Tag Archives: samurai

Samurai 7

Type: “I’ll be in the rice!”

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Synopsis: A remake of the legendary Seven Samurai film, Kambei is now a very pretty older man! Katsushiro is pretty much the same! Gorobei is a street performer! Shichiroji is in a healthy relationship! Haihachi is a mechanic! Kyuzo is a silent assassin! And Kikuchiyo is a loudmouth robot! And Shino is replaced my a water maiden named Kirara!

Pros: I’ve always been curious about Samurai 7. It’s an adaptation of one of the most, if not the most, influential Japanese movie in history. The anime mostly follows the plot of the movie, and does included a lot of the key moments (Ex: Kambei testing Gorobei). For those who somehow don’t know, the story is that a poor farming village hires Samurai to protect them from bandits. Only this time, the bandits are Mecha, as this takes place in a quasi-futuristic setting. Flying ships, samurai deflecting lasers, etc. The beauty with this adaptation is that we get more time with the 7 samurai, with each getting more fleshed out by virtue of having 26 episodes instead of 2 hours. For example, in the anime Kambei is younger than in the film, so we get to see him in battle. What I loved was that Kambei was skilled, but not overpowered, and tended to tactics rather than raw skill to hold his own. Another thing worth mentioning is that the actual plot borrowed from the film ends at about Ep19. The plot is then extended to a battle between the Samurai and the Capital. While I have mixed feelings about this, I did like the fact that the fight against the Capital stems from the mistreatment of the farmers, particularly the scores of women that had been abducted over the years. And while not a central focus, I did appreciate that the victimization of females in feudal settings was at least included in the conversation.

Cons: Obviously this isn’t a perfect adaptation of the film. The anime takes liberties to help set it aparts. Some good, some not so good (like Kikuchiyo coming off way more annoying). But still, the show has a definitive beginning, middle, and end (though the ending could have been better). I didn’t really buy the “Emperor” as a credible antagonist. I would have much preferred that the bandits had stayed the main protagonists. Maybe take the opportunity to flesh them out and explore why they abandoned the samurai way. In fact, the show could have easily replaced “The Emperor” with “Bandit Leader.”But that’s the thing about this, even though it had more time than the original, none of the characters are as explored as I would have liked. You do get a better sense of their personalities, but not their backstory. How did Kambei and Shijirochi act in their younger days? What happened with Heihachi’s old troupe? Why does Kyozu want a duel so bad? One or two spotlight episodes would have been appreciated. On the technical side, the animation was all over the place in terms of quality, particularly in the first few episodes where the show actually repeats crowd scenes (maybe the animators were in a rush?). And on a personal note, I hated the love triangle the show was trying to make between Kambei, Katsuchiro, and Kirara. It was mostly there because it was in the movie, but come on. No matter how much anime I watch, I am just never going to root for the teenager(16 in this one) trying to get with an adult, no matter how cool he/she is. Plus, it doesn’t do anything other than give Katsuchiro another area to feel inadequate about. If the show really wanted to explore a love story, how about Shichiroji and his girlfriend Yukiko? At least they have witty banter.

Watch it?: Watch Seven Samurai, and then The Magnificent Seven, and the maybe this (4/5)

MVP: Shichiroji and Yukiko

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The more I think about it, the more I want a side series

Best Episode?: Ep.7 “The Friend” (I can’t help it, I just find them cute)

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Ninja Scroll

Type: The One You Were Too Young To Rent, But Saw Anyway

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Synopsis: So back in the 90’s, anime was still a relatively new thing in the States. With things like Speed Racer and Gundam being the only comparisons, many adults often made the mistake that “anime=for children.” So image your surprise when you walk into your local video store, your parents rent something called Ninja Scroll from the animation section, only to get home and watch a Japanese lord have sex with his concubine while a Kunoichi reports that all his ninja were slaughtered. Kids, be grateful you have the internet now.

Pros: From what I can gather, Ninja Scroll is one of the most famous anime movies in the west. In the same vain as Akira and Eva, its popularity can partly be attributed to the fact that it was actually released and dubbed for English speaking audiences during a time when anime was scarce. Thankfully, it  does live up to the hype. The movie is about a group of ninjas trying to get their hands on some gold, with our protagonists coming along mainly to kill people. This thing is a Hard-R, full of awesomely violent fight scenes, some nudity, and one sex scene. It’s nothing out of the ordinary for a modern movie, or some cable TV shows, but keep in mind that this was made in 1993.

Cons: If you somehow saw this back in the day thanks to the ignorance of the past…good for you? This thing is super violent and has one sexual assault (not rape, but close), so be cautious. The plot if fairly simple, being mostly about greed and revenge. I got a little confused about Kagero’s story line, because it seemed that in the beginning she resented being treated as a feudal woman, but in the end she falls in love with Jubei because, in her words, he treated her like a woman. Maybe she meant as an “equal” and it got lost in translation.

