Posted by psgels on 22 October 2007 with categories: Anime Reviews


Apologies for the lateness of this review, but more on that later. Let me first put up a warning: if you’re planning to watch this series and have some kind of little brother or sister: keep Shigurui AWAY from them. Nobody under sixteen should be allowed to watch this. Not only is this one of the, if not THE goriest anime I’ve seen, it’s also filled with over-the-top sexual reference.

Sure, a show like Elfen Lied may have had more blood, but that was also all it had: lots of blood and random limbs gushed over the screen, but it never really went further than that. Shigurui carries gore to an entirely next level. The amount of detail is astonishing; the creators have an amazing amount of medical knowledge, and they use al of it. When a finger gets broken, you see exactly which bones dislocate. When an arm gets cut off, you see exactly how the muscles grow back. And that’s what makes it such an effective horror-series.

Especially when you combine it with the storytelling. The pacing is very slow, but it uses the gore and very creepy sound-effects to create an extremely tight atmosphere. It’ll have you during its many and creepy climaxes. If it wasn’t for its flaws, this would have been one beast of an anime.

Because yes, it’s a shame, but there are a few things that went wrong here. Especially in the first half, the creators get carried away a bit too much and delve in pointless rituals, like cutting off a woman’s nipple and eating it. Only at episode six, the series gets back on track With a gripping and powerful second half. The role of women also isn’t too good in this series. Basically, every single guy in the series is a bastard, and nearly all the women are good for is to serve as sex-objects or helpless sword-targets.

My biggest gripe is with the ending, though. The ending, while it does resolve a few things, leaves huge amounts of plotholes open. The reason I’m so late with this review is that I kept hoping that there would be some kind of thirteenth episode that would wrap the entire series up, but there’s nothing. One of the two major questions asked in the beginning hasn’t even been answered, for goodness’ sake.

Still, despite this, Shigurui is a definite recommendation for those who can stomach the huge amounts of gore. The animation may be simple, and most of the series consists of still frames, but the art itself makes up for it, by being incredibly detailed, and it’s only when the creators turn to CG on very few occasions that it doesn’t look excellent. But seriously… isn’t there really not some kind of second season or OVA to wrap it up?

29 Responses

  1. Cos says:

    There’s a manga in progress but it’s going very slowly, so I think there’s still much to wait for a new season.

  2. alynd says:

    ah – i want to see it really bad now

  3. roastedpekingduck says:

    Shigurui was far too gory and twisted for me, and the fantastic animation made everything all the more harder to stomach for me. Honestly though, besides the gore, I just didn’t like the show all that much. After four episodes, I never found any of the characters interesting. The entire cast was just unlikeable. I can tolerate gore, as in Baccano!, but the combination of squeamish stuff and “messed up-ness” made Shigurui something I didn’t enjoy.

  4. thomasvye says:

    If you want to find out what happens next, read the manga, which is ongoing. As a reader of the manga myself, I was completely thrilled with the end; it ended with exactly the event I would have wanted at it’s climax. >)

    I have to question your opinion of the women. I think you do them a great disservice. Iku is a very strong woman indeed, a partner and collaborator (and all round rock really) in the second half of the story. And considering what she’s had to tolerate, I think Mie is too. As for your ‘helpless sword target’ comment, look at how the men treat each other with such casual cruelty. I don’t think anyone gets away with an easy life in the brutal world of Shigurui.

    I can only hope there will be a second season, because this series was art. It realised an amazing manga beautifully (especially in the evocative sounds).

    (As you can probably tell, this is one of my favourite things ever).

  5. taelrak says:

    So what does happen in the manga then? I don’t understand Japanese :(

  6. Joel K says:

    This anime is insane, seriously i’m a 5th year medical student and i’ve seen surgeries and in fact conducted some myself, but the intensities of this type of violence rocked me to the core. I have no idea how historically correct this is (not saying the storyline is true, but whether the cultural influence is correct, maybe someone can shed more light on that subject) but I found it to be intriguing, I had to stomach a lot of the violence, but apart from that i’m a lover of shigurui.

