0 Items | £0.00

VIEW BASKET

Afro Samurai versus Shigurui Death Frenzy

Wednesday 20th March 2013


Andrew Osmond weighs the pros and cons…

Shigurui Death Frenzy DVD“This is definitely one of the most extreme things I’ve ever seen… This kind of takes the cake!” says American voice-actor J. Michael Tatum on one of the episode commentaries for Shigurui Death Frenzy. No disrespect to Afro Samurai, a fine series, but Shigurui Death Frenzy is a samurai show from a very different, and far more frightening, planet.

As the Anime Encyclopedia notes, Afro Samurai can be seen as a successor to Kill Bill, in which violent anime was specifically made for a foreign audience. Indeed, Afro Samurai didn’t even have a Japanese voice-track. Shigurui Death Frenzy is at the opposite extreme. It’s an anime that’s hard to imagine being made, at least by a big commercial animation studio, anywhere except Japan. It’s an uncompromisingly “hard” watch, and shamelessly extreme – a man rips his own guts out in the first minutes. But it’s just as shamelessly artistic, or “arty,” aimed at viewers with a taste for stately narratives, still images, deferred gratification and style as king. It used to be said that the main audience for violent anime was teens swilling beer and curry on a Friday night. The ideal audience for Shigurui Death Frenzy would be Hannibal Lecter, tucking into a fresh liver and fava beans with a fine chianti.

The story takes place in the civilised barbarity of seventeenth-century Japan. It’s a tale of trainee samurai, with much of the action taking place in their wooden “dojo” home, ruled over by their ancient and terrible master swordsman, Kogan. When Kogan makes his first appearance, he looks like some ghastly Frankenstein monster, drooling and pissing; but in his periods of lucidity, he’s utterly lethal. Two rival male students compete to be his heir: Fujiki, a rising star of the Kogan dojo, and Seigen (voiced by Tatum in the dub), who just shows up at the door one day and asks for a fight. Two beautiful women are woven into the drama; Kogan’s mistress Lady Iku, who’s enticed into a forbidden relationship with Seigen, and Kogan’s daughter Mie, whom the patriarch sees as a vessel for his legacy.

As a drama, Shigurui Death Frenzy has parallels with Berserk, particularly the 1990s TV anime version. Both series are manga adaptations that adapt only a portion of the source material. Shigurui Death Frenzy is based on a fifteen-book strip by Takayuki Yamaguchi. Both series start with flash-forwards to later in their main players’ lives, though Shigurui Death Frenzy’s main story completes an “arc” in the final episode, rather than end with a maddening cliff-hanger like the TV Berserk! Both shows are sagas of lifelong ambitions, and jealousy, and self-destruction, and pitiless worlds where hate is the only lasting human emotion.

And yes, it’s a story of extremes of sex and violence. There are several scenes designed to provoke reactions of, “What is he doing… He can’t be… Oh, hell.” (The opening scene of The End of Evangelion was a classic of the form.) But it’s a distanced, clinical kind of extreme. As the people on the DVD commentary point out, Shigurui Death Frenzy is akin to the films of a live-action director like David Cronenberg in its clinical, neutral horror. One of the series’ recurring images, as in many anime, is of insects crawling and buzzing, and the series suggests a disinterested God’s-eye perspective that reduces humanity to a microcosmic level.

The series is overwhelmingly sparse, in dialogue, motion and colour. For readers who explore the fringes of anime, the slow, sometimes oblique storytelling is reminiscent of the stop-motion films by Kihachiro Kawamoto (though Shigurui Death Frenzy is infinitely more gruesome). It’s a series that reminds you that you’re watching drawings, spaced out very like comic-strip frames. The gushing blood and sausage-strings of intestine unnerve you less than creepier grotesqueries, like one samurai’s slit-wide mouth, or the wide fish eyes of another. The show was directed by Hiroshi Hamasaki, who has co-directing credits on Texhnolyze and the recent Steins;Gate. Also prominent in the credits is screenplay writer and art director Seishi Minakami, who scripted Paranoia Agent and Paprika for Satoshi Kon.

Shigurui Death Frenzy is available on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.

Buy it now

MANGA UK GOSSIP

£
was £

FEATURED RELEASE

RELATED BLOG ARTICLES

Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira then and now

Helen McCarthy examines Katsuhiro Otomo’s landmark Akira, then and now
1988 in Japan: Yamaha Motors won the J-League but Nissan won the Cup. Western pop divas Bananarama, Kylie and Tiffany were on TV. Japanese real estate values climbed so high that the Imperial Palace garden was worth more than the State of California, and Tokyo’s Chiyoda ward had a higher market value than Canada. The Government signed the FIRST Basel Accord, triggering a crash that wiped out half Japan’s stock market. Katsuhiro Omoto’s movie Akira premiered on 16th July.