Watch it?: It’d give it a go

MVP: Jubei Kibagami

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Loosely based on an actual guy

Best Moment: The Last Fight (fire everywhere!)

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Battle Girls: Time Paradox

Type: Nobunaga, Tokugawa, Hideyoshi, the usual.

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Synopsis: A girl is sent back in time to the Feudal Japan where she meets all the big named Japanese Leaders that are forever stuck in the anime cycle of death and resurrection. Now there’s a thought. What if the cycle of rebirth also includes fictional worlds? Like, you die, then get recreated in some poor shmuck’s fan fiction. That would suck. Huh? Oh yeah, synopsis time. The girl finds that everyone is also a girl and there are no men in the past, because girls are pretty.

Pros: There’s nothing much to say one way or another. This is a solid mid-tier comedy with only a very little bit of Historical Drama put in. This means that any potential betrayals or attacks are immediately forgiven after the fact. I will admit that the character of Hideyoshi isn’t the most annoying small-blonde character in anime history, but she doesn’t do much. No one in this anime does much. Although, there is one episode that deals with a woman’s love for another woman fairly earnestly. So it gets points for that. A fairly easy watch with some chuckles here and there.

Cons: So aside from the usual slice-of-life stories, the main plot involves Nobunaga collecting this mysterious “Crimson Armor” that will let her take over Japan. This was basically just an excuse to introduce other notable historical gender-swapped characters. The no guys thing is never explained, neither is the talking dog (p.s.There’s a talking dog). Since you probably already get a feel for what this show is, can I say how interesting it is that Oda Nobunaga is usually the central focus in these types of shows. Whenever anime goes to the past, they usually hit up Nobunaga. For those who don’t know, Nobunaga was the first of the Three Great Unifiers of Japan, followed by Hideyoshi and Tokugawa. Just a fun fact.

Synopsis: Total middle of the road show (3/5)

MVP: Yoshino Hide

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I wish her staff skillz had come more into play.

Best Episode: Ep. 02 “Confused Maiden” (Don’t get cocky kid)

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Rurouni Kenshin: Reflection (OVA)

Type: I don’t even, no.

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Synopsis: Set in a horrible future we’ll call Earth-616, our once heroic protagonist abandons his family because he felt guilty over having a happy life and, and..no. You know what, no. I’m not doing this. SCREW THIS OVA.

Pros: There’s this part were Kauro tries to get Kenshin to give her leprosy by having sex. That’s so stupid that it makes me smile.

Cons: Jesus, where do I begin? This is a big, melodramatic, pile of lackluster storytelling. Everyone looks weird and the trademark action sequences are no where to be seen. And everything looks kinda grey. This thing totally missed the mark on the original source material. Why would Kenshin leave his family over guilt if the last arc of the manga specifically dealt with Kenshin getting over his guilt. That was the entire point of the fucking story. I’m sorry if this sounds like a rant, but it really upsets me that this story is considered canon by some people. Because it’s not. This is not how Kenshin’s story ends. This is not how the franchise ends. I refuse.

Watch it!?: Burn it.

MVP: No

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No

Best Moment: The Leprosy Sex Thing.

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Rurouni Kenshin: Trust & Betrayal (OVA)

Type: God, do you remember when this was called “Samurai X?”

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Synopsis: Set in the not so fun time of the Bakumatsu and Meiji Restoration, a young swordsman named Himurai Kenshin joins the Imperialists as an assassin. Earning the moniker Hitokiri Battosai, or Man-Slayer, the once gentle soul tries to build a better future through steel and blood. His life changes, however, when he meets a woman named Tomoe, who affects his life so much, that his future becomes much less detailed and more gag heavy.

Pros: So, the thing about Trust & Betrayal is that everyone really, really likes it. It’s considered one of the best OVA’s in the medium’s history. Why? Well, it does what the Dark Knight did years later by taking a “realistic” approach to a largely fantastic story. Everything, from Kenshin’s design to fighting style are taken down a notch to appear more true to life. The dialogue is slower and quieter, and emotion is a lot more subtle. It basically stays true to the manga version of Kenshin’s backstory and provides the last missing piece to the anime’s story.

Cons: I’ll be honest, I don’t particularly like Trust & Betrayal. I never have. I don’t like the redesigned character models or the serious tone. If found it way too somber, slow, and totally devoid of the charm of the original anime. Granted, I will acknowledged that it is a good OVA. Even within the franshise, it makes for a nice contrast between Kenshin’s life as an assassin and the life depicted in the anime. The issue really isn’t over the quality of the OVA as much as it’s with the overall enjoyment you get from it. I didn’t enjoy it, but this is one of the very rare franchises that I actually have very strong preconceived notion and thus honest fanboy bias. So my dislike may be in the minority.

