Review: Samurai 7
by Justin Jasso
In November of 1956, Akira Kurosawa released what would go down as one of the American Film Institute’s top 100 films of all time, Seven Samurai. Known for its cinematography and possibly brining a cast of characters together to accomplish one common goal, Seven Samurai became Japan’s highest grossing film and earned international renown. One could say it would only be a matter of time before anime brought about a rendition to pay homage to one of the greatest films to ever come out of Japan. Studio Gonzo did just that, bringing us a futuristic version of the aforementioned classic, Samurai 7, for our viewing pleasure. And Samurai 7 does not disappoint.
Set in a futuristic Japan, a small farming village, Kanna, is constantly visited by bandits once a year during harvest season. These bandits, large mecha with huge samurai swords, come and steal away all the rice that has been harvested that year. Should the farmers not give up their rice, they will be killed and their village destroyed. Even worse, the bandits have begun taking women and children as well. The village elder has decided that, in order to protect the village, they must stand up to the bandits, and to do that, they must hire samurai. Unfortunately, the village is poor and has no money, thus they are only willing to offer rice as a form of payment.
Kirara, the village water priestess, takes it upon herself to recruit these samurai and heads to the city. Most samurai scoff at the villager’s idea of rice as payment to risk their lives, but she finds an older samurai, Shimada Kanbei, who agrees to their offer. He also helps them recruit other samurai and eventually they have seven to help defend the village when the bandits return. Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai recruited samurai and helped defend the village against the bandits. Samurai 7, on the other hand, takes it a step further. Where the latter ends is about the halfway point in Samurai 7 with much more depth and intrigue to follow.
There’s much to like about Samurai 7. The cast of characters largely mirror the original movie with the same names used for the respective characters. But, due to the length of the series opposed to one film, the characters are given a chance to shine more than in the original epic. The best example of this is the youngest samurai of the bunch, Katsushiro. Seven Samurai clocks in at over 200 minutes, during which we see Katsushiro quickly grow from young, uncertain samurai to… well, still a bit uncertain of his place in the world, but hopefully wiser. Samurai 7 weighs in at over twelve hours, which makes watching Katsushiro’s growth seem more natural, and come to a more satisfying conclusion. His romance with Kirara is also better developed simply because Samurai 7 has more room, and because Kirara is a stronger player in the anime, though the anime blazes its own path in how their union turns out. In fact, the anime does a fine job of taking all of Kurosawa’s samurai and making them its own, not just carbon copies of their film counterparts, especially when the anime goes into its final, closing arc.
The pacing of the series is great as each episode steadily builds towards the climax. But the main issue with the series has to be the disbelief that is required. Watching the series, it’s easy to get wrapped up In the story and character development, which is a huge positive. But once in a while, during a fight scene, you’ll be pulled back to reality and notice that a human man is fighting a mecha samurai maybe 20 times his size with just a regular katana… and winning! Plus, apparently these katanas have the ability to deflect lasers… maybe they are made out of light saber material? There are also times when slo-mo cuts are used and they don’t always work out as expected. However, these small gripes aside, Samurai 7 is a great series which further develops the characters Kurosawa initially created and put on screen. It should be safe to say that, if Kurosawa was alive today and watched this rendition of his classic film, he would be pleased.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars