Shigurui Review

11 02 2008

Shigurui
Genre: Historical Drama, Gore
Main Studio: Madhouse
Episodes: 12

No-one has seen Shigurui. You haven’t seen Shiguri. He hasn’t seen Shigurui. They haven’t seen it…. I have seen it. What does that say about me? A good way of measuring how many people have seen a show is by how many people have bothered rating it on animenewsnetwork , in this case a mere 51 people. So why don’t people watch it? Probably because it’s about as penetrable as a steel reinforced mountain, but also because because unlike most of anime it seems to actually be aimed at adults. No, not teens, real adults with jobs and stuff. Actually, I’m not sure if I can pin exactly who the target demographic of the show is.

When you get down to it, Shigurui is largely a discourse on the devastating effect a Katana can have on the human body. The show is a seinen historical drama by animation studio Madhouse, and genius director Hirotsugu Hamasaki who’s last work was the brilliant Texhnolyze (a show so great that it actually sickens me to think that almost no-one has seen it). Shigurui isn’t quite that brilliant unfortunately, but it’s still pretty darned good. Shigurui is an anime based on a manga, based on a novel, so there’s a lot of background reading to do if you really want.

Kogan Ryuu Dojo
How exciting does this look, eh?

The plot is set in a very grim Edo-era Japan, and is based around the Kogan Ryuu Dojo where a man named Irako Seigen challenges the Dojo members seeking to learn their hidden technique. It is also about the eccentricities of the Dojo’s six-fingered master Kogan, who is very old but still incredibly powerful but yet is teetering on the edge of senility. Kogan is very unpredictable and while he has brief moments of clarity, and he also brief moments of wanting to do horrible things to women. The dojo members serve Kogan’s whims as best they can, as they are eager to get him to impart any knowledge he has to them. Anyway, Irako ends up pissing off Fujiki who is a member of the Dojo, along with all the other Dojo members, and gets himself cast out and blinded with a nasty Katana slash to the eyes. The rest of the story features his quest for more powerful techniques, and him using them on the Dojo members, and sometimes passing cats.

Lol Shigurui
I Can Has Massive Trauma?

This show has a curiously impenetrable style to it, one that really leaves it to the viewer to work out what the hell is going on. It doesn’t really tell a story, it merely implies it. If you lack familiarity with the concept of a traditional Dojo, then a lot of what’s going on will just leave you highly confused. It also has a rather unsettling introduction. From a visual point of view it goes for a subdued almost monochrome effect, and many of the scenes aren’t animated a great deal. This is presumably so that when the fights do occur, they can make the animation incredible. Stylistically speaking the fights aren’t the sort where they leap all over the roof tops, but they rather focus on the precise moment of contact between two opponents slowed down to the degree required for you to appreciate the subtlety of their swordsmanship skills.

For those of you too baffled by the story to make much sense of it, you can still rely on Shigurui to serve you up some of the goriest scenes ever rendered in the medium of animation. This show is very eager to display the interaction between katana blade and flesh. Within the first 5 minutes, someone reaches a katana wound across their stomach, and pulls out his own intestines, presenting them to his master in attempt to convince him he is serious. Another delightful scene has Kogan jamming a katana blade into his assistant Ushimata’s mouth, destroying his teeth and carving two slits all down his cheek. This wound is shown regularly throughout the show, as Sake leaks out from it whenever Ushimata takes a swig, and his jaw occasionally drops unnaturally widely open due to the damaged muscles. While the gore is rather extreme, it somehow manages to get away with never seeming gratuitous, as it always serves the plot and is never just gore for gore’s sake.

Ouch
I believe it was “Urghlblbllgh”

On of the main themes in Shigurui seem to be the idea of making yourself stronger through crippling injuries. A scene at the beginning of the first episode takes place chronologically after the show ends, which in itself is an issue that reminiscent of Berserk‘s legendary first episode. This scene shows a fight between Irako and Fujiki who have been crippled my many years of training. Fujiki has only one arm which has gained immensely oversized muscles, and a massive gash in his foot which he somehow incorporated into his fighting stance. Irako has adapted his fighting to being blind, and is also deformed after many injuries, though you get the feeling that they are more dangerous now than they would be if they weren’t injured.

This show doesn’t have the slightest glimmer of a sense of humour to it, unless of course you find people being cut to chunks in immense detail with swords amusing. The tone is kept subdued, realistic, and there are absolutely no wacky anime cliches to be found. With that said, it’s probably quiet apparent that this show won’t be for everyone. Infact it’s probably for only very few people, so best not to bother watching it really.

Arbitrary Rating – 8 Nice!

Here is some gore for you sickos:

Gore 1

Gore 2

Gore 3