Reviewby Zac Bertschy, Aug 18th 2003
In ages past, a powerful ninja leader was defeated by a plucky Samurai. Fast forward to several years later, and that samurai's son is attending school like every other kid. One day, his life is turned upside down when two (particularly attractive) of the Ninja's granddaughters come seeking revenge for their grandfather's shame! The samurai kid is totally skilled in all forms of combat but totally inept with the opposite sex, and these girls know it.
Every so often, the ADV crane drives to the edge of the anime landfill and digs deep, pulling up garbage from years and years ago. This time, they pulled up The Samurai, a little-known, barely seen OVA from the late 1980s that nobody ever knew existed. It probably would have stayed that way, too, had ADV not pulled its name out of a hat. The Samurai isn't the worst thing ever put to celluloid, but this isn't exactly a masterpiece.
Plot-wise, The Samurai moves right along. It isn't boring, per say; the show has plenty of comical moments and doesn't run very long, so you won't find yourself struggling to stay awake. Most of the plot elements do seem a wee bit forced. For example, Takeshi goes to school, only to find his class being held up by robbers. Most robbers are smart enough to hit up a bank or a convenience store, some place where, you know, they have money. These robbers chose a class full of kids, most of whom probably don't even have a few hundred yen. It isn't worth questioning because you know why these robbers are here; they exist simply so Takeshi can show off his amazing Samurai skill before the two girls show up and he spends the rest of the OVA's 45-minute running time with red cheeks and nosebleeds. It wouldn't be so bad if he found a girl getting mugged on the way to school, but for some reason, the writers saw it fit to add in this totally implausible, downright stupid plot element in.
After the robbers get the beat down, the two Ninja Girls, Akarai and Kagiri, show up, determined to take back the heirloom Takeshi's pop swiped from their grandfather. Kagiri seems to think that the best way to do this is to strip down naked at every possible opportunity and try to seduce Takeshi. Apparently, once his guard is down from having breasts smashed in his face over and over again, they can take the heirloom and run off. Akarai doesn't do much aside from swat down any boy who gets close to her (in your average anime-girl overreaction). These two characters serve little purpose other than to provide plenty of fanservice and make Takeshi's nose bleed. If you're suspecting that The Samurai is a little on the shallow end of the pool, you're right. There just isn't much here. There isn't any more, either, so it's not like the story is going to actually go anywhere.
From a production standpoint, The Samurai has late 1980s written all over it. The potato-headed, big-haired character designs simply scream 1987. If you liked Kimagure Orange Road's toe-headed characters, you'll probably like this. There are ink bubbles in the animation cels and the backgrounds look like they were hand-painted as opposed to simply gussied up in Photoshop. The animation is a bit higher in quality than your average 80's TV show (Dirty Pair, Urusei Yatsura, I'm looking in your direction here) because it's an OVA, one of many produced in the 80's. Depending on your outlook, this was a great time for Japanese animation (if you like potato-headed big-haired characters) and an untapped goldmine for people who still prefer to live in the past. If you're more in to the ‘modern’ look (say, 1995 and beyond), chances are, The Samurai is going to seem pretty lame. Make no mistake, The Samurai is lame. That doesn't mean there aren't any reasons to like it.
Basically, it boils down to this. If you like anime from the 1980s, particularly anime aimed at men, you may as well give The Samurai a shot. The character designs are vintage, the music is vintage, even the animation is picture-perfect late 1980's. Yeah, it's shallow and fairly vapid, but if you have an eye for this particular aesthetic, you'll probably find something to dig. The Samurai isn't so much enjoyable as a stand-alone product, but more a relic of a bygone era; it can be appreciated as a museum piece, one of the few “classic” releases from a studio typically consumed with dumping out the latest and greatest. The dub is passable (although not ADV's best work), and the animation isn't half-bad for a show that's more than twelve years old. Don't get The Samurai expecting some kind of unrivalled masterpiece; get it if you dig the late 80s aesthetic and you're in the mood for some shallow entertainment that doesn't really try to be anything more than that.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B-
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B
+ Interesting story, unique presentation
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