Shinraemon is full of joy that he has been chosen by fate to answer this calling to die as a true Samurai should die. He is the last master Samurai as the Samurai warriors are dying off or being absorbed into mediocrity. He has outlived his world. He is to die and disappear with his world. That he has been elected to do so brings him great joy.
When he died he would not end. The world would end. (Eric Packer C 6)
12 assassins are recruited and they tell their stories. A final mountain man joins them making 13. He is Koyata who presages the new enlightened messenger, the Zen master.
The Samurai have paid a warlord ruler of a great clan, whose daughter-in-law was ravished and killed and his son murdered by Aritsugo. The bridge is closed and Aritsugo crosses to meet with the humiliated father who is still alive only to have borne witness to the atrocity. Aritsugo's protectors advise him not to cross but he does, saying:
Aritsugo:Watch and learn.
Eric Packer sees Elise outside the theater with a cigarette in her hand. He gets out of the limo. He forced open the door and walked across the street and Torval was at his side, ably containing his rage.
Torval: I need to know where you're going.
Eric: Wait and learn. (C 116)
Everyone has been killed and now Shinraemon and Aritsugo meet. Shinraemon slays Aritsugo himself. First he ridicules Aritsugo's decorative sword and Aritsugo plunges it into the body of Shinraemon, who then mortally wounded by his own choice, then plunges his own sword into Aritsugo and kills him. He chooses his death and chooses his disappearance now that his world is at an end. 23 years later the shogunate rule will end.
This film expresses the beauty of ritual and ceremony. Of lethal ritualistic violence.
If man must reach the outermost bounds of his possibilities, then he must also go so far as to destroy himself. For that possibility is neither the least, nor the least glorious. - Saul Bellow (Baudrillard - The Intelligence of Evil Or The Lucidity Pact, Berg, p.115)
One way of dying is to make your death alter the state of things in such a way that you no longer have any reason to be a part of it. Thus death can have the effect of a prophetic disappearance. Such were the deaths of Barthes and Lacan. I believe the world has taken another direction since, in which these subtle figures would no longer have any meaning. The death of Sartre, by contrast, left the world unchanged and seems an ineluctable, but insignificant event. Before dying, he was already to live in a world that was no longer his own. (Baudrillard - Cool Memories 1980-85 p. 114)