Posted on 29 December 2008 with categories: Anime Reviews, Blade of the Immortal


Blade of the Immortal is Bee-Train’s latest series, based on the rumoured excellent manga of the same name. It’s a series that’s definitely not for everyone, especially fans of the manga who are hoping to see a faithful adaptation, neither is it for those who have a very slim taste in music. However, if you’re looking for a number of well-coordinated fights and engaging characters, then you’re at the right address.

The series basically follows an immortal samurai (Manji), helping a weak but determined young girl (Rin) in exacting revenge on the death of her parents. What makes this series especially worth watching is the growth of Rin, as she questions what it means to take revenge, and whether it’s going to be worth it, and what her purpose is if she just keeps going to be rescued by Manji. In only 13 episodes, she grows into a strong character, despite her weak physique. Manji himself doesn’t exactly grow too much, but instead the creators manage to flesh him out really well in a relatively short amount of time, and he becomes a fun and interesting character to watch.

Fights also form a large part in this series, and for those who were afraid that Bee-Train has lost the ability to create good action-scenes, this series is there to prove them wrong. It’s daring, but the creators decided to go for an experimental animation style for the battles. The characters look fairly normal, and the animation budget isn’t particularly high either, but the series is full of interesting and creative camera-angles and poses. Overall, it’s a really nicely choreographed series.

But the biggest experimental feature of this series is the music. Bee-Train was already know as the studio with awesome music, but they carry that even further with this series: the soundtrack is unlike anything ever heard in an anime series. Kou Otani managed to produce an incredibly varied piece of work that feels incredibly random, yet somehow works. It’s a soundtrack you’ll either love or hate.

The biggest weakness of this series? It’s too damn short! The series ends just at the point where the series is done warming up, and there’s so much potential left in it that it would be a huge shame not to have some sort of second season. Blade of the Immortal is an excellent horror-series that may not be really faithful to the original manga, but nevertheless managed to create an excellent atmosphere.

Storytelling: 8/10
Characters: 9/10
Production-Values: 9/10
Setting: 8/10
Posted on with categories: Blade of the Immortal



Short Synopsis: Rin tells Manji about who she met last episode.
Overall Enjoyment Value: 8/10 (Excellent)
Okay, so this felt absolutely nothing like an ending. The final battle? A sparring match between Rin and Manji. This episode was much more about the side-characters, and actually introduced much more than that it wrapped up. Is this really the end of the Blade of the Immortal anime? I most definitely hope not!

The most important event of this episode was the death of Taito’s sister, through the hands of Shira. It seems that he is indeed working together with Hyakurin and Giichi to get rid of the Ittou-Ryuu. The question now remains whether we’re ever going to see that one animated. This episode also shows how Rin comes to accept that she’s weak, and that she wishes to improve (hence the sparring match between her and Manji at the end).

But what I loved most about this episode is that the music really went all out on this episode. The soundtrack of this series is truly original, even though many people will dislike it. The wide variety of instruments and mood changes felt awesome.

Posted on 20 December 2008 with categories: Blade of the Immortal



Short Synopsis: While away from Manji, Rin runs into a certain someone.
Overall Enjoyment Value: 8/10 (Excellent)
You know, this wasn’t exactly the episode you’d expect as a semi-final one of a series. Even though it involved the main villain, it was just a standalone episode. If the creators plan to wrap up the series in the next episode, it’d all have to happen in one episode. But then again, that’s also what I said of Amatsuki and I’m still waiting for that second friggin’ season announcement. The thing that’s interesting here is that the only times at which Bee-Train left their series unfinished, another studio jumped up at the chance to finish off what they started (namely .Hack//Roots and Tsubasa Chronicle). Who knows? The fact remains though, that this series needs to be continued so badly.

This episode’s purpose was to remind that not all action of this series lies in swords and other sharp weapons. The majority of the action in this episode went on in the characters’ minds: Rin was incredibly unfortunate to run into Kagehisa while Manji was assuming that she was taking a bath, and of course she tried to attack him by herself. Kagehisa easily overpowered her and she spend the rest of the episode, unable to do anything against the killer of her parents.

It’s a great move: to actually be able to talk to the one you hold a grudge against, and have this person explain his reasons, rather than blindly charging at each other without listening to what the other has to say. It also was different from when a character suddenly stops mid-fight in order to spontaneously blurt out his life story: Rin really wanted to do something against the guy, but she was paralyzed, while Kagehisa kept looking down on her, and never found her worthy enough to kill.

Posted on 1 December 2008 with categories: Blade of the Immortal



Short Synopsis: Rin vs. Kawakami part II
Highlights: Excellent fight.
Overall Enjoyment Value: 8/10 (Excellent)
It’s episodes like this one that convince me that Bee-Train can still make good fights when they want to; especially when backed up by such an excellent manga as this one. I’m beginning to see why they chose such a strange manga-series to adapt this time, because it’s of course perfect to experiment with in terms of artistic direction. The fights in this series aren’t impressive because of their animation-quality (which in fact still rather sucks), but because it turns simple fights like this one into pieces of art.

