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Blood and entrails never looked so good.

  • Mar 11, 2010
  • by
Rating:
+4

     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 to be one between a blind samurai by the name of Seigen Irako and a one-armed swordsman named Gennosuke Fujiki; these two characters are to become the central focus of the series, as the story then moves backward in time to show how what began as a rivalry for the title of heir to the Kogan style became a bitter feud that led up to the brutal events that wounded these two warriors and brought them together to face each other in the tournament. From here, Shigurui becomes a story not of perserverance and honor, but of blind rage, treachery, and revenge. While the pacing may be slow, Shigurui only becomes more compelling as the series continues on.

     I don't usually watch anime of this violent, action-packed nature, not because I'm squeamish, but because I just prefer deep storylines with intriguing characters, and while I sometimes actually love to be disturbed with blood and sickening images, I usually opt out of those sorts of titles because they sometimes lack decent plots. However, with Shigurui, you have the best of both worlds. This is a series where a character is dismembered, sliced in half, or murdered in some other brutal fashion at least once in every episode, but rather than have the violence exist for its own sake, Shigurui explores the minds of the characters doing the killing, so that the viewer may better understand their twisted motivations and ways of thinking.

     Shigurui has some of the most impressive animation that I've ever seen in an anime series. When I first began watching the series, I was a little taken aback by the large amount of stills used in the fight-scenes, and I had initially thought that it was a product of laziness. However, after seeing the smallest details employed in the animation, where a drop of blood realistically disperses in a pool of water and a character's beads of sweat travel down his face rather than stay in one place, it became clear to me that laziness played no part when Shigurui was animated. Indeed, the creators had other motives for using stills and such in the fight scenes. Perhaps it was to build tension or suspense. Whatever the reason, Shigurui is very artfully crafted. I was especially pleased at how realistically rendered people's entrails were in this series. Perhaps I have a bit of a morbid side, but seeing a character's intestines slide out of his stomach and plop on the ground after his being sliced with a sword was just plain awesome.

     One of the things I loved about this series was the soundtrack. The opening and ending themes are very fitting instrumental pieces, which I found to be an excellent choice, given the seriousness and realistic nature of this series. It would have seemed completely out of place to have some J-Rock song come on at the beginning and end of each episode. I also liked that the background music was usually kept to a minimum, or was at least never so loud as to be overpowering. This way, when background music was introduced (which was usually during a fight or some other climactic scene), it was more affecting and effective in setting the mood. At times, it was haunting. 

     The only real problem that I had with the series was with its characters, and even then, I couldn't really call it a "problem". To myself, the characters are the most important part of a film/series, yet while many of the characters are given a backstory (technically, the entire series is a backstory), the only two characters that I actually came to "care for" were Gennosuke Fujiki and Mie Kogan. Mie is the kind daughter of Kogan Iwamoto, master of the Kogan style, who understands that she is merely a tool to carry on the Kogan family bloodline, while I found Fujiki to be likeable because, while he appears aloof and emotionless much of the time, he is respectful of Mie when her father is not, and he has an undying devotion to his master which I found to be a very respectable trait. However, while the characters aren't all necessarily likeable, all of what happens to the characters, and all of their actions and reactions, were interesting to watch, and due to the nature of the series, it's clear that the goal here was not to create a series with humorous and friendly characters. While I personally like to like the characters of what I'm watching, I can't deduct any points from Shigurui for having such characters either. I understand what the series' intent was, and I can respect that. Something that I found interesting about the characters was the fact that no character came out of the series unchanged. Each character went through some sort of transformation, either mentally, physically, or both, and while I can't really call it "growth", it does help to portray the characters as human, as well as to demonstrate the effects of such poisonous impulses and desires.

     While I can always appreciate a series that doesn't spell everything out for you, I was a little disappointed in Shigurui's conclusion. I was hoping the see the severing of Fujiki's arm, and I would have liked to see the fight between the blinded Irako and the one-armed Fujiki, rather than just seeing the results of said battle, because when I first began watching the series, I found that the genius of it all was the fact that the writers captured the viewer's attention with this battle between such damaged individuals before ever going into the details of the events leading up to that point. It was an excellent way to draw the viewer in. I think that Shigurui could have benefited from an extra episode.

     Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Shigurui. It was rich in symbolism, such as the excessive use of insects like cicadas and butterflies, as well as foreshadowing, such as the snowman whose eyes fell out, and every moment, every movement, made Shigurui seem more like art than anime. I love a series that explores the motivations and mind-sets of its characters while still managing to be entertaining (and historically accurate, when appropriate), and for that, I'd like to thank Woopak_The_Thrill for the recommendation.

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March 12, 2010
This is exactly the kind of anime that I enjoy... dark, violent, character-driven, and provocative. Great review.
March 12, 2010
Thank you. Dark, violent, and character-driven are exactly the words to describe what this anime is about, in a nutshell.
 
March 11, 2010
I also prefer deep story lines and developed characters over action and violence. When I can't "care for" or engage the characters, I find my enjoyment of the film waning. At least you found two worthwhile characters in this one! I have to find one good anime film to cut my teeth on.
March 11, 2010
Have you ever watched a Miyazaki film? Those are among the best anime titles out there.
March 11, 2010
I will have to add one to my queue...I think I can search by name.
March 11, 2010
Cool. I'd especially recommend his films "Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind" and "Princess Mononoke".
 
March 11, 2010
excellent review! I couldn't have said it better myself. Like I said; the Kurosawa chambara film mood that collides with the Miike nihilism. I know the climax leaves a lot to the imagination, but I heard that there may be a 2nd mini-series in Japan coming soon. Thank you for the shout out! Now have you seen BASILISK?
March 11, 2010
I think my review pales in comparison with yours, but thanks anyway! I felt like I was just re-stating what your and the other two reviews already said. I hope there's a second mini-series. I read online that the manga is still ongoing, so maybe that's why the mini-series might be introduced? I haven't seen Basilisk, but that's something I've been interested in. Would you recommend it, since I enjoyed Shigurui?
March 11, 2010
Basilisk is based off the novel which later became a manga. It was made by the same folks who made SHIGURUI. I recommend it if you like magic and ninja action and romance. There is a live action version that I did review if you'd like to get a feel on what is all about. I reviewed it right here. The anime series is a lot better though with more characters and better fleshed out story.
March 11, 2010
I see. From the trailers I've seen, it looks pretty good. Thanks for the recommendation. Since I finished Shigurui, I'm trying to decide on a new series. It's between Mushi-Shi, Basilisk, and Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino.
 
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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 . 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 …
review by . July 28, 2009
Shigurui
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, …
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My user-name was derived from the title of a poem by Edgar Allan Poe. I came to Lunch with the hopes of publishing reviews that would be appreciated by others and reading the reviews of others that hope … more
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Wiki

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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Details

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

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