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Poetic Nihilism. Oh Boy!

  • Jul 28, 2009
  • by
To be honest, I almost abandoned Shigurui somewhere around the first 2 or 3 episodes. The virtues of this series are at first masked behind opaque layers of extremely graphic violence, sex and nudity. Not that I have a problem watching violence, sex and nudity. But too often are the three used as stand-ins for a missing story. But that is not the case for Shigurui. Our story here begins with a tournament between two samurai with severe disabilities that they were clearly not born with. Instead, these handicaps were brought upon them by an event (or events) in their lives prior to their stand off. From here, the story circles back to the beginning, following the breadcrumbs that lead to said tournament. It is here that we learn that these two men, Fujiki Gennosuke and Irako Seigen were competing successors to their master's dojo. Fujiki, who was initially the obvious choice to follow in his master's footsteps, is suddenly eclipsed by Seigen. However, sex, betrayal and Fujiki's need for redemption and revenge re-tips the scales of the story. That is when things turn really nasty.

Just how nasty they get, will be for you to discover.

Seeing the hideous deformities of the two men at the beginning foreshadows the volume of carnage that you can expect to witness in Shigurui. Do not underestimate the visceral impact of this violence because the series is animated. The explicit detail of a man's entrails rivals what you'd see in a live action version. The good news for those with a weak stomach is that, thanks to minimal animation, you typically will only see the before and after of some disturbing slicing and dicing. The bad news is that the fast cuts between a raised sword and a hashed body amplifies the tension, and the long takes of a sliced off limb gives the imagination plenty of time to either recoil or recover from the aftermath. You'll be given generous time to meditate on the upper portion of a person's face. To aid in your meditation is an atmospheric soundtrack that makes the image either terribly putrescent or strangely poetic. Or both.

This dichotomy alone might be the brilliance of Shigurui. By walking the line of gratuity and minimalism you certainly get a feeling of art and not pornography. Even the explicit nudity and sex is so disturbing that it neutralizes any inherent erotica. You also get a clean break (or slice) from the usual good versus evil thing. Shigurui offers us no protagonists or antagonists. There's only an ensemble of characters who stand on the same nihilistic stage and under a morally ambivalent spotlight that casts no judgement on any action or ambition – no matter how foul.  All men are truly created equal in this series: equally troubled. Equally troubling. And equally twisted.


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March 11, 2010
Good review. I too was pleasantly surprised with this series.
March 11, 2010
You know, I don't even remember how I bumped into this series. How did you find it?
March 11, 2010
It was recommended to me by a fellow Luncher.
More Shigurui: Death Frenzy Complet... reviews
review by . October 23, 2011
posted in ASIANatomy
I've seen a little over 100 anime titles since I started watching anime in July of 2002, and Shigurui is one of the most violent and psychotic I've seen that doesn't spiral into cartoony schlock such as Elfen Lied, High School of the Dead, or Gantz. As you can see by the score, I was really glad to see Shiguri as well.      The plot is that in Japan circa 1629, during the rule of Tokugawa Tadanaga, a tournament is held where two scarred warriors fight to the death. …
review by . March 11, 2010
     Shigurui: Death Frenzy is exactly what the name implies: A series where the death count is high, and minds are lost or severely disturbed. Indeed, Shigurui succeeds in making the killing of a man look like an art. The story takes place in the 17th century, during Tokugawa Tadanaga's rule, where a tournament has been set in which the participants will make use of real Japanese swords, as opposed to bokken, or wooden swords. The first match is shown …
review by . April 02, 2009
posted in ASIANatomy
The Beauty is in the Execution of the KILL
      With a backdrop of true events and based on the manga series written by Takayuki Yamaguchi, the anime series "Shigurui Death Frenzy" is a very violent tale of lust, dark ambition and vengeance that takes place during the 1600's in the Tokugawa period. Yamaguchi took his ideas from the novel called "Surugajyo Gozenjiai" and with director Hiroshi Hamasaki, the two have put together a harrowingly beautiful anime series that pretty much took my breath …
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Jordan ()
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About this movie


Based upon the historical short story Suruga-jou Gozen Jiai from one of Japan’s most prolific authors, Nanjo Norio.

Two damaged warriors wear the scars of a twisted and violent past. Bitter rivals for the secrets of their master’s sword and the right to his daughter, these samurai inflict wounds on each other that would destroy lesser men. The final chapter of their saga unfolds within a brutal samurai tournament, a gruesome contest arranged to satisfy the bloodlust of a cruel tyrant overlord. The disfigured legends of the blade must summon the strength for one last battle – a final lesson in the artistry of violence where nothing is more beautiful than the kill.

The Complete Series Set includes:

  • 24-page booklet with interviews, historical notes and in-depth story outline
  • Marathon Play Feature
  • Actor and Director Episode Commentaries
  • Production Artwork Galleries
  • Textless Songs

    Stills from Shigurui: Death Frenzy (Click for larger image)

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Genre: Boxed Sets, Action, Animation, Adventure
DVD Release Date: March 31, 2009
Runtime: 300 minutes
Studio: Madhouse

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