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EP. REVIEW: Blade of the Immortal


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Charou



Joined: 01 May 2018
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Location: Sydney, Australia
PostPosted: Sat Mar 14, 2020 1:07 am Reply with quote
Dude, they're absolutely Dutch. Basic understanding of the Edo period makes that pretty clear. Generally enjoying your reviews, but this was a sad little ball drop.

Looking like the show will stick the landing in that it's allocated two episodes to the final volume. The animation level has neither spiked nor dipped throughout, which is fine by me. Hamasaki typically sets the quality bar of his shows early and sticks to it, which I find almost refreshing in this era of 'sakuga event' episodes sprinkled throughout real eyesores (Naruto, Apocrypha, SAO, etc). I expect this show will make for a great marathon rewatch, but let's be honest: its real purpose was to garner new readers of the far-superior manga, and re-ignite interest so that long-time Manji fans look into the new manga arc. The sub-par English subtitles serve to remind us how secondary we non-Japanese viewers are of stuff like this.

So far, the show has done nothing egregiously bad compared to the source material. It hasn't strongly deviated from the main story beats. It hasn't been unfaithful to the themes or characters, even when those themes show how dated/unpleasant they are (eg Hyakurin's minimising role as sexual victim, which I really didn't see back when I first read it but see it now). It is, by that measure, a very good adaptation. Whether or not these themes should have been modified for a modern audience is a much longer discussion.
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Panino Manino



Joined: 28 Jan 2018
Posts: 513
PostPosted: Sat Mar 14, 2020 6:57 am Reply with quote
Charou wrote:
let's be honest: its real purpose was to garner new readers of the far-superior manga, and re-ignite interest so that long-time Manji fans look into the new manga arc.


I had forgotten about this manga, it's good?
There's also "Wave, Listen to Me" airing next season.
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Charou



Joined: 01 May 2018
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Location: Sydney, Australia
PostPosted: Sat Mar 14, 2020 9:26 am Reply with quote
Panino Manino wrote:
Charou wrote:
let's be honest: its real purpose was to garner new readers of the far-superior manga, and re-ignite interest so that long-time Manji fans look into the new manga arc.


I had forgotten about this manga, it's good?
There's also "Wave, Listen to Me" airing next season.


Sadly, I can't say. My Japanese isn't anywhere near what's required to read and enjoy it, and I don't believe it's been translated. I know Samura approved of it (supervised?) and that it's set in the bakumatsu, but...well, as people will see, Blade ends so well I almost don't want to jinx the experience. In fact, if I didn't reread the original series every year, I'd be worried that my anticipation for this series had been tainted by nostalgic rosy lenses. But then I watched Bee-train's effort again (it's on youtube!) and was like, well, crap, surely the director of Shigurui and the studio that did Hanebado! can't do worse than this. And surprise surprise, they didn't! I've seen your criticisms week to week and appreciate the standards to which you've held the show, but mine were I believe much lower: be better than the bee-train version, give Tsuda a chance to flex beyond his usual sinister roles, have a good soundtrack, capture the essence of the manga's 'static dynamism', and don't skip any of the good bits. Ignoring the atrocious subs, I think this has been as good an adaptation as we could ever expect in the current anime market climate. Older, complete works rarely get decent updates, especially ones that already 'got' an adaptation. So...honestly, I feel spoiled. A single series full adaptation of a 30 volume manga that sacrifices mostly the connective tissue that a savvy viewer can fill for themselves or go read later? That's a rare thing indeed.

Regarding your ongoing claims of 'sub-par' animation: could you define 'par'? I feel like I'm making the absolute opposite argument here that I made for Fate/Apocrypha #22, which sacrificed pretty much all static 'art' quality for ridiculously kinetic action (as A-1 are wont to do with their sakuga-heavy episodes). Here I'm saying the show might not have the most kinetic action but it stays on model *much* more than your typical show with this much action. And for an adaption of a manga that specialises in detailed still for action, I think that's the right choice. Sorry, I seem to have pre-empted your response a bit there. So yeah: if you're going to say 'sub-par', I immediately want to know: what's 'par'?

Wave, Listen to Me definitely has my attention and I'm very eager to see what Samura can do other than draw insanely good anatomy being torn apart every conceivable way.
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Panino Manino



Joined: 28 Jan 2018
Posts: 513
PostPosted: Wed Mar 18, 2020 8:41 pm Reply with quote
#23
I already said that the animation, for me, is disappointing, so in an episode like this there isn't much for me to talk about. They chose to not spare and give dignity to any of the fights.
But maybe I can still add that some parts were very confusing, right? Without establish where the characters where fighting and some important details like Rin cutting her hand.
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Charou



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PostPosted: Wed Mar 18, 2020 9:03 pm Reply with quote
Counter-point: oh, that detail-orientated animation (esp. Habaki v Anotsu) is so exquisite. That is how you honour Samura's work, far more than flashy chanbara sakuga without it ever would. It doesn't have the budget or resources of Sword of the Stranger's final clash which is frankly what I think it would take to do a proper BOTI adaptation. Never gonna happen, so might as well love what we do get. Every screwed-up snapshot of violence that is distinctly Samura's style, captured by Hamasaki's commitment to pushing a limited budget as far as possible at the expense of the usual trappings of an action-heavy series.

