feelings for each other, we also do not see this interaction as the exploitative one that dominates the narrative of the villagers.
These factors enable us to question whether the morals of the samurai must be considered absolute, which is an interesting line of reasoning for Kurosawa to bring out, considering that he introduced these samurai in opposition to others as morally superior (with the exception of Kikuchiyo). However, he shows us these contradicting moral arguments not to come down on any given side but to allow the audience to question what is right and wrong in a given situation, and in general to question the idea that anything, especially in this time and place, has a black and white moral answer. This is magnified in the scene when the villagers try, and finally succeed, in killing the captured bandit scout. Though the samurai try to stop them on the grounds that it is wrong to kill someone who has confessed and begs for his life, they eventually relent and allow the old woman to kill him because they understand her pain and suffering at the hands of the bandit, and they understand that retribution might ease that in some way. It is unclear whether Kurosawa intends to come down concretely on either side of this event—though one may argue that his decision not to show the killing on screen is intended to label it as shameful, it may instead be that he simply wishes to focus on the reactions of the samurai, and in showing their faces during the killing, he is able to show their simultaneous disappointment and understanding. This also marks the last big conflict between the samurai and the villagers, and it is resolved with understanding by the samurai, which is a notable development for our characters.
The attack on the bandit hideout and Heihachi’s death are the culmination of several important themes and conflicts up to this point. Most simply, it advances the exposition by explaining Rikichi’s mysterious backstory and initiating the fight between the bandits and the village. More importantly, it gives another poignant example of why it is important that the villagers and the samurai bond and understand each other—had Rikichi opened up to Heihachi about his wife, Heihachi could perhaps have prevented the incident at the hideout that caused his death. Similarly, it supports Kambei’s assertion that each fighter can only save himself by protecting his neighbor: if Heihachi had been able to protect Rikichi from emotional pain by stopping him from going to the hideout (had he known about Rikichi’s wife), then he would likely not have died. It also shows how unthinking selfishness can lead to the death of your companions, as Rikichi acts only in response to his emotions here, without thinking about the consequences.
The funeral scene is most notable for the filmic techniques that Kurosawa employs. He again uses the wind and smoke to create movement on the screen even when all of the characters and the camera are still. Additionally, he employs a three-step camera movement, which is typical of his work. In this technique, the camera moves and zooms between a medium shot of the samurai, a long shot of the crowd of villagers, and finally landing on a close shot of the samurai, to create dynamism in an otherwise mostly static scene, and to arrive at the end of a long silence on the speakers. We of course see that Kikuchiyo, who has been teased relentlessly by Heihachi for much of the film, is most upset by his death, which draws out the bond they have formed and indicates some maturation by Kikuchiyo, who earlier in the film would have been gravely offended by such teasing. Kikuchiyo then comes to drive the motion and mood within the scene: when he turns and sits down his movement is echoed by the crowd of villagers, who also all sit or kneel. This has the effect of magnifying his emotional response across the entire screen. When the scene finally breaks and Kikuchiyo runs across the village to raise the flag, we see a transference of the environmental movement from the funeral, caused by wind, to the movement in the close up on the flag, which flaps rapidly in the wind. This change parallels the change in music to a more hopeful melody, helping to communicate the message that Heihachi’s death might unite and inspire the villagers, and foreshadowing the imminent attack.