- Animated by studio GONZO, which means crap on a CGI stick. These guys are terrible.
- Directed by Takizawa Toshifumi, who is a a bit famous for his work on the original Votoms, but has otherwise produced nothing of interest.
- Based on the homonymous film y Akira Korosawa, and thank goodness he is not around anymore to see what they did with his work.
The first arc is the same as in the movie. Peasants asking for help from non-greedy samurais to protect their village from being looted by bandits. The themes are how honor is a lot more important than money (sparkling rice in the show) and how the peasants are spineless wimps who have to stop asking others to help them and aid in the solution of their problem. Differences include:
- The world is not the feudal Japan but a semi-industrialized, futuristic land. This makes the story a lot catchier as all those flashy machines are a lot more interesting to watching only trees and meadows. Plus, it makes the gap between rich and poor a lot bigger.
-Instead of human bandits, there are huge mecha. This is not a complete difference, as the original story featured a gun, which was a lot more deadly than the samurais’ swords.
-The end of the first story gives space for more story, and the conclusion of the movie is taken to the end of the third arc.
The second arc is about the merchant’s son becoming the emperor’s successor. This arc is low on action and plot and aims to show how the rich are treating the poor and scheme amongst each other. It also shows how the world is rapidly changing and how folklore traditions and honorable samurais give their place to profit-centered machinery and laser-carrying mecha. High on intrigue, low on interest, very boring.
The third arc is the conclusive battle between authority and honor. Very high on action, there is some romance included and the conclusion is almost the same as in the movie.
This series was successful at making me feel the same excitement I had with the original. The unrealistic battles and the middle ark though were overall very weak in atmosphere and drama; they damaged the whole script conciderably.
The setting is depicted in quite the fantastic way. Cloths, buildings and vehicles are detailed, artistic and lushly. 3D models and lightning/shadowing effects create a dreamy world. The CGs of the mecha are of course very bad because GONZO made them. They move in very robotic ways… and I mean that in a negative way.
Voice acting was generally fitting with the characters and I found no real problems with it. Music themes are a combination of traditional Japanese music with westernized action elements. During summaries and peaceful times, the first kind of music is played to build up some atmosphere. During battle scenes, the second kind takes over. It is a worthwhile attempt, if you don’t mind the sudden changes in the origin of the musical tones.
Action scenes and camera angles are very Hollywood-made. That means that they are very well made but are also unrealistic. I mean, a few humans with swords defeating armies of huge, laser-armed mecha is unbelievable, no matter how much you try to reason it. But they are awesome if you are still young and will not disappoint those who like epic battles. Other than that, the GONZO effect ruins most of the fun.
There wasn’t much character development in the movie and there is not much here, either. When it comes to the samurais, this is rather acceptable, as they are supposed to be strong, determined and seasoned enough to have stopped needing any further maturing. We can even say that they stayed true to their beliefs and didn’t gave up when the new emperor tried to make them join him and become robots. So, it’s not as if their personality was never challenged. It’s reasonable to expect flowing personality from immature teenage characters in anime; but here they already were middle-aged from the beginning; and so they were stabilized.
The young ones, Kirara (the peasant priestess) and Katsushiro (the samurai in training), on the other hand, do mature. They both feel love, disappointment and taste the cruelness of the world for the first time. And so, they are very unstable with their emotions, as expected.
Plus, all characters look, act, talk and think differently, so none are without personality. Some have a very weak presence but even that is true in real life. So generally, good characters, without much philosophical questioning of their motives.
Overall, the series was ok. A lot more complicating and action-based than the movie but not so concrete or realistic. The slow-paced plot and the excessively unrealistic battles ruined a lot of its appeal for me, but there was still enough to enjoy. Compared to the total crap GONZO has made over the years, this is quite the watchable show if your expectations are not very high.