So many people watching this just have flat-out unrealistic expectations. Did they not look at Hamasaki's other work to get a feel for how this would play out? Or consider that the mere fact that BOTI got a re-do is miraculous in itself? It's baffling that we'd get a unique adaptation that absolutely achieves what it sets out to do by its own parameters, set as early as episode 1, and then the main complaint is how unconventional it is.
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Panino Manino



Joined: 28 Jan 2018
Posts: 513
PostPosted: Thu Mar 19, 2020 7:45 am Reply with quote
Charou wrote:
Counter-point: oh, that detail-orientated animation (esp. Habaki v Anotsu) is so exquisite.


It's one of my criticisms.
I don't like this "fad", it's a farce, I want to see "real sakuga", no cheap tricks, just two characters fighting on screen and frames of animation.
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Charou



Joined: 01 May 2018
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Location: Sydney, Australia
PostPosted: Thu Mar 19, 2020 8:26 am Reply with quote
Panino Manino wrote:
Charou wrote:
Counter-point: oh, that detail-orientated animation (esp. Habaki v Anotsu) is so exquisite.


It's one of my criticisms.
I don't like this "fad", it's a farce, I want to see "real sakuga", no cheap tricks, just two characters fighting on screen and frames of animation.


I'm not sure you're being flexible enough with the term sakuga here. It's a lot more than kagenashi fluidity and off-model kinetic flash. That bit with Habaki's eye? That was sakuga. And it was sakuga that didn't result from an uneven allocation of time and resources as much of today's sakuga is. What you refer to as a 'fad' is actually a throwback. The real fad is the 'sakuga episode' concept, these showcases of industry talent both veteran and rising. BOTI is a throwback to anime before that became a thing, when the animation was much more consistent and even-toned. You still had moments of awesome detail and clarity, but outside of monstrosities like Dragon Ball/Z and its successors like PreCure and Naruto, you just didn't see 'sakuga episodes' in shorter shows. And what you call 'cheap tricks'? They were neither cheap nor tricks. They were and are legitimate techniques when you don't have the breathing room to produce cinematic-level animation.

There's a reason the Sakugabooru blog put BOTI on their Fall 2019 seasonal preview alongside blockbusters like Babylonia, Beastars and Boku No Hero s4, and it was never going to be because they were expecting A-1 style chanbara. Here's a snippet:

"If there’s one thing that’s likely to make Blade of the Immortal‘s bloodshed more visceral than ever it’s not a lack of broadcast restrictions, however, but the presence of Shingo Ogiso as character designer and presumably chief animation director too. Ogiso is an exceptionally versatile animator, the kind who always has a quality that your project needs. As someone who spent his formative stages in long-running productions like Bleach, he knows how to make his animation economical without sacrificing its appeal, often relying on short loops that are so cool you barely notice they’re over in the blink of an eye."

'economical without sacrificing its appeal, often relying on short loops' is absolutely what I get from Blade of the Immortal, every single episode. And another:

"perhaps the most relevant quality of his [Ogiso] is the excellent grasp on perspective. Ogiso would often get entrusted with scenes featuring characters moving in different trajectories than the camera due to his ability to nail the tricky perspective, and even when he wasn’t, he’d add extra nuance to the scenes with movement beyond a 2D axis."

If you can overlook the fact that this isn't Ninja Scroll or even some of the flashier SAO sword fights, you can see in most if not all of the clashes this expert usage of perspective.

So I completely disagree that Lidenfilms' BOTI doesn't have its share of sakuga. And it's on-model a lot more than most shows these days, favouring plenty of slow, steady close-ups to express subtle shifts in expression.The composition is equally expert -- BOTI is very conducive to intense, dramatic stills...something people tried to apply to Fate/Apocrypha #22 (*the* sakuga event of 2017) and naturally found plenty to laugh at; 22's sakuga was all about the moving image. BOTI's is about poignant stillness punctuated by explosive removal of limbs, ears, and basically any other body part you care to name. Is it budget? ABSOLUTELY. Is it about as good as you'll get for its budget? Again, absolutely.
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Panino Manino



Joined: 28 Jan 2018
Posts: 513
PostPosted: Wed Mar 25, 2020 1:53 pm Reply with quote
#Fim
In the end I liked this adaptation a lot.
A shame that technically the animation wasn't on par with what the anime was trying to do artistically. I really liked the director decision in this episode of shutting down all dialogue, because what remained to be talked, and just showing the character finishing killing each other.

