Thursday, January 11, 2024

Anime-Ish Roundup: Blue Eye Samurai

As you know if you've been following this blog, when it comes to Anime Roundup posts, I typically don't devote an entire post to a single show (unless that show is Attack on Titan). And I especially don't devote an entire post to a show that is animated and Asian-inspired but is technically not anime (a separate and extensive discussion that I may have touched on before but is not the subject of this post)*.

But then, I watched Netflix's Blue Eye Samurai.
Holy cow.

Netflix recommended it to me (with a "98% match") when it first came out in November, but at the time, I was heavily into light-hearted, live-action Japanese dramedies and not really in the mood for what looked like a pretty serious and potentially downbeat period drama. But as the weeks progressed, I began to see more and more recommendations for it pop up here and there, until finally I decided to give it a try.

And boy, am I glad I did.

If you haven't already watched it (go ahead and do that now, I'll wait), its basic story premise centers on a half-Japanese woman samurai in Edo-period Japan in search of revenge. But, like the aforementioned Attack on Titan, it is sooo much more than that. I won't get too deep into details or review-type comments (although some spoilers will follow) as you can find plenty of that elsewhere on the internet, but instead I will just bullet-point list a few things I wanted to express:

- I noticed a lot of similarities between this show and Glorified, the manga-style comic book series written and published by me and the guys in Second Player Score. They both feature a strong female protagonist, who is an excellent fighter capable of killing multiple opponents at once, on a single-minded quest; a sidekick-type character who wants to join up with the protagonist but is initially rebuffed, only to be reluctantly welcomed later; plot twists and questions about the protagonist's history; the protagonist slowly learning to let people in and accept help; themes of revenge and redemption; "daddy issues"; and more. The story and setting of Glorified is, of course, much different, and the strong-woman-warrior-bent-on-revenge trope is nothing new (see: Beatrix Kiddo, Furiosa, Ryuko from Kill la Kill, etc.), so while at first I thought, "Oh man, with this excellent show now out in the world, do we still even need Glorified?" I eventually figured that there can be room for both.

- I love how the show came up with a reason behind how the real-life Great Fire of Meireki in 1657 Japan started, which nobody actually really knows (there is a legend about it, but it's probably just as fictional as this show). Doctor Who does this a lot.

- The artwork, animation, and action sequences are absolutely stunning. Wait, I guess that's a review-type comment.

- A few nitpicky things: a couple of episodes contained a confusing edit, like when Mizu started fighting Boss Hamata's men outside of Madame Kaji's brothel, but the the next thing you know, she's inside, shepherding everyone into the cellar. And then there's the trope of the protagonist sustaining severe wounds and either being hobbled by them or healing right back up in practically no time at all, depending on what the plot calls for. Also, in the season finale, why were the soldiers with guns just standing around and not shooting after Mizu broke in? Anyway, I just point out these minor details because I care, and otherwise love this show so much.

- I am so glad that the flashbacks in episode 5 were real and not a dream (as confirmed by a behind-the-scenes video interview with the creators). It just makes Mizu's story that much darker.

- Can't wait for Season 2!

* Not that there's anything wrong with such shows; the non-James Cameron Avatar franchise (The Last Airbender, Legend of Korra) is one of my all-time favorites

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