This Week in Anime
What the Hell Happened in Sword Gai: The Animation?

by Nicholas Dupree & Steve Jones,

Sword Gai: The Animation is pretty much exactly what it says in the title, so why is it so hard to follow? This week, Nick and Steve do their best to make sense of this sword guy's adventures.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead. Not Safe For Work warning for content and language.


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We're having a Q+A column with the whole TWIA crew next week! Please e-mail jacob (at animenewsnetwork.com) with questions you'd like to us to answer!

Steve
Anime March Madness is almost over, Nick, and our pals at Netflix have truly saved the best for last. Sword Gai is a pointed, gripping tale that slashes through society's bullshit and pokes at the tender human meat just below the surface, keeping us on the edge of our seats with sharp questions like

What if sword but too much?

Nick
Netflix truly saved the best for last this month with Sword Gai: The Animation. It strikes at some truly deep philosophical quandaries that few other anime dare to pose. It's a truly inspiring work of avante garde creation.



What if BABY had sword? Really makes you think.

So yeah, Netflix's big month of dumping anime over our heads like Gatorade has been interesting, but I think it's safe to say it goes out with a whimper rather than a bang in Sword Gai.

Sword Gai is bad and dumb as hell. Now that said, I honestly had a pretty great time with it.

I'm glad somebody did. While this show admittedly starts off pretty fun, I can't say that appeal lasted too long for me. By the time the actual plot got introduced halfway through the series' run, I was checking my watch pretty regularly.

Oh there was a plot? I mean, I guess it tried to have one, but I never really noticed it materializing until maybe the final episode. And then it was over. Blissfully.

Oh we'll get to that ending, but first we should probably cover the premise. The setup is pretty simple. There are a bunch of evil weapons that are so evil, they turn evil people eviler. One of these swords goes on a killing spree that includes the husband of a pregnant woman. Said pregnant lady then kills the sword wielder and gets possessed herself. She's able to control herself just long enough to give birth somehow and then hangs herself, leaving her baby to be possessed by the sword instead! Which leads to that amazing fucking image you posted above.

Mom Of The Year. No, I don't mean the pregnant lady. I mean the sword.

This is Gai, our main character by the way. His mom is a sword, which also becomes his arm. Strap in, folks.

He is, quite literally, an edgelord.

Alternatively, budget Edward Elric.

That all happens in two episodes by the way, which is sadly a Screentime to Crazy Bullshit ratio the show never manages again. But it's kind of amazing to go from the Rube Goldberg murder spree that ends in sword baby to angry teen protag losing his arm and creating a fully functioning prosthetic arm out of a demonic katana in 40 minutes.

The first episode is a trip too, because it throws you into Crazy Sword World without explaining anything and constantly jumps between several seemingly unrelated stories. Consequently, I had no idea what was happening or why I was supposed to care, and almost all of it is inconsequential anyway! But at least that primes you for what the rest of the show will be like. Sword Gai is basically a loosely-connected series of vignettes about people who are horny for evil swords.

some hornier than others


Oh right, I guess I should mention that while Gai's story is happening, there's about five other subplots going on alongside it that have no real bearing on him at all. Like this rich orphan(?) guy who literally pays actors to dress up as his family.



There's a LOT going on in SWORD GAI, but much of it feels strangely inconsequential because not much that's set up gets paid off. We spend the first four-ish episodes with Billy No-Family as our deuteragonist, as he gets possessed by his own sword because he got NTR'd.

But then it turns out his entire story was just there to explain the organization that goes around collecting possessed sword guys to fight OTHER possessed sword guys, which gets explained again anyway when they go to recruit Gai. So it ends up feeling like a big pointless plot cul-de-sac.

In Sword Gai, when you touch an evil sword you either A) die, or B) get possessed by the sword and become a tokusatsu demon that gradually eats away at your soul, and then you die. Also at least 99% of swords are possessed by these evil demons, so good luck. Also, despite all this, everybody wants these swords.

Just one of the hard facts of life in SWORD GAI.

Also, I must mention that the Secret Sword Society of Good Guys With Evil Swords is run by Zordon and his two brothers.

Okay but which one is Bryan Cranston.

He's the middlest brother, clearly.

Really, the biggest problem in the whole show is the conceit that only fucked-up people can get possessed by the swords, which basically necessitates our cast be comprised of super unlikable misanthropes who are constantly brooding about their suppressed urge to kill.

An urge, mind you, which is subtly communicated by a demonic voice inside the person's head screaming "KILL. KILL. KILL."

Our protagonist is a dude who quite explicitly doesn't care about the people in his life or any of the people who inexplicably love him. He's just angry and wants to kill everyone and WELCOMES being turned into a Garo-knockoff if it means he gets to be with his sword mama.



Our protagonist is a dude who fucking STABS HIS MOTHER'S GRAVE.


Like, this isn't symbolic. I'm pretty sure he just wanted to kill his dead human mother.

