This Week in Anime
Blade of the Immortal Gets Lost in the Ultraviolence

by Michelle Liu & Andy Pfeiffer,

Micchy and Andy check back on Blade of the Immortal after its initially eye-popping opening episodes to find that it's spinning its wagon wheels in the muck. Is it still a grotesque visual feast or just plain grotesque?

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: Gore and discussion of sexual assault.

You can read our episode reviews of Blade of the Immortal here!

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet


Micchy
Hey Andy, remember when we watched Kengan Ashura and I said something to the tune of wanting more ridiculous bone swords in anime? On second thought, that might not be such a great idea. For one, it'd probably hurt like hell.

Two, I can't imagine bones are actually all that durable as weapons.
Andy
Kengan Ashura also had the smarts to make their bone wizard a doctor. Blade of the Immortal however decides all the credentials you need are being a bastard man. Which yeah, we're back to the Blade and my earlier enthusiasm for this series is no longer Immortal.
I'm liking it just fine for the most part, with one huge HUGE caveat that it's sometimes (see: often) super uncomfortable—if not outright painful—to sit through. Like I'll cut to the chase, Blade of the Immortal has a lousy habit of brutalizing its women in very graphic ways, and I'm not so fond of that. Hyperviolence I'll take, but the multiple torture and rape scenes are absolutely excruciating to sit through as a woman. Even if they're intentionally upsetting I don't know if I want to put myself through that experience as much as Blade of the Immortal (2019) seems to want me to.
It's much easier to deal with in manga form, as you can turn a page pretty quick whenever it gets too much into it, but oof does this adaptation take some directorial choices with it. Lets get this clear, a lot of this series looks sadly cheap. Hiding mouths is a fairly standard trick but that's even too much a lot of the time for this show, so you get a lot of dialogue or exposition delivered while staring at static shots of scenery or even just a pot on the floor. Fight scenes have also turned to sequences of quick static cuts with color flashes and camera shakes. All this so that they can lovingly animate multiple sexual assaults. It's such a sad choice of priorities in a series that could really lay into some cool fights and stylistic violence instead.
This adaptation of Blade is committed to a gritty perspective on violence, usually depicting it as an ugly cycle of pain that just sometimes happens to involve decapitated heads flying through the air. The fight scenes are disorienting and impossible to follow, but I'm not sure the goal was to make them look cool in the first place. I find it hard to believe that editing this claustrophobic and spatially ambiguous is accidental.

To be sure, the direction's started to sag as the series has progressed, but I'm not entirely convinced the show was ever trying to be stylish or flashy the way, say, a Masahiro Ando joint is.
But then again, it could simply be badly boarded action, it's hard to say.
I like the idea that we're as disoriented as Manji is during this fight, as it's a great show of how utterly outclassed he is, but even then I think Makie deserved better than what this show gives her.

One of the most baffling things is that the sequence of events is rearranged so that Manji gets his ass handed to her before we meet this dude.

Thematically Manji meets his fellow immortal to learn the limits of his immortality, and then proceeds to have his shit torn completely apart knowing it could actually end him. Instead we have him sad that a woman beat him and that he is further humiliated by having been saved by another woman?
¯\_(ツ)_/¯
It also begins a trend of trying to give characterization only in flashback, and even then cuts it down to either only the plot relevant bits or into a non-intelligible mess. By the time Makie shows up, gets beat, comes back, wins, and then leaves again we still have no idea of her actual feelings or her true relationship to Anotsu. The entire focus of her character is supposed to be what Anotsu views as the true definition of his way of life.
Hm, now I quite liked that episode—we don't get a lot of concrete info on Makie's goals or history, but the scraps we're handed sketch out a rough outline of how complex and contradictory her life has been. She's good at killing, but restrained by what people teach her—and when she discards what she learns she's only more conflicted. By the end of the episode, we don't know her true feelings, sure. But I don't think she does either? In general, I like the way this adaptation streamlines character arcs into the important beats, leaving it to us to extrapolate the details. New characters, like strangers, don't show much of their true selves—but we get enough hints to get a vague sense of where they're coming from. What the show uses its saved time for is a different problem.
Fair point! My view is definitely colored by past experience with the material. Makie is one of the more interesting characters in the show and her presence alone graced us with some very good Rin faces.
I mean my reaction to the show is basically

Which is to say I am way more invested in the random strangers Rin meets and inadvertently screws over than Sword Guy #578.
The human element of a show ostensibly full of dumb fight maniacs is honestly what keeps the story going. You've got all this talk of dojos and honor and what makes a warrior and meanwhile everyone else is struggling to run an inn and avoid too much attention in their already hard lives.
I wish there was more playing up Manji as a man disconnected from this due to his situation but that's another thing the show really doesn't care about. In fact even after this many episodes he's had remarkably little characterization since his introduction. We get shown he's rusty and upset but never see him trying to get back into things. We get told he's a loner but every time he meets new characters he shines up to them immediately. In the end the story relies solely on Rin.
tfw u have to carry the entire show bc ur partner keeps getting killed on respawn and is otherwise uninteresting
Manji's dad gave him a $20 when he dropped him off at the arcade and he's intent to wear you down as you try to hold the Street Fighter cabinet but really need to go to the bathroom. Meanwhile Rin is fucking bored and heading to the pizza place on the other side of the mall and no this is not my passive aggressive way of demanding Netflix drop S2 of Hi-Score Girl.
Really though, it's kind of unfair how much more engaging Rin is than whatever Manji and his traveling not-boyfriend are up to. Here's a girl dedicated to revenge but unsure what she's willing to pay to get it, utterly devoted to her cause but also terrified of letting anyone else follow her path and continue the cycle of violence she willingly entered. The episode where she confronts one of her parents' killers and totally keeps her calm to avoid alarming his kid comes to mind.
She tries so hard to choose the high road there! She lays out her feelings to him, that taking revenge would simply torture another innocent kid, and that she simply can't bring herself to do that and wants him to recognize that. His response of course is "ok cool that you want to break the cycle but that would still mean someone out there knows my past, so time to do a murder."
Rin: your son deserves to live a normal life with what he believes is a normal dad!
Manji: okay time to traumatize a kid