    I would have to agree with Thomas about the women, I found the women to be quite strong, they played the part of quiet onsiders which we have all learnt in history classes was their exact role brilliantly. I do agree they were the attention of many sexual expliticites in this series, but hey… i don’t believe this should be shown to anyone under the age of 16, hell i haven’t even told my 17 year old brother about it. The female characters showed the complexities of this era, such as male dominance, loyalty, honour and family (blood related or not).

    I do agree on the lack of follow up, i’ve been searching for ages for an adequate ending (to ease my troubled mind about the many burning questions i have) and yes i’m one of these ones that don’t understand japanese and therefore am unable to share in the pleasures of manga. to be honest i’m pretty unhappy with anime series that have poor endings, my recent gripe before shigurui came along was trinity blood – loved it, couldn’t get enough of it, and then caput i’m left hanging… i’m sorry its not a comment about trinity blood, i’ll leave that one alone.

    overall, shigurui is brilliant in both art and storyline. the violence and gore are something you will have to stomach and if you can’t – don’t watch it! simple. but the story is great.. i know someone said that the characters are unbelievable and its slow paced. i totally agree with the slowness of the story, but for some reason it takes a hold of you and you just can’t stop watching (maybe its the gore – who knows). but the characters are intense, they don’t show much personality, but again i believe this to be the cultural influence of the era – they are basically soldiers for their dojo, so taken in that vane, i believe they were well constructed. thanks for listening to my ramblings.

  7. Searching for Odin says:

    I for one thought the ending was PERFECT… both characters were displayed with a level of realism i have NOT seen in ANY anime I have ever watched… just trying to put myself in their situations was one of the things I found compelling about this series. Also, the way the characters interacted (restrained, unresponsive) says VOLUMES more than every other character i have seen that would smile while getting beaten up but turn violent when someone they care about is about to be hurt (a la shonen-style). Take for example the event where the successor is first announced. All the main characters showed their true colors in that short segment. (One appeared as simply a tool only capable of following orders, the other conniving and self-obsessed)

    Furthermore, to end the series the way it did was about the best you could get out of an anime that portrays two characters with such indomitable spirits. I also seriously liked how it was NOT a shounen-style/bullshit series where you KNOW a characters will survive. There was never a moment during a showdown that I could say “I know this guy’s gonna win,” (with the obvious exemption of the main characters) as nothing ever felt definite.

    One more thing, samurai society was adamant about subjects such as fealty and loyalty, which was portrayed very well in this series.

  8. Mike says:

    I have to disagree with you about the ending. I find it unfortunate that the manga is carrying on past the anime’s ending, because I thought it was perfect. It really isn’t about the fight that initiates in ep 1, but rather about the journey that brought them there. I know what I just said was very cliche, but I feel that it’s very true with regards to this series, and very effective. I did not feel cheated by the ending, as I kind of expected it given the pacing of the story.

  9. Mark says:

    I just finished the series today and had that annoying feeling afterwards at being left hanging (though I pretty much saw that coming), but after letting it sit for a few hours, it’s actually grown on me.

    I think that the winner of the fight is irrelevant, and in a way, letting the viewer imagine that fight in your head creates far more interest. They couldn’t have added anything more to the story by showing the fight and winner, so it isn’t really needed.

    This series is right up there for me in terms of art direction, music, characterisation and depth. I am recommending it only to hardcore anime enthusiasts though as I think it is a bit difficult to get into.

    Amazing show, might chase up the manga.

  10. JJ says:

    This is easily the best anime I’ve ever seen. The story is extremely realistic, this is definitely something that could have happened in that period. Also, Shigurui was based off of a novel, so it explains the quality it has over any other anime.

    I loved how for once Samurais were presented as realistic human beings instead of heroes that saves the day. I love how the end, there was no one to save anyone. Everyone was wallowing in their own misery while the supposed “villain”, Irako, went up higher and higher in social status. While many believe that Irako was the villain in the story, he was the one who was actually trying “break” the system Japan had at the time. He was the only one who didn’t want to be a slave, a mere soldier, he detested the laws of the society at that period. Although that did cost him his eyes, in the end he succeeded by destroying what Fujiki ever had.

