November 17, 2009

Samurai 7 #23: The Lies

2004 episode
directed by Toshifumi Takizawa and Hiroyuki Okuno
written by Atsuhiro Tomioka
based on the film SEVEN SAMURAI by Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, Hideo Oguni

(1954 film)


This seems to be the last of the transitional episodes, finally locking all our characters in place for what will be one hell of a finale. Emperor Ukyo has the flying Capital aimed at the farming village of Kanna, wishing to celebrate its victory over the bandits by burning it to ashes, and our heroic samurai have realized that the merchants can no longer be in control and vow to take the Capital down. Things so easily could have been contrived here, but the twist of bringing the struggle right back to the film's core concept of defending a lone village from attackers is marvelously well played and feels like a true extension of the original story.

The thread of Rikichi and his estranged wife continues to play out nicely, with him trying to convince himself that her "betrayal" is due to the understandable lure of fine clothing and food, but it's Mizuki, a young hand-maiden who was also kidnapped by the empire, that sets him straight, going off on a gripping little speech about how the girls were merely being used as farms for the emperor's seed. Twisted food for thought, but presented without a flinch.

And then there's Katsushiro, who continues his growth by returning to Kanna and starting a single-handed line of defense (amazing action scene) against forces that are likely to quickly overwhelm him if the others don't get there soon. A little tidbit about his character, that I've noticed but have yet to comment on, is how, through his costume and demeanor, he seems to employ many elements of Kyuzo, the lone swordsman, from the original film, even more-so than that character's namesake here. I'm wondering if this was intentional on the part of the creative team, merging the fledgling student with the stoic master so as to explore the journey taken from one to the other. If it's intentional, then bravo to them.

One problem, if I may, comes just after Ukyo is confronted by dying bandits, huge mechanical monoliths that he just betrayed. It's a great scene, topped by a classic bit with the Capital's main cannon, but then comes the notion that they can strip the "souls" out of the remaining bandits and make them mindless robotic warriors fully under the Emperor's control. I don't like this. Not only is it a plot device frequently explored, but it will rob the bandits of their last remaining dregs of personality, and characters without personality is so very against what Kurosawa was about.

But I'll wait and see how that plays out. It's a fantastic episode filled with great little moments (a game of croquet, an assassin slowly rotating his mechanical hand as he speaks, Kikuchiyo and Komachi playfully bounding from side to side on a barge as our remaining heroes plot in the foreground), and there's a particularly striking bit in the first half. Just after our heroes agree to take down the Capital, they pause and we take in a shot of our supporting cast, seeing these familiar faces as if for the last time. It's a perfect, honest moment of soldiers setting off to a battle they may not win.

(series trailer)


(official website)
(anime news network)
(internet movie database)

No comments: