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The Beauty is in the Execution of the KILL

  • Apr 2, 2009

Promotionl artwork for Shigurui

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 away. The series is about the famed Kogan school of Japanese swordplay, which became famous in the Kagegawa region, mainly because of the tutelage of a mysterious swordsman named Iwamoto Kogan. Unlike the chambara films we've seen in the past, this is not a series about honor, loyalty and duty; it is a melodrama about a school, its sensei and his apprentices. IT IS NOT YOUR KID'S Anime.

A scene from the anime series Shigurui

The series begins with two scarred warriors facing off against each other in a brutal contest to satisfy the bloodlust of a cruel lord Tadanaga Tokugawa; a blind swordsman named Irako Seigen (voiced by Nozomu Sasaki) and a one-armed swordsman called Gennosuke Fijiki (voiced by Daisuke Namikawa). These two warriors carry the scars of a very violent and twisted past. They were bitter rivals under the tutelage of sword master Kogan Iwamoto (Seizou Katou); the two aspired to attain the mastery of the Kogan style secret techniques and to be worthy of their sensei's beautiful daughter Mie (Houko Kuwashima). This is the story of these two warriors who had mortally wounded each other--physically, emotionally and psychologically, all for the honor to become the heir to the Kogan school. Now they must gird themselves for one last battle…

"Shigurui Death Frenzy" is a series divided into 12 parts (2 discs). The presentation contains beautiful animation, visceral and violent swordplay, and has been noted for the amount of graphic sex and nudity. The screenplay and direction are both beautiful and ugly. It is beautiful because it utilizes a superb style in its cinematography. The colors lean towards the use of earth colors, and a little muted which adds to its brooding, intense mood and gloomy style. This has been done to reflect on the bleakness of its subject matter which brings us to its ugly face. The ugliness I speak of hover mostly around in its disquieting storyline. The subject matter is about the darkness within the "way of Bushido". I wouldn't say that these men are true samurai who follow the ideals of that code--these men are very human, full of lust, greed, betrayal, and ambitions. Unlike other chambara features we have been privy to, they are NOT men to be admired for their character; they may be admired for their skills but they are mostly to be feared.

A scene from the anime series Shigurui

The screenplay by Yamaguchi is quite intense, taut and very moody. In the school, we see the workings of its inner circles, and the rules that apply to the Iwamoto residence. The feature also utilizes some very effective use of metaphors and symbolism. The Cicada is an insect used to signify apprenticeship because of its noisy, vibrating qualities. The dragonfly represents unrelenting totality because of the straight direction in its flight. The Butterfly is used to signify beauty and the unpredictable nature of one's future. I thought it was wise direction to use the "flashing" naked effect when one engages in swordplay--I think when fighting, one's nature is utterly exposed and one is unprotected. Sure, it also displays the movement of muscles in engagements but it was a lot more than that. The direction relies on some fragmented sequences, to further give its characters their dimensions in the story. Quite clever and ingenious, the proceedings manage to maintain its intensity in not just its graphic violence.

The action sequences aren't really your run-of-the-mill choreography. Slow-motion animation, freeze frames and close-ups are utilized. The swordplay is very graphic and it never holds back. Eyes and limbs are severed, beheadings, bowels and entrails are graphically shown, and looks very reminiscent to Japanese effects we've all been privy to. Dismemberments are done quite often, as well as "skinning" and faces and bones being smashed in. The thing is director Hamasaki does the Blood and Gore in a very artistic kind of way, it was impressive--not too repulsive but certainly shocking. The combatants imagine just how they would react to an attack before the actual combat begins which serves as a sort of a teaser to the viewer.

A scene from the anime series Shigurui

A scene from the anime series Shigurui

The feature does have its share of graphic violence towards women, but I don't think it glorifies it at all. It uses those actions to display the cruelty of its characters, most specifically sensei Kogan; who manhandles his daughter and has a lot of sex with his mistress, lady Iku (Emi Shinohara) when he is in a state on dementia. Oh, this feature has a lot of graphic sex and nudity. There are some very twisted displays of torture and violence; castrations by fire, cut-off nipples and burned breasts are what you are in for. Incest and sick desires are also hinted at. Yes, this is one disturbing anime feature and not for the weak of heart.

The characters are for the most part very human, in a way they give in to their carnal desires, pride and blind obedience--it does have certain undertones about curses and karma. Irako is the prideful apprentice, who almost whose goal is to attain fame and fortune--he is also a womanizer and proves to be his main weakness. Mie is the daughter of the master swordsman, Kogan; she is dutiful and becomes imbalanced in a way. Lady Iku is the beautiful mistress of Kogan who is always taunted at by children and believes her body to be cursed. Iwamoto Kogan is the sensei who becomes demented from time to time for reasons unspecified; probably due to his very violent ways. I suppose if a hero is to be had from this feature it would be Gennosuke, the stoic pupil, ever obedient to his sensei who carries a grudge against his rival--Gennosuke is driven to excel in the art. Let's not forget Gonzaemon Ushimata (Yosaku Yara), his one flaw may be his blind obedience.

A scene from the anime series Shigurui

A scene from the anime series Shigurui

The animation is fluid and very beautiful;  it was almost photorealistic. There are no bulging, over-expressive eyes and the facial expressions speak a lot for their emotions and manner. I thought it was wise for the animators to give its characters certain features quite unique to one another. Each separate scene have a use of one color hue to express its mood, but stays within earth colors--to signify its worldly workings in its environment. The music is perfect for the film's attitude and fitting to its mood. If there are some flaws, it would fall on some minor details undefined and it does lack some closure.

"SHIGURUI DEATH FRENZY" is one twisted and brilliant animated production. It successfully reaches a plateau that surprisingly mixes beauty and repulsive qualities. It is so beautiful that one would be hard-pressed to say that it is all about disturbing imagery yet NONE may deny its visceral, brooding tone. It does efficiently represent what it is trying to say and gets its message across; The beauty of swordsmanship can lead to one's damnation when wielded irresponsibly. "Shigurui Death Frenzy" is beautiful, and magnificently executed, but it also leaves a repulsive taste in your mouth. I am very impressed as to how it managed to balance beauty and artistry with ugliness and repulsive nature. I almost didn't want the show to end.

Highly Recommended! [4 ½+ Stars]

Note: Please use the original Japanese Language track as it preserves the mood and emotions.

A scene from the anime series Shigurui

Promotionl artwork for Shigurui
The Beauty is in the Execution of the KILL The Beauty is in the Execution of the KILL scene scene scene scene scene scene

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October 21, 2010
Yes Sir this is a great series right here, you seen Gungrave? My girl introduced that one to me and I just finished re-watching it.
October 13, 2009
How did I miss this review?! Geez, I suck (no pun intended). Awesome job, man.
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 . 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, …
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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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