I must say that it must have taken a lot of guts to make such an excellent manga into a sort-of experimental anime like this. But on the other hand you have to wonder why for ten years nobody had stepped up to adapt it before Bee-Train did. I mean, I’ve seen comments about this series that it would have been best when in the hands of the Madhouse animation studio. And while I sort-of agree with it, I do think that if Madhouse really wanted to adapt this series, they would have done so already.

In any case, the use of music was typical Bee-Train in this episode, and yet it wasn’t like most of their other series. The whole episode had a huge contrast between silence and fast-paced music. It’s been like this for nearly the entire series so far: there are silent moments at very strange parts of the fights, and it definitely has an interesting effect. But then again, Bee-Train has always been known to play up-beat music at very strange scenes as well, so I guess that it was only a matter of time before they would go the opposite.

And regarding the story, it continues its thought-provoking look at revenge, and I really liked how Rin was about to create a kid, just like her by robbing him of his parent. Even though she changed her mind about killing a father like him. She solved it in a pretty interesting way, by pretending that she had killed Manji afterwards for the guy, so that he wouldn’t become like her.

Posted on 17 November 2008 with categories: Blade of the Immortal



Short Synopsis: At a local festival, Rin finally finds her next target.
Highlights: Obviously an episode meant to save a bit of budget, but nonetheless an excellent prelude.
Overall Enjoyment Value: 7,5/10 (Good)
Despite this episode being a step down from the last arc, I’m beginning to love this series more and more. Even during the quiet parts that are meant to save some budget for future fight scenes, this series still has enough interesting stuff going on.

This episode really showed how much Rin has grown. The development that she went through this series is something that takes most other series twice the amount of time, and it has felt really natural so far. She has learned to swallow her pride, and I really like how she didn’t blindly chaerg at first sight, but instead tried to find out his side of the story.

I like how in this series, nobody is really portrayed as a bad guy apart from a few grunts here and there, in the same way that nobody is really on the good side. The guy in this episode for example surely did some horrible things in the past, but at the same time he’s doing a really good job of raising a son and keeping said son away from his past. He’s really portrayed as a human being. The masked guy of the third episode was more delusional than pure evil. He cared about those dear to him, but took those feelings way too far in his mind.

My only complaint was tat the music in this episode felt a bit forced at the end, with an entire episode of subtle sounds, after which the series’ main tune suddenly starts playing from out of nowhere. It’s an amazing song, and it really adds to the atmosphere, but the way it starts could have been more subtle

Posted on 3 November 2008 with categories: Blade of the Immortal



Short Synopsis: The re-match between Manji and Makie.
Highlights: The huge psychological warfare that went on during the battle.
Overall Enjoyment Value: 8/10 (Excellent)
With episodes like this, where one fight basically takes up the entire episode, I just can’t help but wonder why it felt so awesome here, and yet when series as Soul Eater stretch a fight-scene, with their far-superior animation, it feels like a chore to get through (for me, at least). I think the big difference is that the talking in Blade of the Immortal has a very important meaning to the fight, and this episode also shows that the psychological aspect is very important, while Soul Eater instead try to increase their length with an explanation that’s just good for a bit of background, and never adds anything to the characterization.

In any case, this episode was probably the best one of the series so far, mostly thanks to Makie and her fascinating character, who’s standing between her own values and her love with Kagehisa. This episode really showed me why she’s this series’ strongest warrior: not only is she very proficient with her weapon, but she also makes optimal use of the environment she’s in, compared to Manji, who’s just good at hacking and slashing his victims until they go down, and uses his persistence as his main weapon.

I also really like what Rin did, at the end of the episode. She’s very mature for her age: she realized that for her revenge, she killed many people, she acknowledges it, and yet she stands firm to her decision to avenge her parents and go through with the decision she made. This episode showed that she had a lot of doubts when confronted with it, but I really like that she was able to use this as another look at the spectrum, and went on to help Manji.

Posted on 20 October 2008 with categories: Blade of the Immortal



Short Synopsis: The Ittou-Ryuu now starts sending women after Manji.
Highlights: This show can both be funny and romantic if it wants to.
Overall Enjoyment Value: 8/10 (Excellent)
Quite a unique episode for Blade of the Immortal. Manji and Rin are purposefully kept in the background, in order to focus on some of the other characters: Kagehisa Anotsu and a new one: Makie Otono-Tachibana. There was a lot of dialogue between them, but if I picked up things correctly, the two of them have a crush on each other, but aren’t in an official relationship. Makie is a Geisha who seems to work for the Ittou-Ryuu in order to make money, but I’m not sure about her exact role yet, or who it was that ordered her to go and take care of Manji. In any case, it seems that in this episode, Makie finally managed to cut whatever ties she had with the Ittou-Ryuu, or vice versa. I think that Kagehisa just tried to love her because of her combat skills.

