Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Review - Kaze no Yojimbo (TV)

So I'll admit that I don't like Kurosawa movies. They tend to be hideously over-acted, generally hard to follow and for the most part pretty lame.

But I love remakes of his movies. Odd, huh?

Kaze no Yojimbo isn't an exception to that rule. The story follows George Kodama as he journeys to Kimjuku to find out what happened to his brother fifteen years ago. But instead of an idyllic country town, George finds himself smack dab in the middle of a gang fight. The two sides are headed by the old money Tanokura, who pretty much controls the town power structure, and the Ginzame gang, who are pretty much young upstarts who just happened to roll into town.

There really isn't much to dislike about the characters. Kodama is probably one of the most interesting protagonists that I've seen in anime. He's a punk, dislikes authority, stands up for himself without being hot-headed, and in general is coolness personified. But more in the Steve McQueen tough guy way, than the tall, dark and silent way that most anime is so fond of. The other characters stand on their own, and with the exception of the teenage daughter of Tanokura, they're actually pretty interesting.

The plot unfortunately is uneven. The first part of the series moves pretty quickly, throwing out enough loose ends to keep the viewer involved. But the middle of the series is a bit sluggish, while it bides its time to work up to its really good conclusion. And the best thing about it - it doesn't leave any questions unanswered. I'm so excited about that, I could spit.

The entire thing looks like it had a budget that came out of the bottom of a washing machine. Generally the animation is chunky and uses way too many shortcuts to really be interesting. But the framing of the scenes does cover for a lot of it. There are a lot of points where the show will use a close-up on a character and make the background fuzzy. (I'm assuming this is to save on the cost of having to animate the entire scene.) It's a trick that gets old after a while. But honestly, if you're watching this show for the animation then you're watching it for the wrong reasons.

The soundtrack makes up for the lousy animation though. It's a combination of a single guitar, or a flute or sometimes an orchestra. But it really helps to build the mood of the series. And this series is all about mood. The dub on this is actually really good at capturing the combination of hidden secrets and conflicting agendas.

In the end, Kaze no Yojimbo isn't for everyone. If you're looking for boys crying out "I want to be stronger" or girls pining over milquetoast heroes or giant robots or anything else that's been done to death, then this show isn't for you. But if you're looking for something different, albeit a little slow, then Kaze no Yojimbo is a good buy.

Cleverness - 4 out of 5
Characters - 5 out of 5
Plot - 3 out of 5
Acting - 4 out of 5
Technical - 2 out of 5

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