Holy Crap! What a show. In working through my ever-growing backlog of shows and movies, I ended up giving Blue Eye Samurai a shot based on some of the murmuring I’ve heard around the internet… and what a surprise.
This is a completely original property, something that isn’t adapted from something else, not a reboot. Even though I really enjoyed One Piece, it’s still at its core just another adaptation of something that’s already been.
But this… this is new. Blue Eye Samurai follows a young woman named Mizu. She is a strong female character. No wait, scratch that. She’s a bitter mess who’s bent on revenge even though she might end up hurting anyone who cares about her. She is part white and part Japanese which makes her about as welcome as a turd in a punchbowl in Japan. Worse she’s a woman, so she has to disguise herself as a man, wearing amber glasses to hide her blue eyes.
Nearly everyone has betrayed her since childhood, but she has managed to be raised by a blind sword maker. Given that his clientele are master swordsmen, Mizu learns from each of these swordsmen on her own trying to mimic their moves among other things.
She picks up Ringo along the way, a cheerful and loyal apprentice with no hands. Being a handless Samurai would probably be a challenge but he lets nothing get in his way. He isn’t just comic relief though, his loyalty and unwillingness to do anything dishonorable makes Mizu think about some of her actions during the show.
Mizu also gets a sworn enemy, Taigen, who also turns into an ally of sorts. She defeats and shames him early in the show. He wants a rematch to regain his honor but circumstances continue to delay their match. In order to make sure she makes the fight, he ends up fighting alongside her. The more time they spend together, the more grudging respect they have for each other.
Taigen’s main reason to get his honor back is for the love and the hand of Princess Akemi. She is a headstrong daughter of a Japanese nobleman. Thanks to her father marrying her off to the Shogun’s son, she runs off on her own adventures, finding danger.
The story becomes much larger than the character’s personal motivations but suffice to say everyone faces a choice. Nothing anyone does is easy and there are times Mizu gets royally destroyed, nearly to the point of death. While there could be some criticism leveled at her ability to deal with men much bigger than her, you can’t say she does anything with ease.
Plus there is no real message, at least not in the modern sense that these therapy patients Hollywood calls “writers” insert into everything.
Women in Japan had very few choices and Princess Akemi is understandably peeved at being treated somewhat like property. However, she also gets a good smackdown by some women who don’t even get to live a life anywhere close to hers. The messages of gratitude and perspective are good ones.
But make no mistake, this is not a show that’s subservient to “The Message” or even any message. It’s a gripping story that has a pile of three-dimensional characters. Even the main villain has motivations that are clear and … well, sympathetic might be a little strong but at least you have a good understanding. The point is, these characters are memorable. There are so many backstories and flashbacks woven into an episode’s narrative to continue unpacking these character’s history and motivations.
I highly recommend this show. It’s not for the kiddies, there’s no shrinking away from blood, gore, violence, sex, and nudity. But if you have no issues with those things (and I know for most of us, those are features not bugs) you will love this show. It’s beautifully animated, the voice cast is pitch-perfect, there is no filler or wasted moments, and it has left me wanting more.
This is breathtakingly awesome.
Maybe we are finally coming out of this period with a dearth of creativity. Let’s hope it grows.
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