Lending Rin his severed arm for a few hours was the least he could do for goofing this up.
Look, his job is to do the Revenge. He tried to talk her out of it before and she didn't take. So now a kid's life is ruined. Thems the breaks. Maybe if she had met this kid before she had run back into Anotsu the whole thing would've ended here, but that encounter was immediately after the Makie incident, and boy was she wildly unprepared.
I do like how Anotsu's rationale for killing Rin's family is "your grandpa ousted my grandpa from the cool kids club, so it's just deserts."
His Grandpa SUCKED
Fuck off with that Anotsu!
Yeah I don't know why anyone in this show bothers carrying on their family's legacies when their families suck so much ass!
The series' commentary on honor and justice really isn't positive. Basically Anotsu's family believed that winning a fight is all that matters, while Rin's believed that tradition and honor were more important. To reconcile this, Anotsu has created a roving gang of rapists, murders, and shitty violent philosophers as some sort of proof that his awful abusive grandpa was right and how dare they look down on a guy who:
•Murdered his own son
• Abused the shit out of his grandson
•Also planned to kill his grandsonHe personally exemplifies this by uh, using an axe instead of a sword? And decides if he does that he may as well allow awful people to do horrific crimes in his name? Because these things are equivalent in his dumb brain.
He is the belief 'might makes right' made flesh. He's so frustrated with the formality and rigidness of more traditional schools that he lets everything go as nature wills it, principles be damned. Never mind the irony of carrying on a tradition of disregarding tradition. Anyway, he sucks because for all the show's promises of putting him in women's clothing it never. Showed him. In a dress. The absolute cowardice.
Look how many people went out to find him in a dress! The people wanted it! As much as I can't take Anotsu's philosophy seriously it seems Rin is too young and dumb to laugh off his bullshit, as she gets really flustered by "you just tried to kill me with knives instead of a sword, so you're the same as me."
I don't know if she's really in the state of mind to be interrogating his philosophy though, not when both of her brain cells are in Revenge Mode. And frankly, she's far from the dumbest character in the show, so I gotta give her a bit of a pass there.
Hey now one is on revenge and the other is on dango.

Which still doesn't leave much room for seeing through bullshit.
That's okay though, she's trying her best, even faking a C-section to corroborate her passport application sob story. Not that any of that was necessary when all she needed to do was ask.
I'm impressed she managed to heal to a scar in less than 24 hours.
Let's just pretend Manji did some worm magic to get that to happen. Also: I am really not over how the explanation for Manji's immortality is "magic worms".
Maybe a few got flicked in when she went for the licky.

Also love that Manji's greatest threat is insecticide. If you ever encounter an immortal samurai simply spray some DEET at him and watch his leg fall right off.
Now that's the kind of dumb bullshit I come to my hyperviolent gorefests for! Now if only the show embraced the ridiculousness instead of trying to straddle the line between gritty and goofy. For starters, quit using rape so often as a way to raise the stakes. Just a suggestion!!
But Micchy, how else will we know that Shira is a Bad Man? I mean he's not even on screen for 5 minutes before killing a dog and tricking Rin into eating it! He might be OK!
Yeah no, Rin's kinda dumb as bricks. If only she'd started with part 1 of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, she'd know that anyone who kills dogs for fun is bad news. Unfortunately Hirohiko Araki was yet but a child during the Edo period, so she couldn't possibly have gotten that PSA.
How do we know for sure that Araki was not a full-fledged mangaka full of blood worms even then?
True! Either way, Rin probably should've bailed when Shira started slaughtering random innocents. If only he stayed gone instead of showing up again with an oyster fork for an arm.
Shira somehow creates 3 subplots that involve graphic rape and it's insane to me that this was necessary. Hyakurin's assault is easily the grossest thing in the show. After several episodes of extremely poor quality suddenly we get lavishly detailed semen drips and I wanted to chuck my laptop across the room. That the show then portrays her revenge as orgasmic makes me question the show's use of any sexual imagery.

Earlier rape scenes are at least appropriately horrifying, but Hyakurin's torture scene is just gratuitous. The dwelling on her body was way longer than necessary to get the point across. The immediate followup of the flying heads doesn't help the icky framing.
This is only further exacerbated by how much characterization the anime simply cuts out. We really don't have a feel for any of the members of the Mugai Ryu when this betrayal happens. So one gets offed unceremoniously and we're supposed to feel bad during a flashback overlaying a rape scene. Then Giichi does some quick murder on his way to save his comrade that we've never seen him have any care for. It all comes off so flat and uninteresting and all viewers get from it is an extended assault.
Blade's better at shorter, self-contained stories; it suffers from trying to get a fixed cast to carry whole arcs. It's disappointing that it couldn't sustain the energy of its first few episodes, but they can't all be winners I guess. I still enjoy the show! But like I said, huge caveat that will absolutely cross the line for some folks.
Honestly if I'm going to Amazon for slashy samurai action, I'd probably stick to Dororo for now. As forBlade, while this adaptation is arguably better than the last (I'll still stick with first few episodes being neat and fun) I'd still rec the manga over the latter episodes here. So just a little recommendation.
Just a little, before everything gets swallowed by the Bezos Empire.

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