Creator: A Gonzo Production
Director: Toshifumi Takizawa
Genre: Sci-Fi/Action Adventure
Length: 26 Episodes
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+ More detailed characters and plot
Story drags a bit at beginning
+ Leads to greater appreciation of original
Fans of Akira Kurosawa's film Seven Samurai may be inclined to dismiss Samurai 7 as a juvenile knockoff of a classic film. However, Samurai 7's longer format allows for greater plot and character development and explores the ideas presented in the original in greater depth and detail. In fact watching both the series and the film will enhance the enjoyment of both and may give fans of Kurosawa's work a deeper appreciation of the original. Viewers of the anime series who have never seen the original may be inspired to seek out the original classic film.
4 out of 5 · Highly Recommended
Samurai 7 Anime Review
Written by: Frank B. Chavez III on 7/6/2008
In 1954, Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa created one of his most famous and influential films; the samurai epic Seven Samurai. Set in the warring states period in feudal Japan, Seven Samurai follows a group of peasants as they set out to recruit a team of samurai to defend their village from a gang of marauding bandits. Seven Samurai established many plot elements that are now clichés common in action/adventure movies including the recruitment of a team of heroes for a specific task and the introduction of the hero in the middle of an adventure not related to the plot of the movie. Other devices such as the reluctant hero, a romance between the youngest hero and a local girl, and the nervousness amongst the common citizenry had appeared in other films but were used together in one film for the first time in Seven Samurai. In 2004 anime studio Gonzo adapted the plot of Seven Samurai as the futuristic anime series Samurai 7.
Soon our intrepid but naive adventurers find themselves in the big and crowded city where they will be assaulted by a thief, witness many wonders, and maybe, hopefully, find a samurai willingly to risk his life fighting bandits for the price of a sack of rice. The story tends to drag during some of these early episodes as the villagers track down the samurai that will eventually defend their village. However, one-by-one their force is assembled.
The first samurai they encounter is Katsushiro Okamoto, a young man untried in battle but earnest, chivalrous, and brave. Katsushiro helps the villagers get their rice back from a thief; Rikichi wants to hire him but Kirara finds him too inexperienced to be of any value to their cause. Helping the villagers may be Katsushiro's chance to prove his samurai spirit and value as a warrior. The second samurai they encounter is Kikuchiyo a robot with the soul of a man. Often troublesome and regarded as an oaf, as a farmer turned warrior, he may have the noblest reason to aid the villagers. The third samurai encountered by the villagers is Shamada Kambei – brave, strong, and wise; Shamada is a skilled warrior and a natural leader of men, only he's spent too much of his career leading men on the losing side. Helping the villagers may be his last chance at redemption. The fourth samurai is Gorobei Katayama a former soldier who makes his living as an entertainer performing William Tell style tricks such as catching arrows in midair before they hit him in the head. The fifth samurai they encounter is Kyuzo, a strong silent type who plays mysterious but the loud kind of mysterious that calls attention to itself. A former bodyguard for the corrupt merchant-daimyo Ayamaro, he is Kambei's equal in swordsmanship and agrees to join the others so that he can challenge Kambei after the bandits are defeated. The sixth samurai is Hayashida Heihachi, a former combat engineer who would rather eat than fight; Heihachi trades odd jobs for food and bits of technology. He joins the group as a mechanic and helps build weapons and defenses. He carries the shame of having once betrayed his comrades during the last war. The last samurai to join the group is Shichiroji, Kambei's former comrade-in-arms. Shichiroji leaves behind a successful business as an innkeeper for one last chance to fight alongside his former comrade.
