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The spawn of Japanese arthouse film and grindhouse is a masterful one. 90%

  • Oct 23, 2011
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. The two warriors are Gennosuke Fujiki and Seigen Irako. Their pasts are unraveled as so you can see why things happened that led them into this fight.


One of the things that makes Shigurui stand out is how interesting they are. Since this is set in the years when the samurai populated the Japanese landscape, it shows the really unpleasant yet often overlooked realism in their lives. What I mean is that unlike most anime focusing on the lives of samurai, there's no tale about becoming a hero and triumphing over their inner demons. Shigurui instead focuses on how a rivalry was forged between the two main characters and how it spiraled into a visceral bloodbath. There's also no clear-cut good or bad guy in this anime, practically everyone (save most of the female characters) has shades of evil in them. Fujiki may seem the most sympathetic main character because he has an unbending loyalty to his master, the ultra-demented Kogan Iwamato, who'se in charge of the Kogan-Ryuu school. I personally like Irako more simply because he was simply a man who wanted to raise his status and thought he could do so by becoming a pupil at Kogan-Ryuu, but ended up having a falling out with Kogan and became blind. Kogan is easily the most detestable character because of his ultra-violent and maniacal behavior to everyone. Two of the most notable acts that shows how sick Kogan is are a scene where he goes up to Lady Iku, his concubine, and cuts off her nipple. The other is when he sticks his sword in Gonzaemon Ushimata's mouth, which cuts the edges of his lips and makes his oral cavity look much larger.


My only gripes with this anime is that the plot can be a little slow at times, and that the ending seems a little unfinished (though not quite like the detestable "completely sudden cliffhanger" featured in horrid anime like Elfen Lied), though the final battle towards the end is one of the best I've seen in a martial arts anime. On the upside, though, it seems like everything that happens in Shigurui actually adds to the story and thus, not really much pointless filler to detract from the viewing experience. I felt that the events were well structured in a way that wouldn't make you bored since I was on the edge of my seat nearly the whole time watching this, anxiously anticipating what would happen as each event occurred. What I also find really refreshing is that Shigurui has next to zero comedy in it. The only part I could say that even comes close to being "funny" is when there's an arranged marriage between Seigen and Mei and Kogan keeps saying "Conceive!", which I think was put in only to show his demented behavior and not for any intentional comic relief. Comedy for an anime like this would only hurt this anime drastically, and I'd be the first to throw giant rocks at it because I have ZERO tolerance for that.


As stated before, Shigurui is one of the most gruesome anime titles out there. I'd even say that if compared to an anime of similar ilk, such as Ninja Scroll, it would make the former title look like an episode of Sesame Street in comparison. Heck, in the opening scene, you see a fellow whose cut himself to demonstrate the consequences of using swords in duals by yanking out his entrails, and the gore in said scene looks quite real for an animated series. The violence even had me, a pretty seasoned gore hound, wincing at some scenes. There's also a good helping of nudity. I felt that the nudity was pretty well used in Shigurui because despite its pretty abundant quantity, they felt like they belonged in nearly all of the scenes they were used in. The nudity isn't all pretty, either, there's a pretty weird scene where Lady Iku sees herself nude, with large bugs crawling on her. Another scene towards the end of the series shows how the many acts of cruelty inflicted upon Mie Iwamoto literally eats away at her body and is starved, and she doesn't look pretty in this stage. There's also male nudity in Shigurui as well, since it lightly shows the encouraged homosexual relationships shared between samurai in that period, which was also further explained in the booklet that came with the series.


Shigurui's soundtrack is really superb. It consists entirely of ethnic Japanese music that fits perfectly with its setting and thankfully, is also used in the opening and closing scenes. The music itself is also well incorporated by not overpowering the scenes they're played in and distracting the audience from the action. This is a really warm welcome for those who are sick of J-pop and J-rock constantly being regurgitated in anime. The cherry on the sundae is that it's consistent, a quality that's missing as well since the "in thing" in most anime is to mash different and unfitting styles of music in its soundtrack.


Once again, Madhouse Studio has made another great anime, and it shows in the production values. This is some of the most beautiful (albeit disgusting) imagery I've scene in anime. The animation itself is also really well done since everything seems to move rather smoothly and the incorporation of CGI into this 2D anime is tastefully done by only complementing it rather than overtaking it.


If you're looking for an ultra-nihilistic, martial arts-themed anime with one of the most realistic atmospheres to it, then Shigurui will reward you pretty handsomely.

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October 23, 2011
This stands as one of my favorite anime series to date. It wasn't long, nicely paced, bold and ambitious. Thanks for the review!
October 23, 2011
There needs to be more anime like Shigurui because honestly, way too much of it is filled with cliche garbage that seriously needs to die. I'd even say that as far as a series is concerned, there should be more anime with this type of length because it strikes that "sweet spot" of extra character and plot development without bludgeoning the viewer with any filler.
More Shigurui: Death Frenzy Complet... reviews
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 …
review by . July 28, 2009
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, …
About the reviewer
David Kozak ()
Ranked #7
I'm a morbid cynic who thinks very, very differently from most other people. Chances are, if the majority says X is the greatest in its category, I'll disagree with that notion, because I tend … more
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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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