August 28, 2009

Samurai 7 #3: The Entertainer

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

(1954 film)


So far, on their journey to round up some hired blades, farmers Kirara, Komachi, and Rikichi have had to settle with an unlikely pair: Katsushiro, a dedicated but inexperienced teen, and Kikuchiyo, a boisterous brute in a run-down cybernetic body. After some persuasion, master samurai Kambei finally agrees to join the quest, telling the other two to go home so he can round up some real fighters. You know this doesn't go over well, but it does lead us to the fourth member of our growing squad.

Katayama Gorobei (vibrant Tetsu Inada) is a joking giant of a man, gently smiling through the wicked scars on his face. Hard up for money and food, he's renounced his place as a samurai and uses his amazing skills (dude can catch arrows) to scrape by as a street performer. It's an interesting new take on the original, adding a nice bit of suave theatricality to the team, though I did find his introduction a tiny bit forced.

Through a meeting between pampered snob Ukyo (who still wants to get his mitts on Kirara) and his father, master of the domain Maro, we learn just how intricate this new batch of villains is. As far as I can gather, they represent a group of corporate merchants who overthrew the empire and use bandit raids to keep peasants in their place. This group of farmers setting out to hire samurai puts a nasty kink in things, so assassins are of course ordered to wipe out the entire batch of heroes before it can progress any further. It's an interesting bit of social layering on the part of the creative team, one that does naturally set into the story they're trying to tell. My one gripe is that the villains are almost too evil, too perverse, too ... typical. I'd like to see some more complexity on their part.

This impressive series is still unfolding beautifully at a steady clip. I'm starting to realize that there are limitations to the animation, with some of the action shots being a little choppy and clumsy (there's an attempt at a MATRIX-style moment that really doesn't work as one character dodges a wave of darts), but the crisp design, even direction, and intelligent writing more than make up for it.

(series trailer)


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

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