    I know a lot of people complain about the ending. Well, what if they didn’t show you the match at the beginning, would you be satisfied then??

    Plus, there’s a manga that is yet to be finished. I’m in the process of reading it right now, and yes, it actually gets better and better. There still much to tell in terms of story and the rise of Irako, the fall of Fujiki. Kugan’s past, Fujiki’s past, it’s just brilliant storytelling.

  11. Alx says:

    I just want to know about Mie…I have no real other way to say it, but towards the end of the anime, she got a bit “weird.” And I don’t see anything wrong with Fujiki, and why he has to “fall.” If anything, he showed dedication and loyalty, even to Mie while she was still holding on to the dream of Irako (that, by the way, made me dislike Mie very much).

    And I’m just curious…I thought Mie liked FUJIKI instead of Irako? Wasn’t that why she wanted to bite her tongue during that one time?

  12. Mark says:

    And praise the anime licensing gods,as Funi grabbed it,and there is an official site up.

    I cant wait to get the R1 dvd’s with art
    box !!!! I like many are surprised they got it,surprised anyone grabbed it.

    Check AOD.com for the full press release.If any of you enjoyed it,put your money where your mouth is,and support the companies that are making it.Buy buying the dvd’s when they hit stateside.

  13. Alex says:

    I had to see it three time to actually grasp the many nuances of the story (translation aside) and.. I would very much like to see this anime in the big screen, in a word.
    This series I consider an “epic”.
    Fujiki was the good obedient one and Ikaro was the liberal creative one.
    There is no good or evil here only the struggle within the parameters of their basic instincts. Human drama.
    I think that I understand samurai thinking, to the degree that my western ignorance allows.
    This series with its awesome sound, has a zen to humanity connection that grows in complexity as the story rolls, no moment seems to be wasted and every ritual has a point to it. The biting of the vase..
    My question is this.
    Who cuts off Fujiki’s arm??..
    Was it Gonzo?.
    Did they fight for the supremacy of the dojo?

  14. Duke says:

    1 fucking question!
    i mean cmon…
    how the hell did Fujiki lost his hand in, presumably, so dramatic manner? (with the burn mark and everything)
    Awesome anime but cmon man, few more episodes wouldnt spoil anything..

  15. JJ says:

    Irako cuts off Fujiki’s arm in their first battle

    And the reason why Mie went crazy towards the end was because Irako was expelled from the school. She really loved him but she knows that she will never see him again.

    It was explained in the manga, and she stopped eating and became really skinny

  16. Fabian says:

    Who wins at the tournament which started in the 1st chapter?

  17. MP says:

    Irako doesn’t cut off his arm in the first battle. He breaks his fingers. In fact he breaks the fingers of the arm which he ends up keeping. The missing arm is never resolved.

  18. Fabian says:

    No, I’m talking about the tournament with the real blades. The one which already shows Fujiki with 1 arm, and a blind and cripple Irako. Who wins that?

  19. TheBastid says:

    Here is the scene where Irako cuts off Fujiki’s arm….

    This happens *after* the final episode of Shigurui…so only in the manga

    http://myanimelist.net/forum/?topicid=34022

  20. joe says:

    So who wins in the end in the manga, Fukiki or Irako?

    If anyone here speaks Japanese, please, oh please look around the internet for announcements for a second season. It ould make me the happiest guy alive….

    By the way, I can’t get into the Funimation Shigurui site. How do you do it?

