This Week in Anime
Blade of the Immortal is Blood-Soaked Beauty

by Steve Jones & Andy Pfeiffer,

LIDEN FILMS takes on the gory manga classic Blade of the Immortal by Hiroaki Samura, delivering more slicing, dicing, and flying limbs than ever before. What is it about the classic tale that will keep Steve and Andy tuning in every week? Besides the rolling heads, that is.

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. NSFW Content: LOTS O' BLOOD

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet


Steve
Andy, I am so excited to dig into what is sure to be our most family-friendly This Week In Anime yet!

Assuming, of course, your family is made up exclusively of serial killers.
Andy
Look, sometimes your family is all murdered, and sometimes your family is all murderers. Blade of the Immortal is here to answer the question "What if your family is made of both?"
There's gonna be a helluva lot of blood either way, and boy does Blade of the Immortal seek to immediately fulfill that promise, with interest.
Gotta say, in a season full of a lot of pretty slight premieres, this one just blew me away with the confidence of its execution. Just wowing me over and over.
I've been excited for this one since its announcement. The manga is gory and violent in a uniquely stylish way and I'm so glad this second attempt at it seems to be doing it right.
Blade of the Immortal is one of those series that's always been in my periphery due to its reputation, but this was actually my very first exposure to it. And, uh, what an introduction.
I hope you love this dirty boy.
I do now!
Good! Because we're gonna be spending a lot of time with him and his limb collection.
I especially love the way the first episode feels almost like experimental theater in parts? Like, the very first scene is this disorienting collection of jarring cuts and closeups, deliberately monochrome so as to make the crimson of the blood pop, and punctuated by the creaking of a water mill, constantly turning as if to portend Manji's own eternal fate. It's so good!

I also love that it has a moment of Manji's namesake symbol immediately, establishing its importance going forward.

Guess if you want a message sent right you gotta carve it through someone's face
LMAO I didn't even notice that. How extra of him.
He's so dumb and I love it! One of the reasons this series is so bloody and violent is that our namesake Immortal may be a bit too used to it at this point. So while we start with this cool flashback of his display of skill, which he undoubtedly has, overall Manji is able to do these cool moves because of his complete lack of self-preservation.
Yeah it's a neat and surprisingly logical innovation on a genre already notorious for its grandiose displays of blood and severed limbs. Blade of the Immortal just kicks it up a notch by asking what would happen if a dude could keep fighting no matter what happened to him, and it certainly makes things interesting. And very, very gory.
I love how he basically wins every fight by getting punked super hard and then being not dead. Sure, he does well against your generic jobbers, but from the few serious encounters we've seen he's kinda out of his league.
Imagine how you'd feel if you honed your sword skills for a lifetime and then get murdered by our dirty possum boy.
He fights dirty, and I like that! I think it makes these battles a lot more interesting, because while Manji may be immortal, he's certainly not infallible, so he has to rely on all the tricks he's got. Sure, he's not above backstabbing, but to be fair, most of these Itto-ryu guys seem like they deserve a good backstabbing.
Especially that one. Yeesh.
YEAH A BIT
But we'll get back to him in a bit, because this really isn't Manji's story. Our listless samurai needs some drive, and thankfully there's a vengeful orphan that needs some serious help.
Manji, as we've already demonstrated, is great, but Rin so far is the glue holding the series together. She's a great character with a huge vendetta, and her story grounds and focuses everything into a good old-fashioned revenge plot.
I like, too, that the first episode deliberately revolves around her and not Manji. HIs backstory, as previously mentioned, gets compressed into this striking but abstract opening salvo, while hers is explored more concretely.
but no less bloody.
Oh, of course not.
It also gives us the first look at our antagonists, and I love that this immediately tells us that the bad guys are gonna be varied and weird.
Immediately I was like "what is that guy in back even DOING with those shoulder pauldrons?" and now I wish I did not know.
I know this has source material and that someone had to know in order to animate it, but on some level I'm gonna pretend you wondering that somehow willed the answer into existence.
I mean it's definitely intentional! The dude's striking silhouette and, um, unusual hobbies make him a super memorable first target.
He's a true warrior poet.

