May 13, 2009

Kaze No Yojimbo #2: Snake Swamp

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)


I'm starting to see a bit more YOJIMBO falling into the mix as our hero, George, gets a job with one of the town's factions, then immediately starts making an offer to the other side, but I once again feel it's missing the mark. He's still just a casual innocent drawn into events by happenstance instead of someone actively setting out to make sweeping changes. I know they'll probably have him pushing deeper and harder as he goes along, but it seems to be going the easy route of him finding victims worth protecting instead of Sanjuro's great antihero reasoning of "I'm bored." I know, I know, that line was uttered here, but it felt off and hollow, with little machismo to back it up.

Faring better, though, are a pair of characters who, as in the original film, find themselves drawn to this newcomer as potential allies: the neutral tavern keeper and the police officer who changes what little he can. While initially skeptical of George, both have that air of people you know will be there when events call them to act, which I know sounds terribly predicable, but it has more the feeling of calm reassurance to it.

But they just aren't enough. Though we get some initial glimpses at the heads of the rival crime factions, and the failure of the local mine gives the writers some meat to chew on, I just don't get the sense that this is a hellish town boiling over with corruption and greed. Everything is too calm, too clean, too everyday. What should be the armpit of the world looks like a normal, everyday small town. Aside from a couple scraps with rowdy thugs, there just isn't enough rampant sin looming in the air, wringing every last drop of good from the populace. And, thus, the story never really achieves any depth. Sure, they may make up for it in future episodes, but they'd have to change a lot in a small amount of time to really layer things in properly.

And then there's Miyuki. Having come to her rescue last episode, George is hired by her father, one of the two faction heads, to act as a bodyguard, seeing her to and from school. She's just what you'd expect in a rich, bright-eyed little daddy's girl, too naive to be aware of his corruption and so instantly infatuated with her new bodyguard I just want to slam my head into a wall. She's such an obvious, typical plot device, that creepily little-sister love interest who will likely never get very far with her first huge crush because that's the way these things typically play out. Who knows, maybe they'll find a way to surprise me, but I sincerely doubt it.

There's also a bit where an unseen sniper starts blasting away at George with a very weak shotgun, but that's all just setup for more mystery. It's a bit interesting, as are a few other things, but there's such a general air of sloppiness to the show, from the weak writing to the shitty animation, that I just can't see myself giving it a recommendation.

(series trailer)

(opening titles)

(anime news network)
(internet movie database)

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