The fact that this episode focused on different characters also had another very nice result: there was a bit of time left to flesh out Manji and Rin. Really, Manji is getting ruder with every episode, and especially their banter about Manji’s sexual escapades was pretty funny, and how Rin tried to take that too seriously. It was a bit awkward to see that from a fourteen year-old girl, but then again: Rin didn’t exactly grow up normally, having witnessed her mother being raped and all.

I also loved the directing-style of this episode. the animation is still not really impressive, but especially in this episode, the creators really made u for it with some very nice poses and visual imagery. It works especially well with the already excellent sound of this series.

Posted on 6 October 2008 with categories: Blade of the Immortal



Short Synopsis: Shizuma asks the help of a familiar character to get rid of Manji.
Highlights: Rin.
Overall Enjoyment Value: 8,5/10
Ah, I’m really beginning to see where Bee-Train plans to go with the first 13 episodes of this series (who knows how long it will be in the end?). Its general rule of thumb is “don’t introduce any complex or complicated plot-twists or character-development unless the characters are developed”. And indeed, this series so far has been mostly action-scenes, and fleshing out Rin and Manji. At the same time, we also already get a bit of a taste of the major characters of the later arcs. I don’t know exactly how much of the manga Bee-Train changed, but this does explain why the plot has felt relatively simple so far.

And albeit slowly, the plot is definitely moving. Shizuma doesn’t turn out to be a major character at all, because in this episode he dies. Same as the old grandmother who delivered Manji and Shizuma their worms. That by the way was about as untypical as a major death in anime as you can get. There was no blown-up drama. Shizuma just stepped outside of his cottage, and when he stepped back in, he already killed her with his poison. I was surprised to find out about her grandchild, by the way. At the end of the episode, it still lives, so I’m curious whether it’s going to appear again.

In any case, I keep getting more impressed by Rin, who’s turning into much more than just a damsel in distress. Even though she’s nowhere as strong as the other guys in this series, she does what she can in order to help Manji. And even when she does get captured, these raw emotions of fear are very nicely portrayed. And at the end, she’s able to set herself past these traumatic experiences. You can really see her mature.

Posted on 22 September 2008 with categories: Blade of the Immortal



Short Synopsis: This episode fleshes out some of the members of the Ittou-Ryuu
Highlights: The ending.
Overall Enjoyment Value: 8/10
So, the Ittou-Ryuu has its own enemies too, and this episode shows them as they get rid of those who are in their way. The first seems to be some sort of ronin, the second one looks to be a merchant. I didn’t quite catch what exactly it was that made them anger the Ittou-Ryuu, but they served as nice material to flesh out Hyakurin and Giichi, even though interestingly enough, the two of them don’t seem to be this series’ main characters. In fact, we haven’t even met two of the more important characters of this series yet.

This episode also properly introduces the monk, or Shizuma Eikuu, as he tries to get rid of Manji in the second half of this episode. The guy’s an immortal too, and he’s been living for 200 years, and he actually tries to get rid of Manji by hitting him with a poisoned dagger. What striked me the most was at the end, when Manji is actually writhing in pain, because his worms don’t work, and especially Rin’s voice-acting was excellent. Her voice-acting was powerful, without being melodramatic. Her voice-actor did Kakunojou from Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto before, which was another roe that sounded great and that was set in the Japanese history.

Posted on 9 September 2008 with categories: Blade of the Immortal



Short Synopsis: Next up: the swordsman who walks around with Rin’s parents’ sword.
Highlights: This series quite possibly has the fastest-paced start of any Bee-Train series so far.
Overall Enjoyment Value: 8,5/10
Ah, screw the manga that this series ruined. I might end up reading it as soon as the series is over, but for now I’m really enjoying this series, manga or no manga. You can really see that Bee-Train is trying out something new, and it working out really well so far. It’s amazing to think how much has already happened in this series, especially since in your average Bee-Train series, the first ten episodes are spent fleshing out the characters instead. The past five episodes, though, have kept pushing the storyline forward.

What I really liked about this episode is that everything just happens with minimal exposition and yet it works. This series knows what it is, and is built around its action-sequences. And okay, so the action-sequences themselves are rather dull, everything around them rocks.

The guy from this episode, Magatsu, is one who thinks he’s special because a samurai killed his sister in the past, up to the point where it almost sounds like he’s proud of it. He never really learned to let go of the horrible experience, to the result that it continues to haunt him even though it happened decades ago.

As it turns out, a major theme in this series is acting out of impulses. Rin was already guilty of this, but in this episode Manji also shows that he can be quite the impulsive bastard, and go running off without notifying anyone. This episode also shows that the Ittou-Ryuu have more enemies than just Asano Rin. This could become interesting.

And I’ve also been wondering: why do the eye-catch and the ED show the characters in a modern setting? Could the creators be planning to set the second half of this series in modern times? Did this happen in the manga as well?

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