  21. Chris R. says:

    Shigurui is definitely in the top 3 anime I’ve ever seen. If they release a second season… say another 13 episodes… that would bring it up to #1 for me I think. Ending left me dying for more! Realistic, historically plausible, brooding, dark, artsy, and swimming in blood and guts. I’ve read a bunch of posts that say the characters were flat and unlikeable. I don’t think that is so, it’s just that they, (the characters,) don’t wear their hearts on their sleeves! the emotions are subtle and understated, as one would expect of tough guy kenshi in the early Edo period. Take the scene when Iraku is named as the successor… Kogan just pushes Mie at him and grumbles something about “seeed…” (gross,) and Fujiki just takes it… He doesn’t speak up or make his obvious feelings for Mie known… This made some people hate him, but it makes me like him even more! C’mon people, he’s not a robot or a psychopath, (well, ok maybe he’s a little bit of a psychopath…) he’s extremely pissed off and upset! He’s just so dedicated to his Ryuha that he swallows his feelings. That’s the ideal way for a samurai to react! The group is everything, individual desires are nothing. Suffering and sacrifice to benefit the greater good. That’s EXACTLY how the bushi were supposed to operate (at least according to idealized Edo era bushido…)

  22. Eliasoz says:

    What the FUCK man, you guys should learn to put a damn SPOILER warning for christ’s sake!! You just don’t divulge that kind of spoiler material about the manga, you bastards.

    May you rot in hell!!

  23. Yoh says:

    I agree no one under 17 should approach this. I gory and Nc17- if not 21 material but I found it surprisingly good and the manga it is based on is awesome a sneak peak into the samurai world I am thrill to see how it ends. I disagree on women perception they are incredibly complex and strong if not a bit insane too they actually move the story being the real powers behind Fujiki and Irako, so much that Mie is a desirable target for the other party for without her Fujiki is just an empty shell and I really think she still has a crush on Irako despite all; they simply are not portrayed in their full splendor in the anime because their stories where not completely covered in those tomes and they are epochs accurate they are not modern women. I was taken by a comment that they omitted”in a warrior clan marriage is an affair regarding the line, there is place for the concept known as love.”

  24. Cyber echo says:

    As a fan of the series I must say, the negative comments don’t give the series much justice. However, I am speaking in 2010, where almost all the story has been released and translated to english as a manga.The anime covers chapter 0-32. The Manga covers chapters 0-80+, last released was 78. The last chapter remains which will be released next fall. The chapters after the anime cover a lot of the past, before the anime happened, and then progresses from the point at where the last anime episode left off, to eventually reach the final fight shown in episode 1 of the anime.

    I don’t think the gore is that bad. There are other series with way worse gore like Gantz for example. The series is not focus on gore, however, it shows the alacrity of violence to the fullest. This is a dark mature anime that will not appeal to everyone.

    The anime needs to generally be regarded in a non-western point of view. Reading the fansubbed mangas that contain some explanations (kudos to the translators) might help. The story needs some understanding of bushido and the samurai spirit, and the story fundamentally hinges on the difference between the twin dragons.

    Also, even within chapters 0-32, the manga contains some scenes that the anime doesn’t, and vice versa. If you like the anime but felt something was missing read the mangas and story starts to get way richer. Prepare for sad twists.. this is one sad story, and I think the end was sadly hinted at in the first episode..

    Overall, highly recommended for anyone looking for something mature. This is the best anime I have ever watched and I’ve watched quite a few.
    However, if you’re looking for a full story and don’t want to read the manga, look elsewhere, the anime series only covers 30% of the story if not less.

  25. bIO bON says:

    it’s a non linear narrative. there is a conclusion to the series when the girl foretolds the death of Fujiki in the first episode. Thank you

  26. Eddie says:

    Yeah it’s a great anime. The problem is that it’s base on an manga that at the time wasn’t even finished running it’s course. The anime only covers like 1/4 of the series. Hopefully they’ll feel fit to complete to series entirely and give more detail into the ending.

  27. DE says:

    Just finished the manga…..BIG spoilers!

    In the end, both of them lost everything. No, they did not kill off each other. The ending is very tragic, yet beautiful.

  28. toddler2kid says:

    Anime at the top of the game. Wish it had just one more episode.

  29. turing says:

    This beast is the real deal. A no-nonsense bonecrusher. It’s brutal and merciless, just like the environment it is describing.

    Sure, it’s gory, but it never turns into exploitation, it’s just real. The most disturbing death shows no blood at all.

    The show I most directly relate this to is The Wire. It’s both at core about people being trapped in a social system while at the same time maintaining it. In this case in the warrior class in the feudal system. It effectively deconstructs all the over-romanticisation of the honor code and the feudal era seen in so many other shows and movies.

