September 9, 2009

Samurai 7 #5: The Drifter

2004 episode
directed by Toshifumi Takizawa and Shunusuke Tada
written by Atsuhiro Tomioka and Natsuko Takahashi
based on the film SEVEN SAMURAI by Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, Hideo Oguni

(1954 film)


Our villagers are running out of rice and having very little success when it comes to recruiting new samurai. They only have two of the required seven so far, with young Katsuhiro and blunt Kikuchiyo still being brushed off as unfit by Kambei. Enter Heihachi.

Easily my favorite samurai from the original film (due, in large part, to the warm performance of Minoru Chiaki), the round-faced design and easy going performance of Junji Inukai perfectly capture his constant smile and inviting sense of humor. Following tradition, he's a samurai who served in the Great War, but never got a chance to see actual combat, so he just drifts from town to town, using his sword to pay the way by chopping wood or carving perfect toothpicks. To flavor things a bit more, the creative team has also given him engineering skills, demonstrated in a big battle when he seems to abandon our heroes at first, but is really constructing an elaborate, ingenious trap.

It's a wonderful episode, and I'm joyed to see how well the team is pulling together. It's also great to see other moments from the classic film reappear, like a peek back at the town where a panicky father worries what the samurai will do to the village daughters, or Kikuchiyo producing an elaborate family tree to prove his samurai lineage, only for the rest to pick it apart and prove it was stolen from a kid with the same name. Excellent, excellent stuff, and all retold through fresh, talented eyes.

(series trailer)


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

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