I won't write much more because it's tiresome (specially now...) to translate everything in another language and at the same time not being able to use all the imagens that I want.
So: https://twitter.com/Paninodesu/status/1242869357744701440?s=20

Just two things.
1- Rin was NOT a weak character, like she proved till the end and;
2- I suspect that she thought about what Manji would do for a living after the sword wasn't an option anymore, and Fuyu is now there more for his own good than for her own good, and Yaobukuni lied a bit about the whole situation.
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Charou



Joined: 01 May 2018
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Location: Sydney, Australia
PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2020 9:00 am Reply with quote
That was magnificent. I do wonder if the lack of dialogue with some of the main characters was influenced by COVID-19 blocking seiyuu access, but that aside it works: we are past talk. We are purely in the realm of decisive action. And that's what we get.

This will make for an excellent once-yearly rewatch.

Thank you for your even-minded coverage, James. I think you'd appreciate some of the show more were you to watch it all together to see how things tie together but obviously that's not possible when you're doing weekly reviews. For OG manga readers, it was easier: we could see what Hamasaki was doing with the entire series. What he left out, and what he focused on. There were definitely some dated, almost inappropriate things that I don't think would be written today, but had to be kept if the adaptation were to remain faithful and honest. Their exclusion or alteration would have been jarring for those who know the source, who I suspect are the target audience given the show's prolonged push at the end to get us ready for the manga sequel.

I only wish and hope against hope for a bluray release with better subtitles. That aside, it doesn't need a BD release: there was no dimming, no artifacting and no censorship. I appreciate it being an Amazon Prime exclusive in that respect.

Damn, the whole series just left me breathless. Second only to Sword of the Stranger for straight-up actions-over-words chanbara anime. Yes, I put it even above Rurou ni Kenshin Tsuiokuhen.
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Panino Manino



Joined: 28 Jan 2018
Posts: 513
PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2020 12:14 pm Reply with quote
Charou wrote:

I only wish and hope against hope for a bluray release with better subtitles.


THIS!
More people could have watched, I suspect, if the subtitles were better.
They made mistakes till the very end.

Back to the anime, Manji was really the "Inhabitant of the Infinite".
It's a good thing that he is able to forget people and is so chill about life. If he weren't, if he didn't live the moment, he would probably go crazy like Eiku Shizuma.
That's why he is "Manji", that's why the anime begging and end with the water wheel (of samsara) spinning counter-clock wise.



Last edited by Panino Manino on Thu Mar 26, 2020 12:26 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Charou



Joined: 01 May 2018
Posts: 40
Location: Sydney, Australia
PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2020 12:22 pm Reply with quote
I'm thankful I've read the award-winning manga translation and know enough Japanese to pick up on some of the errors. I often criticise Netflix's subs as mechanically adequate and tonally dead, but at least they're not overtly misleading as these were.

"If you came into the finale of Blade of the Immortal hoping for the samurai showdown to end all showdowns, do I have bad news for you."

Correction: if you came into the finale of Blade of the Immortal hoping for the samurai showdown to end all showdowns, you haven't been paying attention to this show at all.

This has been my biggest gripe with the weekly BOTI reviews here. Most weeks, the review 'summary' has been off-base, almost as if it's talking to people watching a different show. Seems to me the reviewer never quite reconciled what the show intended, what it laid out from the start as its trajectory and method, with what he thought it would be, perhaps even wanted it to be. This can result in some pretty unfair commentary.
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Panino Manino



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Posts: 513
PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2020 9:34 pm Reply with quote
It's a competition between the Amazon's translator and the ANN's reviewer to see who gets more things wrong? Laughing
Just how can one see Makie killing Hanabusa?
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Charou



Joined: 01 May 2018
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Location: Sydney, Australia
PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2020 9:54 pm Reply with quote
I don't really blame James for not seeing why this adaptation has been so good. These guys have a lot on their plates, often reviewing several shows a week, and I've certainly seen less dedicated, less appropriate weekly updates from other ANN reviewers who clearly didn't want to do it. But I only skimmed this week's BOTI review because I knew from watching the episode and how consistent it was with the rest of the show that someone already mildly disengaged with it would remain so.

It's a cliche you'll see everywhere: casual reviewer consistently misses what the hardcore fans pick up and discuss in the review's comment section. Almost as if the review, aimed at less-committed viewers, exists mostly to promote the discussion between the existing fanbase. I typically use reddit more than here for that exact reason.

But no, the Amazon translator/s are a whole other level of failure.
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