Reviewby Luke Carroll,
Blade of the Immortal V1
Life is Not Precious
Manji is a skilled samurai who has a decisive advantage: no wound can kill him. In the past, his actions led to the death of 100 other samurai. Cursed with immortality at the hand of an 800-year-old nun named Yaobikuni, he is compelled by the death of his sister to make amends by killing 1000 evil men, and until he does Manji will be kept alive by "sacred bloodworms", remarkable creatures that allow him to survive nearly any injury and reattach severed limbs even after hours of separation.
Following in the footsteps of titles such as Samurai Champloo and Blade of the Phantom Master, this first volume of Blade of the Immortal feels very much like a 2 hour case of style over substance. The animation and fights are wonderful but the story revealed thus far is nothing more than a straight forward revenge ploy that just substitutes the main character's reasons for killing from one thing to another. On top of this, no real hint is even given yet as to why Manji has these immortal blood worms in him. Considering this is only a 13 episode series, it is hard to believe everything will resolve itself satisfactorily.
Set in 1780's Japan, the series kicks us off with our first introduction to Manji. Betrayed by his master, this solo samurai has gone on to become known as the 'Hundred Man Killer' throughout the region. A number of these killings are no doubt due to the fact that Manji is cursed with bloodworms that gift him immortality. Seeing this as a curse, Manji tries to find solace in his life by taking care of a young woman whose husband was once a victim of his. When a gang set on killing Manji capture and kill the young woman though, Manji decides to make amends of his wrong ways by killing a thousand villains. It is then that we meet Rin, a girl seeking revenge after a group known as the Itto-ryu abused and murdered her parents. She seeks out Manji, and after relaying her story to him, he agrees to help her on her quest for revenge. What follows is a number of mostly self contained stories as the pair encounter members of the Itto-ryu.
Produced only two years ago, the animation in Blade of the Immortal is very solid. Presented in 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen, Bee Train and Production I.G have done a slick job in bringing the popular manga to life. Some scenes are noticeably a bit softer than they could have been though, and the darker scenes aren't nearly strong enough at times. Overall however, Blade of the Immortal is a nice series to look at.
The audio however is a bit of a mixed bag. On the whole, both the Japanese and English tracks come across quite clear with subtle soft tones and loud sword clashes blending well. Oddly however Bang Zoom! Entertainment has decided to record the English track in stereo, something of which hinders the audio potential of this series. The opening and closing themes 'Akai Usagi' and 'Wants' fit the tone of the series strangely well, and the voice acting cast certainly performs their given roles adequately. It's a solid audio affair overall, but it certainly wont light your ears up.
On the extras side of things, we are treated to what can only be seen as the bare minimum for any release. Included is the textless versions of the opening and closing themes as well as a few trailers for samurai related anime. It's very underwhelming, however the US release wasn't spectacular in this department either, so there is very little room to complain.
Blade of the Immortal is a series that very craftily uses style to urge you for more. Despite the rather simple plot that drives each episode, there is an overall larger plot behind the scenes that begs to be fleshed out in the next release. The fights may be as predictable as the colour of Pikachu's body, but it still leaves you wanting to see the next fight and how the plot weaves into it. Plus there's still the history of Manji's bloodworms which in five episodes have yet to even get some sort of explanation. It's hard to imagine the series answering all these questions and still fleshing the plot out with eight episode left, but that in itself is becomes just another reason to watch more.
©2008Hiroaki Samura・KODANSHA/Asano Dojo Revisionista. All Rights Reserved.
Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C+
Animation : B-
Art : B
Music : C+
+ Decent action scenes, unanwered questions draw you in.
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