August 12, 2009

Kaze No Yojimbo #24: The Close Call

2002 episode
directed by Hayato Date
written by Katsuyuki Sumisawa and Satoru Nishizono
based on the film YOJIMBO by Akira Kurosawa and Ryuzo Kikushima

(1961 film)


Up until now, the penultimate episode, this has been a frustrating series, filled with missed opportunities, poor choices, and lacking quality. The times where it does rise above its own shortcomings seem to come in single, heroic leaps before everything wheezes back down to a stumbling trot, making me wonder if the series was truly directed in its entirety by Hayato Date. There's no consistency between the look, the pace, and the staging from week to week, so I would really like to know whether or not he was just the supervising director, or if there was something going on behind the scenes. Anybody out there know?

This episode is no different. After a fantastic pair of potboilers that set the stage for one hell of a climax, everything comes to a rather disappointing head. The remaining Shirogane brothers, piercing Samekichi and sadistic Rin, are screeching through the countryside on a train; Miyuki, the teenage daughter of their rival, tied up in back. Sanae, the ambiguous inn keeper, has joined their ranks, and our hero, George, is rapidly catching up on a motorcycle. Sounds exciting, right? It should be, but it instead comes off as a neutered version of RUNAWAY TRAIN, complete with a crazy mustached man (the angry leader of the Ginzame cartel who wants to take out the Shirogane bros. before they tear the organization down with them) ridiculously swooping around the roaring engine in a fully armed Apache helicopter.

There's so much that should have been great. The true history of Sanae? A rushed over bit of exposition that gives us nothing we haven't already guessed. The confrontation between George and Rin? A terribly staged bit of stumbling. The final showdown? A ridiculously contrived explosion straight out of a Schwarzenegger flick.

And on top of it all, my worst fear seems to have been realized. The quality animation used in the last two episodes must have burned through their budget, leading the team to their typical fallbacks: largely static imagery interspersed with moments of choppy animation and an overabundance of superimposed closeups that should never ever be used outside of interstitials in an SNES game.

Fuck you, creative team, for raising my hope only to throw it to the ground and take a steaming dump in its face. You've got one episode, one last chance to win me over. Don't blow it.

(series trailer)

(opening titles)

(anime news network)
(internet movie database)

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