He also happens to be an OG reply guy
Reply guys are truly a scourge that knows neither time nor place, but good ol' Sabato Kuroi here takes his unhealthy fixation on objectifying women juuuuust a bit further than most.
big Y I K E S
Rin is having a Very Bad Time.
I do love that she brings up that her dad was murdered but she doesn't know what became of her mom, and it's something you take as an ongoing mystery and then this happens immediately.
Closure is usually good, but not so much when your mom's head is sewn onto just the biggest creep...I don't want to overuse word "extra" in this column, but there really is no other word that so perfectly captures Blade of the Immortal's tone. Right here, right off the bat, it's letting you know what it's gonna be about.
Hell yeah it is.
And to be fair, I think there's a lot of genuine pathos to be found in Rin's desire to avenge her family. But this is also going to be a story featuring dudes who pretend they're a Shogunate Zaphod Beeblebrox. It's a strange brew, and I'm here for it.
It's undeniable that it revels in violence, but that's not to say it doesn't have anything to say.
Manji is trapped in a hellish cycle, but his personal one's not too different from the mere state of the world. While Rin's own quest for vengeance comes from the perspective of a child who saw her family murdered in a pretty despicable way, on the grand scale of things this quest will probably only cause additional misery for everyone involved, and doesn't necessarily mean her family was innocent.
It makes sense, too, that Manji would be so philosophical about the cycle of violence, since he's doomed to be a part of it over and over and over. The second episode also follows through with this line of thought by introducing Magatsu, who joined Itto-ryu because he actually has some legitimate grievances with the samurai class.

Not Black and White.
Very Red
If Magatsu is our morally ambiguous villain than our artist friend Sori is definitely our protagonist-sided version which makes him a pretty amazing character during the short amount of time we spend on him.
While Manji is struggling to fight a good dozen mooks, Sori just stays inside having a little moment to himself as he contemplates color choices. That immediately endeared me to his character.
Gotta focus on the important stuff.
Let it be known that Manji vs the mooks is
some high tier comedy in every way.
I was dying later in the episode when Manji revealed he didn't even bother to get that dude's name.
He also doesn't deny killing him! Which, come on Manji, don't be stealing credit like that.
Yeah, Sori might be a selfish two-faced scumbag, but at least he's on the side of Art. Also it's not every day you see a font of blood turned into a Hokusai painting.
He's also a very good dad, as we see him getting lectured for making a mess by his daughter afterwards.
Overall, I'd say the second episode is a step down in terms of that abstract and moody presentation found in the premiere, but the core components of the story and its characters remain strong.
It's certainly not as strong a hook, but it does a great job of clearing up the tone of the series. While the first episode is mostly gore and lore, the second is a lot of setting and character that adds some levity to the whole situation.
I'm also the biggest sucker in the world for stories about gruff, jaded older dudes slowly and begrudgingly softening up around their younger and more passionate companions, so I'm pretty sure Blade of the Immortal is going to kill me in that department.

Nothing says endearing like walking into a life or death struggle to win back your not sister's family sword and then playing it off like nothing after you were repeatedly stabbed.
Just another day in the life.
Gotta love that dig at Magatsu for victory monologuing.
Honestly, surprising his enemies while they're blowing hot air seems to be Manji's ace in the hole. It's kryptonite for anime villains.
No one expects the dead guy to keep stabbing!

Though the dynamic certainly changes if someone is aware of his ability. Being outmatched but having a trump card only works once.
Yeah I'm eager to see what the story does with Magatsu the next time he shows up. And in general I'm eager to keep following the show! Even though I'm unfamiliar with the source manga, Hiroshi Hamasaki's presentation of the material seems spot on, and I'm always ready for a weird and bloody dose of some good old ultraviolence.
I certainly hope the quality keeps up!
There's a few moments of hiding speech that were a little too on the nose and didn't have the style to filter it, but if that's the sacrifice needed to give us plenty of good gore then so be it. For every moment that happens there's usually at least one really cool transition or interesting perspective shot that totally wins me over.
It's also just nice to have an anime that so cleanly refutes Fate's "people die when they're killed" nonsense.

For once someone says this and I totally know they're not about to be offed right before their retirement.
He def gonna suffer though.
Well, he's certainly not going to be the only one!

I'm so ready for more.
Bring on the Blood

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