Sunday, August 21, 2011

August 21

I watched an anime that I should not have. I should have known better- it was called "Death Frenzy."

So, you can't say I wasn't forewarned, or anything.

However, it was set in feudal Japan, so I thought I'd just try a piece of it. A lot of anime I start and then discard, sometimes after just a minute of two of viewing.

Not this one. I watched the whole damned thing. And damned it is. It was the most gruesome, violent, disturbing and graphic anime I have ever seen.

And here's the catch- also, one of the most beautiful, compelling and well put together anime ever. I mean, it rivals even Ghost in the Shell for beauty and the sheer impact of its storytelling. And the sound track- so powerful. It was pretty much nothing but Japanese drums, the sound of cicadas, etc. It was mesmerizing.

I couldn't stop watching the episodes, even though frequently I actually wasn't watching it; I was blocking the screen with my hand and watching the upside down reflection on the glass topped coffee table instead, to try and take the edge off (haha) some of the violence.

It follows the destiny of two mutilated samurai who must fight to the death at the order of the daimyo. One has lost his arm, the other is blind and limps. The story opens with a samurai who has committed seppuku and reveals the ghastly and mortal wound to the lord, in order to protest the fight.

He dies in vain, of course, by taking a face plant in his own blood. This sets the stage nicely for the rest of the anime.

Then the anime shows the back story and then the anime never shows the ending. According to wikipedia (yes, I looked it up), it is famous for this. Or infamous, I should say.

Hateful, hateful anime. And yet, beautiful, haunting anime. At certain key moments, the lines mimic traditional Japanese art, in a subtle and stylized way that is just breathtaking.

There was this one scene when the former master, a truly despicable character, comes walking off the veranda to kill the blind samurai, his former student. The blind samurai strains hideously to open his scarred eyes; they roll up from under his eye sockets. He sees flickering images and then, sees a vision of the master as a tiger, and holy crap, what a tiger. It was one of the most terrifying and beautiful scenes of animation I've ever watched.

And the way they built up the understanding of the martial arts was so satisfying. By the end of the amine, I knew just how much blood, sweat and life went into the samurai's use of that sword play. I knew what he could do with just wooden sword. When the samurai fought, I could feel the agony, the exhaustion, the precision and the sheer force of both physical power and strength of will that went into each sword stroke.

So, I watched it for like, four hours straight, start to finish and then I went to bed.

So of course I had nightmares. Unfortunately, they weren't about samurai, because, frankly, that would have been awesome.

I wish some talented person out there would envision and draw an equally compelling, hauntingly beautiful amime set in feudal Japan, minus the graphic sexuality and serious carnage, and not forgetting to sketch out some kind of ending.

Seriously, is that too much to ask?