Samurai 7 was an anime that was full of great highs, and horrible lows. I have not seen the original "The Seven Samurai" movie (which is nuts, considering I'm such a cinema lover), so don't expect me to draw any similarities between the two.
Story: 9 out of 10.
Story was, to me, the best of the entire series. Very classic samurai tale, told in a very interesting Miyazaki-esque future. The story plays out as a group of farmers head to the big city to hire 7 samurai, with nothing but rice for payment. All the samurai have fun and interesting personalities, but what really makes the series stood out was the relationships amongst them.
The story goes through different arcs, the first being recruitment, the second is defending the village, and the third is the final battle. The first and last were really interesting, and fun to watch, but the middle arc was horrible. Seemingly confused with some budgeting issue, many technical errors appeared in these episodes (Namely episode 16, the WORST budgeting episode of an anime I've EVER seen.)
There were also consistency errors, such as "Small bombs are outlawed, but giant crater-making canons aren't? That's retarded. And also I hated how some of the characters progressed. I suppose Gonzo thinks every character just has a small speech, and immediately gains year’s worth of training. One fiery speech and a bumbling robot turns into a samurai killing machine? Don't insult us Gonzo.
Animation: 5 out of 10.
As heartbreaking as it is for me to say, I have to give animation a 5 out of 10. Yes, the character designs are fun and vibrant, and the landscapes are gorgeous, but there is a catch; these things are only true MOST of the time. There are quite a bit of insultingly bad artwork on some of the episodes, and outside of the fight scenes, the anatomy swayed in and out of correct, and outlandish.
And now the real awful part. Enter Studio Gonzo. A studio well known for not only butchering excellent animes, but REFUSING to hear out how much we hate terrible anime CG graphics. The Bandits were laughably bad, and most of the explosions were horrible.
Another thorn in my paw for animation was the technical errors in the series. Just to list off one episode I jotted notes down on, on episode 16, Manzo fires an arrow with a bomb on it (although in the next scene it's a regular arrow, because only the bad guys had bomb arrows.) Kiku is seen several times with a sword that is red (His handle is red, the blade is supposed to be the color of steel, obviously. someone did a botched job painting there.
However, the VERY worst was the fight scene for episode 16. Rain rolls in, setting the scene for a PERFECT samurai fight... only to be quickly ruined by shite budgeting. There is a small fight scene, and then there is a slow motion montage of fighting. However, if you look carefully, you'll notice something... familiar. They literally took the exact fight scenes from the previous episodes, and changed the background to a raining village. There is even a scene where Kambei slices somebody in episode 16 on the right shoulder, and his left shoulder explodes in blood instead. Why is this weird? Because in the previous episode, he did this EXACT same scene, but to a guard that was holding him, and the guards left shoulder actually bled. One of the WORST episodes of anime I've ever seen.
Sound: 6 out of 10.
Sound was a let-down for me, however, not entirely bad. Whenever I get in the mood for a good samurai flick, I always like to hear traditional Japanese music. This is taken advantage of very rarely. Music is usually slow and ominous, and never takes you out of the edge-of-your-seat feeling. This is tough when you are trying to watch a romantic, action, or comedy scene obviously.
Voice acting was a different story. Everyone had wonderful voice actors, besides one person. Kiku may very well have the MOST annoying freaking voice I've ever heard in an anime. Like nails on a chalk board. Also, Okara (the little friend of Komachi) had this peculiar laugh that I can only describe as "scooby doo" in nature. Very annoying.
Characters: 7 out of 10.
Characters was a tough section to judge because of how I judge it personally. I like to rate it on two aspects. 1. The characters themselves, and 2. Their growth. As far as characters go, they started off interesting, and ended wonderfully. However, as far as growth is concerned, they were absolutely butchered.
Katsushiro was the biggest offender of all. He starts off as a child who can hardly swing a sword, and as soon as he kills one person, he becomes essentially the biggest badass swordman of all the lands. WHAT? How does one just get a little pissed off and learn YEARS of mental and physical training? Ridiculous. Kiku is the same way, but not as bad. And then cherrywise, people like Kyuzo and Shichiroji do not change one bit. They have absolutely no depth to them whatsoever.
Overall: 7.5 out of 10.
Overall, the storyline was enjoyable and an epic of sorts, but it's like looking at a beautiful painting covered in small cracks. The series is weighed down by lazy artists and a tight budget, and I only wish the series could have fully gotten the outcome it deserved.