May 12, 2009

Kaze No Yojimbo #1: Gone with the Dust

2001 episode
directed by Hayato Date
written by Katsuyuki Sumisawa, Akatsuki Yamatoya, Daisuke Yajima, Michiko Yokote, Satoru Nishizono
based on the film YOJIMBO by Akira Kurosawa and Ryuzo Kikushima

(1961 film)


Kimujuku is a small town in the Japanese countryside, split down the middle by railroad tracks. One side is red, with old, brick-style homes and the abandoned mine that used to be the heart of the place. The other side is white, with the crisp corporate cubicles of modern urban sprawl. Taking a train into town one day is a mysterious loner named George Kodama.

Right off the bat, there's no doubt just how loose an adaptation this is of Kurosawa's classic film. While still charmingly scruffy (I saw the Mifune-esque scratch of the neck) and capable in a fight, the hero is no longer some random passerby who shoves himself into things just for the hell of it. No, George is trying to track down a man he met 15 years ago, a man who's name tightens up the citizens who quickly brush it off as a common name, someone who's moved on and been forgotten. While this does set up a bit of a mystery and gives us a few glimpses into the town's factions, I can't help but feel something is lost. What made Sanjuro so damn fun was the sheer randomness of him choosing that road, that all the destructive cleansing he wrought would have been avoided had he gone the other way. I know this is a tv series and tying George's backstory into the town gives the writers some meat to chew on, but I'm just not entirely sold on it yet. I'll wait, though, to see how it plays out.

What really has me concerned is the direction. The character designs are clean and the scenic backgrounds nice, but the animation is choppy and many scenes jarring in the way they recklessly cut between mismatched compositions. It's bizarre and, frankly, sloppy, especially the way they try to emphasize points through needless superimposition or a static background that comes out of nowhere and distracts from the moment instead of strengthening it. And it all culminates in a terribly slapped together mess of a fight scene.

I'm not sure what to make of this series so far. There's some interesting stuff and a likable, if generic, lead, but I have to wonder if they gave the project to the right people because it feels so damn amateurish.

(series trailer)

(opening titles)

(anime news network)
(internet movie database)

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