Thursday, February 23, 2006

Samurai 7 (Akira Kurosawa's)

Genre: Action / Mecha / Adventure / Shounen
Parental Guidance Recommended
2004 Akira Kurosawa, Toshifumi Takizawa, G.D.H., Gonzo, MICO, Sony Pictures Entertainment.

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Everything Samurai 7

Shunichi Sakurai's Description:
The Great War has come and passed, and with it comes the rise of the merchant class. These merchants have used the relics of the war, the mechanical warriors known as Nobuseri, to oppress the rice farmers and maintain their hold on a neo-feudal society. Tired of the abuse of the Nobuseri, Kilara, Komachi and Rikichi set out from their rice-paddy village of Kanna and head into the city to look for the fabled samurai to defend their village...

(26 Episodes)

A reborn Seven Samurai...and extended at that. . >>> by Shunichi Sakurai
While I was in college, I was lucky enough to watch Akira Kurosawa's four-hour film epic, "Seven Samurai"---the closest thing Japan has to a proper Western. Knowing that Samurai 7 is a modern remake of this beloved film, I had high hopes for the series and it did not disappoint at all. In fact, it went over and above my expectations, as Samurai 7 actually extends the original film's great story and gives it a finality of conclusion!

Where "Seven Samurai" had farmers and samurai fighting against a huge army of bandits, Samurai 7 updates the formula for the small screen by introducing the mechanical Nobuseri. I guess this was a way of making the violence a bit more palatable, but it still works. The mecha designs here are amazing, and some of them could have been cast-offs from Hajime Katoki's photo-novel Gundam Sentinel.

The band of seven rounin--Kanbei, Gorobei, Heihachi, Kyuuzo, Shichiroji, the greenhorn Katsushiro and the mechanical Kikuchiyo--are depicted with all their characteristics and quirks, with even more strength than in the movie (where they had admittedly less time to be fleshed out). For example, Heihachi in the movie was not much good at fighting, and in the anime he is depicted as a gadget genius who uses his sword to chopping wood. Toshiro Mifune's hilarious Kikuchiyo is a drunkard turned unexpected samurai in the movie, while his mechanical successor is just as unrefined, clumsy and endearing. Akira Kurosawa's magic hand makes sure this anime lives up to its epic movie counterpart, and then some. The supporting cast of Kanna villagers also helps move things along and gives depth to the anime.

The basic plot of the movie ends at ep13 with the successful defense of Kanna, but from there on, the anime follows the Nobuseri back to the city they came from and the oppressive merchant class ultimately responsible for the suffering of all. Brilliant stuff. The computer-generated Nobuseri interact well with the cel-animated characters, and the art has welcome contrasts from the gaudy and vibrant city slickers to the somber and macabre war machines. Constructing the score are the trumpets of war and the drums of the battlefield. While the action ranges from awe-inspiring to a bit silly (one samurai winning against one 35-foot-tall Nobuseri?!), it doesn't detract from the story-telling.

On the whole Samurai 7 is a genuine rarity. How often do you come across an adaptation that builds and improves on the original so well?

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 9; Story 9; Characters 10; Sounds 8

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