    The flip side, how often do you see that? Trapped in Honor and Duty, they all act like Thugs, and are much more subhuman than superhuman. How does it feel to cut a human being? Like cutting through a wet towel. If you cut well, you feel nothing at all.

    The masterful direction, the pacing, the music, the Tension, this whole show is wound like a steel spring.

    Like a few other anime series like Kaiba and Mononoke, this show transcends the genre and can stands on its own feet as an independent work of art. There are weak points, but there are also points unmatched in their brilliance, and the overall maturity and patient, skillful, confident execution overshadows those to great extent.

    If I got into a conversation with an adult who knew his way around the history of film, all the great classics, the criterions, knew his genre-defining and genre-defying directors and movies, and he said he’d never seen an anime, I’d tell him to watch this. Go watch this.

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  • AidanAK47
    (Tuesday, May 31. 2016 06:02 PM)
    I am beginning to do a write up of next season’s preview and currently doing the research. So far next season isn’t looking good with not many interesting titles.
    When I get something decent made up I will send it out to all you guys to make comments or add your two cents.
  • AidanAK47
    (Tuesday, May 31. 2016 05:41 PM)
    Hmm..I would have thought the missions would be different at least.
  • AidanAK47
    (Tuesday, May 31. 2016 05:39 PM)
    Oh Sure, I will play the easy newcomer version birthright. And after that I will have a scented bath, a nice pedicure and spend the night watching the notebook and sex in the city. Like a pansy.
    Well jokes aside I will be playing birthright first because I am a completion is and I play things in order. But you bet your ass I bought conquest retail.
  • K-Off
    (Tuesday, May 31. 2016 04:47 PM)
    @Aidan Oh, I wasn’t complaining about the price, I got Conquest & Birthright off a friend for $35. I was complaining about rather how impersonal the decision feels in the overall story, and in terms of narrative one of those games utterly fails since the prologue chapters before 6 obviously pushes for one side of the story. I would not have wanted to drop additional money for a game I didn't feel was worth it, without spoilers all I'll say is both stories are virtually identical except with different skins. Exception being Revelation of course.
  • AidanAK47
    (Tuesday, May 31. 2016 04:21 PM)
    @K-Off, not really. Like I said, you buy one you get the other at a discount. Considering the length of the games its not exactly unfair to charge for both. But the choice is rather superficial though. Do you want to play the peace loving guys or the awesome warmongers? Kinda like asking a kid “Hey do you wanna play as a pillbug or a velocrapter?”
  • K-Off
    (Tuesday, May 31. 2016 03:59 PM)
    @Bam When possible I’d recommend you try Governor’s Ball, it’s easy on your legs and always has a great lineup.
  • K-Off
    (Tuesday, May 31. 2016 03:48 PM)
    @Aidan Absolutely despised how FE Fates advertsies the illusion of choice when the decision is already made at the store.
  • SuperMario
    (Tuesday, May 31. 2016 01:45 PM)
    @Bam: well, I’m super interested to do volunteer. Indeed I did volunteer in many of the programs just so I can watch show/movies/events for free. The only problem is I’m staying in Australia so it kinda hard to do.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, May 31. 2016 01:45 PM)
    @Mamamoo: not sure if you’re still around, but I recommend Humunculus as a very decent psychological drama, featuring great art; albeit it launches stronger than it lands. Tropical Citron is a great hidden gem of a manga, and it’s only two volumes. On the action side of things I’ll recommend Vagabond, since it’s a great retelling of the Musashi legend with fantastic linework. Berserk is a classic, so I suggest getting into Vinland Saga when you inevitably get up-to-date.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, May 31. 2016 01:36 PM)
    I have formed quite a repertoire with the staff, planners, vendors and volunteer coordinators at LiB. I can get you a volunteer position, which makes your ticket free for about 20 hours of helping them with various tasks. Most of the volunteers are great people, so you would have fun and learn quite a bit from these guys. It is also possible to do your hours before or after the show, So you can attend the actual festival days without hassle. Let me know if you’re interested.

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