I recently watched The Hidden Blade, the second of three samurai movies from director Yoji Yamada. The first, Twilight Samurai, was an excellent film. The second was also good, but it didn't strike me as forcefully as the first. I'm not certain exactly why that was, but I have several ideas.
I recall the main character in Twilight Samurai to be a better person, more worthy of respect and emulation. (Though I only saw the movie once and it was some time ago.) He behaved consistently throughout the film, whereas the protagonist of The Hidden Blade seemed to jump out of character near the end. There also seemed to be some very similar elements in both movies, though a lot of that may have been deliberate, since although the movies are not exactly a trilogy, they are all made to be part of a "set", if you will.
Overall, though, it was a very good movie and dealt well with the period and characters. I hesitate to say too much about it because I wouldn't want to spoil it for anyone. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes good movies, it's not what one might think of when one thinks of samurai movies. It's no Zatoichi film, that's for sure. Little fighting, a lot of character development and a definite, believable love interest. My only real regret about these movies? That Love and Honor, the final film released in 2006, isn't available in the US yet.