Friday, December 31, 2010

Anime Review: Samurai Seven

I was a bit skeptical of the premise (the Seven Samurai but in a slightly steampunk future) but since I hadn't heard anything terrible about it I took it when a friend loaned it to me over fall break. I liked the original movie (even if I had no idea it was a four hour movie going in, would've appreciated that tidbit) and I did end up liking this as well, even if it wasn't as good as the original.

Samurai Seven
Summary: In a retro-futuristic Japan the great samurai wars are over but things don't seem that different for the peasants. Instead of having their rice stolen by nobles they now have it stolen by bandits and one village has had enough. So they send some of their people into the city with the simple plan "Find hungry samurai" in order to hire samurai to defend their village and to take care of this problem once and for all, no matter what it may entail.

The Good: This series definitely has a ton of action scenes and the plot varied enough from the original movie to keep it interesting. It's paced pretty well too, there's enough exposition to keep the plot moving but never so much that it bogs down (then again, there isn't tons of it actually, but there's still enough to make the story work). It's neither too complex to follow nor too simple as to be boring, it strikes a good balance and makes for a cool show to watch.

The Bad: For all the extra time (9.5 hours versus nearly four hours) I don't feel like the characters were fleshed out anymore. True there were at least seven leads (I'd say closer to ten actually) but none of them felt really fleshed out except maybe for the final villain and that's because his back story was explored a bit more (everyone else's back story could be summed up in one line, his needed two or three which still isn't that good). So, while the fights were nice and you can sympathize with the villages, it's hard to sympathize with why the samurai are doing such a crazy thing for no reward. Also, there is a recap at the start of each episode and at least one (maybe two, I always skipped through) at the end of each episode. I don't think you need that much recap in each episode and it was annoying to marathon this since I had to skip through all of it, probably cut three or four minutes out of each episode too.

The Art: I really liked the designs in this series (character designs and background designs, mechas not so much) but the animation is a different story. It was normally pretty good but then at the beginning of episode seven it went, wonky, and it wasn't a blink and you'll miss it sort of thing, the animation looked really off for a good six or eight MINUTES. I don't have any problems with a series that uses more experimental looking animation or art but when it's not the style already in use then it just looks lazy, no matter how well known the animator is for these things. Other than that I did really like the designs, but that still was a really noticeable animation shift.

The Music: A neat little thing they did with the OP, the visuals changed a little ways in (about eight or so episodes in) to clearly show all the samurai and before that you could see a few of them (the ones met in the first few episodes) but it didn't give away the others which I liked (and by the change you could tell who all of them were going to be anyway). They did something similar with the eye catch as well, just a nice little thing for everyone who hates spoilers out there. As for the songs themselves, I liked the OP quite a bit, the ED not as much but it was a nice ballad, and the background music sounded a lot like the original movie's music (ie, tons of drum music which I have absolutely no problems with). So a nice soundtrack, not one I'd go out of my way to find but certainly pleasant to listen to. Watched this subbed since, even thought it's an odd setting, it's set in Japan and no real comments on that, it did it's job perfectly well.

I know it doesn't sound like I liked the story that much but I did, it's just really easy to summarize and doesn't have anything super-special to elaborate on. But if you liked the movie (and if you haven't seen the movie you should, it's just one of the classic movies, movie not Japanese film, anime, ect, you need to see it). Probably not something I'll end up owning but I'll certainly recommend it to friends.

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