August 4, 2009

Kaze No Yojimbo #20: Bingo

2002 episode
directed by Hayato Date
written by Katsuyuki Sumisawa, Satoru Nishizono, Akatsuki Yamatoya, Daisuke Yajima, Michiko Yokote
based on the film YOJIMBO by Akira Kurosawa and Ryuzo Kikushima

(1961 film)


It was bound to happen, sooner or later. In the original film, our hero's manipulations are eventually uncovered by one of the town's two opposing factions, and he finds himself beaten, questioned, and on the verge of being killed. Such is the case here as George falls into the clutches of the Ginzame cartel, who realize it was he who ratted them out to police and old-blood Tanokura a few episodes back.

Right from the start I have to wonder what tragedy befell the production crew. Adopting a color scheme that goes from empty blue to what can only be described as diarrhea green, this episode seems to proudly display the absolute worst animation I've yet to see from this already struggling series. Fights involve still figures jerked from side to side. Seemingly interesting camera angles and stagings collapse all over themselves due to ridiculous execution. Hell, even quiet closeups are glaringly hideous, with the show's clean designs (its strongest suit till now) having morphed into clunky, grotesque, awkwardly shaded works that look as though the animation department took a week off and handed production over to their children.

And it's a shame, too, because the scripting is actually pretty tight. George plays it cool, taking the severe beating and refusing to either give away information or respond when their own logical deductions hit close to home. As with the original film, his eventual escape is believably hectic and poorly planned, just barely managing to slip him through the villains' fingers.

And then there's Raccoon, the lovable Ginzame thug who idolizes George. Though he probably rambles off more than he should during an interrogation of his own, it's wonderful that our hero's escape initially owes credit to Raccoon's decision to finally pick a side. His actions, though simple, are still clever and believable, and the way they partially backfire on him is not only hilariously in character, but the highlight of the episode.

I'm really concerned about where this series is going. It improved greatly near the middle but, while the writing has largely remained consistent, the direction and animation have been disastrously chaotic. There's only six more episodes to go and I honestly have no idea whether to look forward to the conclusion, or run screaming.

(series trailer)

(opening titles)

(anime news network)
(internet movie database)

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