Shigurui

Title: Shigurui aka Shigurui: Death Frenzy
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Madhouse Studios
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 19 Jul 2007

Synopsis: Kogan Iwamato is one of Japan’s most powerful swordsman. He holds prestige, massive land holdings, and has numerous followers willing to obey his every beck and call. Yet, nearing the end of his life, Kogan is desperate to find a successor who is worthy enough to marry his daughter and carry his name into the next era. Among his many students, the cold-hearted Gennosuke Fujiki and the enigmatic Seigen Irako hold the most potential. While the choices continue to narrow, Kogan suffers a massive betrayal.

The Highlights
Pacing: Slow and delicate.
Art and Animation: Top notch, albeit a tad low on frames.
Music: Very subtle yet emotive.
Violence and nudity: Disturbing, graphic and inexplicably beautiful.

Looking back at all the vengeance themed anime, I’m trying to find an appropriate place for Shigurui. I’d like to place it somewhere near Berserk, but there really are no antiheroes in the sense that this show really has no heroes. These characters aren’t just selfish; most of them lack any sense of basic empathy. The sheer impersonal presentation leads me to a comparison with Gungrave, but that’s not all that adequate either. In many ways, Shigurui really stands on its own as a sadistically violent yet artistic Madhouse production.

Among the various samurai anime, do not view this one along the lines of the fairly lighthearted Rurouni Kenshin television series. When people fight in this anime, they do it to the death. Bones shatter, limbs tear and organs paint the floor. While the fight scenes are rich in tension, I must warn action junkies that the show is not rich in fight scenes. The anime is not only story oriented, bit it also has some of the shortests fights of any action anime: most of the fights are resolved in literally a single attack. The majority of the screen time devoted to the dramatic buildup of that attack heavily accentuated by vivid muscle flexing and deafening concentration. What makes the fight scenes so satisfying, however, is how gratuitous and disturbingly beautiful the deaths are. This is not just some random blood and guts flying; this is an elegantly choreographed blood baths that accentuates the potato chip eating genius of Madhouse Studios.

While this series has a good story to tell, it certainly isn’t for everyone. Besides just the gore, the story moves a very slow, methodical pace that eventually begins to test the viewer’s patience. Though the show is too engrossing to even consider hitting the “off” button, there are points in the anime that are stretched out a tad too long. This slow place is further exacerbated by the fact that almost none of the characters are remotely likable. It’s not just that this show has no black and white. I don’t think it really even has a gray. The characters seem to be soaked into a colorless and tasteless emptiness. Despite this, they all spray a miraculously vivid fountain of red.

If you want to see a bold and unorthodox tale of hatred and vengeance and don’t mind blood and nudity, give Shigurui a try. It’s not quite at the caliber of Berserk or Gungrave, but it’s a solid expression of talent and creativity that shows that Madhouse still remains one of the best in the industry.

The Rating: 7
7/10

Reviewed by: Shadowmage

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