- Based on a novel by Shugoro Yamamoto, the story begins in media res, with nine young samurai, led by the earnest Isaka (Kenichi Matsuyama), deep in a discussion about graft and corruption in their clan. They suspect that the elderly chamberlain, Mutsuta (Makoto Fujita), is the guilty party, a suspicion the superintendent, Kikui (Tokuma Nishioka), is investigating — and is coming to question them about. Overhearing them, a scruffy ronin (Oda), tells them they are dead wrong: the chamberlain is being falsely accused, while the superintendent is in cahoots with the bad guys. They are, in fact in danger of their lives, since a gang of swordsman under Kikui's employ is coming to wipe them out — thus erasing potential opposition to the plans of Kikui and his henchmen.
The ronin saves them through quick thinking, while fending off the swordsmen with such deadly panache that their impressed leader, Muroto (Etsushi Toyokawa), offers him a job. The ronin refuses, though he extends a grudging respect to the tough, canny Muroto, the ronin's equal in ways the naive young samurai are not. The ronin, who could walk off at this point — having done his good deed for the day, instead decides to help the hapless nine in freeing the chamberlain, who has been imprisoned by the superintendent. "You guys are such a danger to yourselves that I can't stand to watch it," he explains. A more likely reason is that he is bored and sees a chance for an interesting game of wits — and clash of swords.