He's an angst-machine so nihilistic he makes Sasuke Uchiha seem charismatic, and we spend so much time just watching him be a shithead to the family who's raised him since birth because DARKNESS

IMPRISONING ME

ALL THAT I SEE

Well, except for that episode where he becomes a baby.

Oh my god, right. It's literally the age regression plotline from Elfen Lied except it's not written by a piss fetishist this time (to my knowledge).

It's kind of the perfect microcosm of SWORD GAI's storytelling. It makes no sense, comes out of nowhere, accomplishes nothing, and then it's over so fast you wonder what the point of it even was.

It DOES lead to this amazing moment where Seiya comments on this change with the same candor one would use when noticing your friend got new glasses.

Y'know Seiya's not a great character by any means, but by god he's the closest thing to a likable or entertaining person in this show, so I guess he qualifies as my favorite.

Legit the only part in this show that I could call good is the part where Seiya reunites with his old lover. Since he's a magical sword boy, he gets cryogenically frozen often and doesn't really age. But his girlfriend does, and their episode together is honestly sweet and affecting.



It's a pretty familiar storyline, but delivered with enough effort in the character writing that it lands well without feeling cloying.

And they easily could have handled this like Seiya was just humoring her and her dementia. But no, his love for her is never anything but genuine. Sure it's a little hackneyed, but it's too sweet for me to care.


It's also one of the few storylines involving women in this show that doesn't involve them getting brutalized. Because seriously, this show has a weird thing for just killing or beating any woman who shows up, be it Gai's pseudo-love interest

or a random fairy in a flashback.

Sword Gai def feels like a throwback to super-violent '80s OVAs, in all of the good and bad ways. And yeah, the rampant violence against women is one of the worst ways.

It feels a LOT like this past season's Garo -Vanishing Line-, and not just because the shows share a character designer. But where GARO has solid action direction, a unique setting, and likable characters, SWORD GAI just has a lot of aimless violence for the sake of looking cool.

And even when we finally get some evil Sword Girls, we never get to see them do much, which is criminal imo.

How did I know you'd like the crazy Idol girl.

One of the worst parts of Sword Gai is that it occasionally has the audacity to do something cool.


Sure but if you want more of that, you can just go watch Blood-C.

PLEASE GO WATCH BLOOD-C. THIS IS NOT A JOKE.

Though at least she's better than the other evil sword lady we meet, who is such a walking fat joke that at one point she literally eats pirate treasure.

Like I've seen plenty of shitty fat joke characters in anime whose sole role is to eat food but come the fuck on.

Okay that was an awful episode for many reasons (mainly that one), but it's also a prime example of how poorly the show is structured, since it totally jumps away from everything it had been doing up til that point to devote an episode to these two random storylines that have nothing to do with anything. I seriously had to check to see if I was still watching Sword Gai.

It's a baffling little non sequitur that only makes sense when you reach the end of the show. Though "end" is far too generous a word for what we get instead.

Sword Gai doesn't end. It just stops.

Seriously, I don't know if there's a planned second half that Netflix hasn't mentioned or if they just forgot to include episode 13 or what, but episode 12 ends with the most halfhearted middle finger to the audience in recent memory. There is no conclusion. There is no cliffhanger. There is no after-credits teaser hinting at a second season. It just stops in the middle of a battle before our titular Sword Gai has managed to accomplish anything beyond angsting and screaming.

It's obvious that crafting a satisfying stopping point for its "plot" was not on this anime's list of priorities, so it's not like I could get angry at it. If anything, I was amused. At least it felt fitting given everything that had come before.

It does feel fitting, but mostly because it hammers home how totally pointless this show was. That gold-eating lady? Never shows up again after her episode. You could cut that episode out and not even notice.

It also implies that the Grim Reaper is actually just an evil scythe, which is a concept that tickles me.

That's the kind of stupid fun concept I'd love to see explored! But fat chance because he shows up in the last episode for the boss fight and then poof, no more show. There are a dozen different subplots in the show that just cease to exist once they're out of sight. From the idol girl to the sadist hair stylist guy to the guy who owns the EVILER version of Gai's sword-arm-mom who's a devout pacifist but also maybe evil? The whole thing left me throwing my hands in the air.

Now, I can see how that would be frustrating if you're trying to follow the story closely. But if you're say, listening to the English dub and kind of half-paying attention while you shitpost on Twitter, Sword Gai is actually a great time. On that note, the English dub is super (Bang Zoom are hella consistent), and most of the cast seems to be aware of what kind of show they're in, so I'd recommend going that route if for some reason you still wanna check the show out after reading this column. There are worse ways to kill an afternoon.

I guess, but when we're a week away from being absolutely buried in new shows, I can't see much use in sitting through this. In the end, I guess I'm just glad this means the Netflix deluge is over for a bit, and we can get back to covering shows as they come out week to week, the way God intended. Whatever Netflix has for us next, I hope it doesn't come for a good long while.

Thankfully, I'm 100% positive that there definitely isn't any show that rhymes with Islet Neverharden coming out all at once anytime soon.

oh shit I forgot about that one


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