Watch it?: Objectively, yes. Subjectively, maybe.

MVP: Tomoe

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The reason for wandering

Best Moment: Revealing how Kenshing got his scar.

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Rurouni Kenshin

Type: A Personal Favorite

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Synopsis: The baddest man on the planet starts feeling guilty over his whole “man-slayer” title, and retires to a life of wandering. He starts carrying a reverse-blade sword so his mad skillz won’t utterly destroy the posers who attack him. A few years later, he shacks up with this Dojo Woman who think he killed her father. He didn’t, but you know how these things go. Together, they help defend Japan against the forces of evil, because Meiji Japan knows to respect the legend.

Pros: As stated above, I love Rurouni Kenshin. I’ve loved it since I was a kid. I love the fact that the protagonist is this super modest guy who only fights when he absolutely has to. I love that the franchise often injects real historical people and events into a story where one sword style is enough to end wars. I love that one episode where Sanosuke thought that cameras could steal souls. Even though the show stopped one arc short of the manga, I think they made the right decision. The New Kyoto Arc is the story’s high point, and Shishio is a damn charismatic antagonist. There are too many great moments to list, especially because a few are personally special to me, but trust me, this is a good show.

Cons: There’s no getting around it, Rurouni Kenshin is a shonen anime. Granted, a shonen anime where the protagonist is a full fledged adult looking for inner peace and redemption, not power, but a shonen anime nonetheless. There are several non-organic fights, and quiet a few supporting characters looking to become the strongest. Yahiko was particularly guilty of this (though his character does get better in the last arc of the manga). The filler within the anime were also not great, and the fact that the “last” season (ep. 63-95) was entirely filler makes me glad I stopped watching at ep. 62.

Watch it?: Guys, I have Reverse-Blade Sword. I think you know my answer. (4/5)

MVP: Rurouni Kenshin

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Best Episode: Ep.57-60 Shishio vs. Kenshin (So. Damn. Epic.)

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Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere (Season 1 & 2)

Type: I think I’m in Love

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Synopsis: Let’s try to keep this simple, shall we? In the distant future, Earth has become uninhabitable except for the islands of Japan. The country has been divided between outside nations, while the native population is forced to constantly travel on the ship Musashi. In addition, in order to restore the world’s civilizations, every country has decided to reenact history. Oh, and there’s also magic, ghosts, mechas, a perv that tries to save a robot that’s being inhabited by his dead girlfriend from future pope, a ninja that fall in love with Bloody Mary who may or may not be an actual fairy, and a Spain that seems to have a baseball-based military. It’s basically amazing.

Pros: I did mention that this was amazing right? This anime is visually vibrant, it’s action packed, it’s funny as hell, and knows the right ways to utilize music cues to get you hear racing and fist pumping. Seriously, I almost always to energized after watching an episode. It’s fun from the word go. The pilot is a battle-race that does an inspired job in introducing the rather large cast. Every character has their own personality and fighting style, and you honestly can’t wait to see one of them in a fight. I was also very cool to see how different historical figures where interpreted. Shakespeare was a particularly interesting choice. The first season focuses on rescuing the titular character Horizon from the Pope and Spain, while the second season focuses on the ninja Tenzo falling in love with a very blonde and very ample Bloody Mary, plus fighting England and Spain. It’s also has a tremendous sense of humor, with one of the characters straight-up being naked for the entire second season. I truly, truly hope we see more entries in this franchise in the future.

Cons: No matter how much I enjoyed this series, I cannot overlook the quagmire that is the plot. Seriously, I double checked on Wikipedia and still  cannot for the life of me tell you what’s going on. There’s just too much thrown at you to remember. The actual politics of the world itself are what lost on me. Like, why create doomsday weapons from the emotions of a dead girl? And why is society being run by student governments? And why repeat the bad parts of history at all, because you’ll really be wanting to skip all of 1913-1945. I can’t really say this was perfect if I didn’t understand what was going on half the time. Some of the girls also have what I like to call “balloon breast” that just came off as silly (though that may have been the point).  On a personal note, I know that there’s a game based on this show, and it sucks so hard that it’s only been released in Japan.

Watch it?: The most fun I’ve had watching an anime in a while (4/5)

MVP: Tenzo Crossunite

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Where can I get that hat!

Best Episode: Ep.1 “Those Lined Up Before A Horizon” (I don’t what’s happening, but I love it!)