Akira's Ancestors

Andrew Osmond on the unexpected forerunners of Neo-Tokyo
In Akira’s opening moments, a sphere of white light appears from nowhere in the centre of Tokyo, and swells to obliterate the city. Many Western critics saw the image as a symbol of the Bomb, like the earlier Japanese pop-culture icon, Godzilla. But the designer apocalypse could be taken as Akira’s own mission statement – to be a new kind of entertainment, blowing away its peers and reshaping the cinema landscape.

The Impact of Akira

Andrew Osmond reviews the reviews from 20 years ago.
On its explosive arrival in the West, Akira crossed the Pacific to catch the generation that grew up on the films of Spielberg and Lucas; it was also the generation that read adult superhero strips such as Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. Akira, though, offered the shock-and-awe widescreen violence akin to that of enfant terrible live-action director, Paul Verhoeven. For example, both Akira and Verhoeven’s Robocop (1987) have a gory money-shot scene in their early minutes, in which a luckless bit-part player is graphically torn apart by a hail of bullets. Unsurprisingly, such imagery excited reviewers.

Akira 25th Anniversary Screenings

Your chance to see it in the cinema in the UK
Neo-Tokyo is about to E.X.P.L.O.D.E. Katsuhiro Otomo’s debut animated feature AKIRA had its Japanese premiere on 16th July 1988. We are very proud to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of what is undoubtedly, one of the most celebrated animated movies of all time. Voted by Empire readers as one of the top 100 best films ever and cited by everyone from James Cameron, Ridley Scott, Daft Punk and Kanye West as a massive influence on their work, AKIRA kick-started the anime business all over the world, opening the doors for everything from Pokémon to Princess Mononoke.

The Art of Akira

Joe Peacock tracks down the original images from the anime classic
Watching Akira for the first time provokes a universal reaction of awe. And justifiably so: there’s often an overwhelming sense among audiences that this animated film is unlike any other they’ve ever seen. Casual viewers won’t be able to put their finger on it; they just know that Akira is visually striking. Art and illustration aficionados appreciate the intricacy of individual scenes, sometimes pausing the film to appreciate the detail in a particular frame.

Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira then and now

Helen McCarthy examines Katsuhiro Otomo’s landmark Akira, then and now
1988 in Japan: Yamaha Motors won the J-League but Nissan won the Cup. Western pop divas Bananarama, Kylie and Tiffany were on TV. Japanese real estate values climbed so high that the Imperial Palace garden was worth more than the State of California, and Tokyo’s Chiyoda ward had a higher market value than Canada. The Government signed the FIRST Basel Accord, triggering a crash that wiped out half Japan’s stock market. Katsuhiro Omoto’s movie Akira premiered on 16th July.

RECENT FEATURED POSTS

Godzilla: Too Soon?

When is it okay for a real-life disaster to become entertainment?
How soon is too soon? The question’s raised by the new Godzilla trailer, the first half of which seems to be all about recreating traumatic events as fantasy, just three years after they occurred. Specifically, the trailer opens with a disaster at a Japanese power station, before segueing into images of a giant wave sweeping into a town with devastating force. Both images seem less ripped than Xeroxed from the headlines of March 2011, when northern Honshu (Japan’s mainland) was struck by an earthquake which caused a tsunami, killing thousands, and the meltdown at Fukushima.
Valentine’s Day is just round the corner and whether you’re spending it alone or with that special someone, we’ve got a selection of titles perfect for the occasion.

Naruto's World of "Jutsu"

Rayna Denison sneaks into the background of ninja anime
What is it about Japanese martial arts that these shows celebrate? In the case of Naruto, and now the second series, Naruto Shippuden, it is the “mysterious” art of ninjutsu that comes in for exploration and explosion.

Good Luck Girl

Helen McCarthy goes in search of a teenage goddess
Momiji Binboda is no normal teenage girl, but a Goddess of Misfortune sent into the human world to correct a dangerous imbalance in the flow of good fortune and happiness.

Eureka Seven Ao

Kicking it old-school, with giant robots
Pacific Rim opened a new gateway to ’bot sagas for youngsters, and for oldsters too. They’ll see del Toro’s film, learn how much he was inspired by Japanese cartoons, and then check out the originals. If they choose Eureka Seven Ao, they’ll find elements also seen in Pacific Rim, embedded in a very different show.

The Princess and the Pilot

It's chocks away for anime's aerial Ruritania
Anime returns to the heavens in The Princess and the Pilot, a lush romantic aerial adventure from the Madhouse studio.
The Last: Naruto The Movie  is out now on Blu-ray and DVD, so it’s a great time to find out which team from Naruto everyone prefers. Which of the Konoha teams do you wish to be a member of?
Contact Us   |   Refund Policy   |   Delivery Times   |   Privacy statement   |   Terms & Conditions
Please note your card statement will show billing by MVM. Afro Samurai versus Shigurui Death Frenzy from the UK's best Anime Blog.