I’ve seen Akira Kurosawa’s film, 7 Samurai. The second that I saw there was an anime dedicated to it (and supplied with the voice acting talents of Chris Sabat as Kikuchiyo) I had to see it for myself. In what I would call a very honest and original ode to Kurosawa, this 26 episode anime series follows the classic tale of the mighty vs. the meek. I saw this film quite a while ago in my film appreciation class and found it to be quite cinematic for its time (1954 in fact). With great characters and a good helping of action, nothing could be wrong with this film and anime classic.
The basic plot of Samurai 7 is that of David vs. Goliath. In a small rice village named Kanna, field workers and peasants must fulfill quotas of rice production to be paid to the bandits. These bandits are former
humans who have encased themselves in the wave of the future. In these new Gundam like bodies, the bandits hold sway over the lives of the peasants and demand rice in exchange for the peasants lives. And yet, despite their payment, the bandits take women to the imperium to become slaves.
After years of this slavery and menial servitude, the peasants decide to secretly do something about it. The village elder sends Komachi (Luci Christian), Rikichi (J. Michael Tatum), and Kirara (Colleen Clinkenbeard), the village’s water maiden. With her divining skills, the three peasants seek out the help of human samurai to fight the samurai encased in metal. Over the course of the show, 7 samurai are recruited in order to defend the rights of the lowly peasants of Kanna. Within this plot comes another plot (NOT INCEPTION B.S.) unlike the Kurosawa film. With an imperial plot by the merchants of the city, the 7 samurai must find the strength to fight off multiple enemies.
What I really loved about this anime was the character designs of the 7 samurai. Shimada Kanbei (Robert Bruce Elliott) is the leader of the clan of samurai, wielding the most power. His brusque attitude can come off as disconnected, but he always has the goal in mind to help the peasants in any way he can. Okamoto Katsushiro (Sean Michael Teague) is the timid member of the group with a hidden power that is not revealed until the opportune moment. He also provides the majority of the love interest in the story for Kirara, although it becomes convoluted towards the end. Katayama Gorobei (Bob Carter) provides the easy, laid back man of wisdom with a protective attitude. Shichiroji (Duncan Brannan) plays the right hand man to Kanbei’s leadership in an almost transparent role. He never contradicts or creates any conflict with Kanbei, as I sort of expected. Kikuchiyo (Christopher R. Sabat) plays the outcast of the group as the robotic samurai, out to prove his worth to the humans around him. He plays a great comedic element in the show and provides an endearing character who, despite his buffoonery, inspires hope. Hayashida Heihachi (Greg Ayres) is the quiet, well to do good guy who only wants a good living and nothing more. And Kyuzo (Sonny Strait) plays the no nonsense badass turncoat. Great characters all around.
And the animation was, I thought phenomenal. Interesting fact. To produce each individual episode, 32,500,000 Yen, ($300,000) were spent on each episode. The fluent switch between animation styles and the fighting scenes really stood out to me. The robotic digital animations were well coordinated with the samurai fights and the picturesque backdrops of different areas of the world created by Toshifumi Takizawa was a sight to behold. AND THE MUSIC. The keyed up traditional Japanese music with every fight scene and the melancholy tones of the peasant workers were just as good as the music from Kurosawa’s film. Funimation did a fantastic job with the dub and it all came together for a good two weeks worth of watching this on Hulu. I gotta hand it to Hulu, but they stream some quality looking entertainment. So hands off to all those involved with Samurai 7 and hell, how about it for Hulu? Best anime I watched in 2012 so far. 9.4 out of 10.