Takashi Miike's style of filmmaking is sometimes just his job, sometimes autuerial. Kurosawa is seemingly popular, see all the Criterion releases and re-releases, such must be one the reasons this samurai-an obvious homage to the films of Kurosawa, Fukasaku, Kobayashi, Yamanaka-film in comparison to his others (he makes several year) got distribution in the States.
Watching the film in an audience of 20-40 year old men with a minority of females, one of which though was enjoying it more than boys, the film does seem to know its audience. At Temple University where I take film courses only for the access to equipment, Kurosawa is consistently evoked by the majority male populace who sees Kurosawa as 'art' and Seven Samurai as a highly intellectual affair. After a few years of repeated viewings of Kurosawa and then discovering the work of John Ford, I have been pushed very far away from the work of Kurosawa, seeing him as a competent director that at best makes solid action films with cinematography highly derivative of Ford, who is a far more talented director. When it comes to Samurai films then, I rather go with Kobayashi than Kurosawa.
Now, when it comes to Miike, my top choices are Visitor Q, Gozu and Imprint. These films have the most obvious Miike stamps, which have very interesting ideas to express and this is done in a unique way. Miike, who takes immense influence from his onetime film school teacher Shohei Imamura (The Insect Woman, Vengeance Is Mine) and most definitely from David Lynch, Miike comes in after these guys with an even more overtly surrealist style. While bordering on horror, which is the community that Miike finds most of his fans due to the decent but more accessible and overhyped Audition, he pushes an interesting moral line in his films.
What is missing in 13 Assassins is this moral discussion, rather there are brief moments of surreal violence (a young girl who bleeds blood and has no limbs), but otherwise what is being discussed is different. More this film is about the absurdity of the Samurai ethos of overly sacrificial devotion to one's master. And how such ideas are now even more absurd in the mid 1800's, when the Samurai are in their final days. Here the ideas Miike somewhat brought up in his early Yakuza films, in-which character's devotion to their leaders were argued, here more the debate is simple.
In all, the film is then just a well done hack-n-slash. With just enough story and thought put into it. I can only suggest this to fans of Die Hard and/or action films. As it is a solid one of those, but not much more else. Don't give up on Miike though, check out my top choices if you haven't, I'm sure you will become a fan.