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Afro Samurai: Resurrection

Type: Mace “Motherfukin'” Windu, Resurrection

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Synopsis: After becoming the baddest man on the planet, the Afro Samurai decides to take some down time by wallowing in his own sadness. Then his best friend, robot Teddy Bear man, sucker-punches him and steals his favorite headband. This is all according to the plan of his younger sister, Lucy Liu, who also plans on reviving Afro’s dad just to mess with him. It’s hard out there for an Afro Samurai.

Pros: If you liked Afro Samurai, you’ll love Afro Samurai: Resurrection. The action, animation, and soundtrack remain excellent. If someone were to rank the top anime in the “stylized action” sub-genre, Afro Samurai would be right up there with stuff like Gurren Lagann and Cowboy Bebop. You will never feel bored watching this.

Cons: If you didn’t like Afro Samurai, you’re not ganna love Afro Samurai: Resurrection. Once again, the actual story in the anime is it’s weakest link. You won’t really care about the story or it’s characters, you just want to see Afro fight dudes. The absence of Ninja Ninja also hurt the film, as he was the main source of comic relief.

Watch it?: Did I mention this was the fist anime to ever win an Emmy?

MVP: Rokutaro

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O.G. Samurai

Best Moment: The Bridge Scene

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Afro Samurai

Type: Mace “Motherfuckin'” Windu

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Synopsis: In a nutshell, everyone wants to be the #1 badass, but only the #2 badsass can challenge him or her, but everyone else is allowed to challenged #2. This is all symbolized with headbands, because of course it is. The current holder of the #2 Headband is the “Afro Samurai,” a nameless warrior hell bent on killing the owner of the #1 headband, who just happens to have killed his father. Now, all this pales in comparison to the fact that Samuel L. Jackson does the voices for Afro. That’s right, fuckin’ Nick Fury is in an anime!

Pros: The anime is very visually stylized, in that “let’s trade series length for the animation budget” kinda way. The hip-hop soundtrack was great, and helps this anime appeal to western audiences. The action is of course top notch, and the real strength of the show. The story, on the other hand, is a simple revenge story, though the #1 and #2 headband system was very intriguing. Short but sweet, anyone looking for a action packed samurai tale should really look up Afro Samurai.

Cons: Again, the actual story is kinda weak, and goes by very fast. We’re really only catching the tail end of Afro’s journey for revenge. I know not everyone likes them, but I feel one or two more flashbacks into Afro’s past would have rounded out the character more. Then again, maybe his silence says it all.

Watch it?: Did I mention it had Sam Jackson in it, with a soundtrack from RZA and The Wu-Tang Clan? (5/5) 

MVP: Ninja Ninja

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This would not have worked without Ninja Ninja

Best Episode: Ep. 3 The Empty Seven Clan (Mecha-Afro!)

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The Ambition of Oda Nobuna

Type: Man, I wish they did this with the U.S. Civil War

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Synopsis: The year is somewhere around the 16th century. Those were turbulent times. Japan was in the middle of a countless civil wars, Religion/Political/Commercial leaders vied for power by any means necessary, and all the high ranking military personnel just happen to be pretty teenage girls. There was also this time traveler who helped Oda Nobuna, commonly misnamed Nobunaga, with his Nobunaga’s Ambition video game experience (which is a real game!).

Pros: Listen, I’m a fan of history, so I’m a tad biased when saying that having an anime re-imagine the Sengoku Period was pretty great. Making the famous Oda Nobunaga a pretty blonde girl made me think about other historical figures as pretty anime girls. I’m looking at you Abraham Lincoln. I’m not an expert, but all the major events in the anime seemed legit, and genuinely exciting. The history lessons were nicely woven with typical harem/love-comedy story beats. By itself, it’s an above-average harem anime. I also really liked the show’s celebration of a merit based society and international cooperation, which are two very noble goals even today.

Cons: I’m willing to let the fact that one of Japan’s most famous figures was a blonde girl go because this is anime, and having pretty girls as historical figures made learning about history more exciting. Though don’t expect a truly accurate retelling, because I doubt that elephants ever stampeded down Kyoto (though I really wish they had). My problem wasn’t with that, it was with the main character, Sagara. It’s never really explained how Sagara ended up in the past. Seriously. The show starts with Sagara already in the past. He just accepted it like it was nothing. That was weird. I also found it kinda iffy that Sagara’s “crew,” for lack of a better word, were all prepubescent girls. The show also had this habit of adding new characters every couple of episodes, which made the cast seem a little crowded.

Watch it: Any history or harem fan will love it (4/5)

MVP: Oda Nobuna

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Let’s Unify Japan Together!

Best Episode:  Ep. 6 “Sunomata One-Night Castle” (I wonder if this really happened?)

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