Show More For more than fifty years, Seven Samurai has stood as one of the most popular, influential, and critically acclaimed action/adventure films ever made. Fans of the original masterpiece may rush to dismiss this series as juvenile stuff. While far from the classic status of the original, Samurai 7 is still fairly entertaining in its own right. It expands the story into some interesting territories. It broadens the conflict beyond the defense of the village from the bandits as the Samurai 7 find themselves embroiled in the politics and machinations of the corrupt feudal system. To this end the series introduces several new characters, most notably Ukyo the spoiled, decadent son of the merchant prince who rules the city where the villagers recruit the samurai; Tessai Ukyo's creepy bodyguard; and a megalomaniacal emperor whose damaged body is kept alive by machines. The series also adds an element of mysticism to the plot by making one of the main protagonists (Kirara) a priestess with a magic amulet which helps her decide which samurai to hire. There is no equivalent character in the original film, which is a straight forward, realistic adventure.
For more than fifty years, Seven Samurai has stood as one of the most popular, influential, and critically acclaimed action/adventure films ever made. Fans of the original masterpiece may rush to dismiss this series as juvenile stuff. While far from the classic status of the original, Samurai 7 is still fairly entertaining in its own right. It expands the story into some interesting territories. It broadens the conflict beyond the defense of the village from the bandits as the Samurai 7 find themselves embroiled in the politics and machinations of the corrupt feudal system. To this end the series introduces several new characters, most notably Ukyo the spoiled, decadent son of the merchant prince who rules the city where the villagers recruit the samurai; Tessai Ukyo's creepy bodyguard; and a megalomaniacal emperor whose damaged body is kept alive by machines. The series also adds an element of mysticism to the plot by making one of the main protagonists (Kirara) a priestess with a magic amulet which helps her decide which samurai to hire. There is no equivalent character in the original film, which is a straight forward, realistic adventure.
Show More Not only has the plotline been expanded and new characters added, the characters taken directly from the original movie have undergone, at least superficial, metamorphoses as well, especially the samurai. While their essential personalities and motivations have survived intact, many of their physical attributes have changed. Akira Kurosawa never dreamed of samurai like the ones depicted in Samurai 7. The series' animators take full advantage of their art; besides the fact that the character made famous by Toshiro Mifune is now depicted as a sword wielding robot, the animators give us samurai that are super strong, limber, and acrobatic. Characters snatch arrows from the air, cut projectiles in two, and destroy space ships with their katanas. The bandits depicted in the story have undergone the greatest change, in the Kurosawa film they were rogues who relied on their sheer numbers to achieve their aims; the bandits of Samurai 7 are former ronin whose consciousnesses were transferred to giant robots during the war. It is their size and advanced weaponry which give them their advantage.
Like the original, Samurai 7 examines the question of what it means to be a samurai and why someone would want to be one. Is having a noble family tree and carrying a sword all that is required? Or is the true samurai the man (or woman) who acts with a noble spirit? While the other Samurai often mock Kikuchiyo as an oaf, he has the noblest reason to help the villagers of Kanna. While the other samurai have various motives ranging from wanting a last taste of battle in an age where samurai have lost their place to seeking a chance at redemption, Kikuchiyo is a peasant and was raised on a farm. He identifies with Kirara and her village's plight and by defending them it is as if he defending his own childhood home. While the older samurai seem to have largely been pressed into service by the obligations of their station and Kikuchiyo is driven by his need to change his fate, the young Katsushiro is driven by obscure reasons such as wanting to teach himself a lesson or better himself. However, in his haste to learn about abstract concepts such as honor, he seems to have forgotten that a samurai's main function is war and Bushido and its accompanying codes of conduct were primarily geared toward making the samurai a better warrior. Over the course of the series, Katsushiro comes to learn this lesson well.
By expanding its story line as it has, Samurai 7 starts a little slow. However, this allows the creators of the series to explore new plot and thematic territory not considered by Akira Kurosawa. It also allows further exploration of the characters especially the samurai; in Kurosawa's classic original the majority of the samurai are often nameless faces that often disappear into the crowd scenes. In this series they are individualized human characters with fully developed back stories and unique motivations for their actions. Watching the anime in conjunction with the classic film may give the viewer an increased understanding of both productions and may give long time fans of Kurosawa's work a new appreciation of the original. And if the series starts out slow at a sizzle it ends with a bang with a climax and denouement that grow organically out of the plot.
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