Blade of the Immortal – Mid Season Anime Review
Synopsis: Edo, an era of warriors. There lived an immortal man, the Slayer of Hundreds, ‘Manji.’ He meets Rin, who has sworn vengeance for her parents. Rin’s grudge is against a group of swordmasters – Ittou-ryu. She asks Manji to be her bodyguard on her journey. He refuses, but then sees his late sister in Rin. So began the violent struggle that would bring even the immortal Manji to his knees. (Official Blade of the Immortal Synopsis)
Mid Season (6 Episodes) Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Blade of the Immortal had a rocky, if promising, first episode. Even less discerning viewers might’ve been able to tell that the series was moving at a breakneck pace, cramming in as much as it could in an effort to adapt as much of Blade of the Immortal’s original manga possible. While it largely still worked in Episode 1, Blade of the Immortal has since been continually hampered by this overly rushed approach. For a series featuring Samurai action Blade of the Immortal’s fight scenes are almost ‘blink and you’ll miss it.’ Editing is often choppy and quick, making it difficult to follow these fights, let alone appreciate them. If this was the only downside to Blade of the Immortal’s rushed pace it would be but an annoyance. Unfortunately this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Linny: Compounding matters is the art style and animation that a more forgiving person might call stylistic. To others, the need for abrupt flashes, filters and other unusual visual oddities, will come of as strained and distracting, failing to add anything special to the show’s appeal. In fact, in the fight scenes, it becomes clear that these stylistic flashes are the result of budgetary constraint, attempting to portray big sword duels in the most cost efficient way possible, while retaining some visual ‘oomph.’ However this further hampers what could have been one of the show’s other big appeal; majestic depictions of grand battles between skilled swordsman. Instead all you get are flickering lights and rapid cuts. And then there’s the matter of how the show injects flashbacks. These flashbacks sometimes add to the story and reveal more about some characters but then there are a few that are told so randomly and haphazardly that you’re likely to be more confused than enlightened by the end of it.
Tom: The story really is so chopped up, so condensed that just like the fight scenes it’s easy to get lost if your attention waivers for even a moment. This makes Blade of the Immortal feel like little more than a cliff notes adaptation for manga fans to enjoy, rather than bringing the series to a wider audience.
Linny: Six episodes in and Blade of the Immortal has already started to feel a bit repetitive. Asano Rin often rushes off to confront our villain of the week, only to then need to be rescued by Manji. This happens in the first episode and then proceeds to repeat often enough that the show ends up feeling predictable. While it would be ridiculous for anyone to expect Rin to suddenly and immediately become a skilled swordsman in a flash, it does the show no favour when the storytelling makes her come off as an obstinate and idiotic young girl who doesn’t seem to learn anything from previous experiences. For all her talk of revenge and bravado, she almost always ends up being the damsel in distress on the verge of being sexually assaulted and/or murdered every time she sets out to face off her enemies on her own. It’s frustrating because it makes her seem like a fool who has no real concept of her own skills or rather, lack there of. The situations she keeps getting herself into, in a medium that so desperately needs strong leading female characters, paints Blade of the Immortal as only adding against it, making Rin yet another blithering female idiot lead.
Tom: Asano Rin’s disappointing, repetitive, bordering on sexist portrayal isn’t the only issue. Mr. Manji himself, our bad ass, never dying hero, is similarly trapped in his own ‘paint by numbers’ repetition. Near every battle along their journey has Mr. Manji confront a formidable adversary. That’s the gist of the show, and would be fine, if fights didn’t seem to play out in much the same way every episode. Most of the time Mr. Manji finds himself carved up to high hell as the baddie of the week quickly overpowers or out classes him. Manji eventually turns the tide, often with a surprise attack, or perhaps a brief distraction from Rin, bringing a swift end to the battle. I don’t know if the repetitive nature stems from how much the adaptation is cutting to squeeze everything in, but it’s difficult to remain engaged when it feels like the show is on repeat every week.
Linny: As someone who enjoys series like Berserk and Vagabond, I had high hopes for Blade of the Immortal, but it looks to have fallen prey to the bad anime adaptation curse. The rushed fighting animation, combined with highly condensed storytelling only highlights the worst aspects of the original series or even adds new flaws to it in some cases. This leads me to believe that anyone who hasn’t read the original manga but was enticed by the anime would be better off going back and reading the manga, as the anime does absolutely nothing to elevate or even showcase whatever good the manga has to offer. In fact, the anime might even end up putting you off the series, so unless you are super starved for an anime adaptation and are willing to sit through a sub-par one, keep this anime off your watch list.
Tom: The above problems might be worth putting up with if the rushed pace didn’t absolutely kill the ability for the story’s ability to breath. Since each baddie is dealt with in an episode, sometimes condensing multi-chapter (and these aren’t shonen size, 18-21 page chapters, we’re talking 40+ pages) encounters into just twenty-two minutes there’s no time to appreciate the building narrative, making much of the drama and emotion fall flat. This is a series that really deserved a slower paced, meaty, careful adaptation. I don’t imagine the manga’s presentation does much to address the usage of Rin as an incompetent lead, but if her portrayal doesn’t bother you then I implore you to jump ship for the manga. From my brief familiarity with it, it feels infinitely superior to this truly ham-fisted adaptation.
Blade of the Immortal is available for streaming via Amazon Video.