Back Comments (2) Share:
Facebook Button
Akira Kurosawa is probably one of the ten best directors of all time. His classic visions include the likes of Sanjuro, Kagemusha and Red Beard, and have greatly influenced latter-day directors in their work, most notably: Star Wars (based on Hidden Fortress), A Fistful of Dollars (based on Yojimbo) and, of course, the Magnificent Seven (based on Seven Samurai). Whilst I generally abhor remakes (I am dreading Scorsese’s upcoming remake of the excellent thriller, Infernal Affairs, not because it will be incompetent, but because it will mean that more people are going to overlook the great Asian original in favour of a Westernised alternative), there are admittedly some exceptions to this rules. These uncommon exceptions offer a different but equally enjoyable interpretation of the original material (a prime example being the recent version of Pride and Prejudice and Assault on Precinct 13). Despite the presence of a whole bunch of famous actors, I thought that the seventies remake of Seven Samurai The Magnificent Seven—was nothing more than shallow, popcorn fun. Now we get a further take on the classic tale, this time in animation form, but will it offer up anything new?

Samurai 7: Volume 1

Series


“On the battlefield there were samurai. On the land there were peasants. Beyond the flames of war the merchants watched. It was the samurai who held the era. The merchants bought the era and put an end to the war. The samurai, having lost the era, became bandits. The peasants still remained on the land.”

Set in the future, Samurai 7 sees the world suffering after a massive war. Technology has taken over, with huge ships and massive robots and cyborgs battling one another in the skies, but the humble samurai warrior—the simple man with a sword—still exists, and still supposedly serves a purpose. The poor surviving villages cater to the massive dietary requirements of raiding bandits that visit them regularly and plunder their goods, but one small village decides that enough is enough. After a meeting of the elders, it is decided that samurai should be found and hired for the protection of the village—and the cheaper the better. So the villagers go out in search of the most suitable—and affordable—warriors.

Of course, the original Seven Samurai movie was about three hours’ long, but this new remake series is even longer. This is just the first of several volumes, entitled ‘Search for the Seven’ and that is exactly what it looks at. It is further split into four episodes which, in turn, look at the recruitment of the first four samurai who agree to help protect the village. These are: ‘The Master’, ‘The Pupil’, ‘The Entertainer’ and ‘The Loner’. Replicating the story of the original movie almost scene for scene, each introduction is just an updated variation.

Samurai 7: Volume 1
The Master has to use his cunning to outwit his desperate enemy, who is holding a child hostage and the Pupil is young and inexperienced—making plenty of mistakes but having the energy to fight. The Master and the Pupil then recruit the others by a method that those familiar with the Kurosawa movie will recognise, and so they hire the Entertainer, who is just full of jokes and the Loner. The Loner. The fifth samurai that we see in these episodes is actually Kikuchiyo, the character played by the great Toshiro Mifune in Seven Samurai, but here he is represented as a slightly clumsy but nonetheless relentless mechanical samurai.

It is also worth noting that the female characters have been developed for this new series, with the village girl given a much more prominent and respected role as one of those sent to recruit the samurai. Further complications ensue as she is sought after by a Royal fop, who wants to take her hand irrespective of what she has to say about the matter.

Despite the subject being highly unoriginal for those who are familiar with Kurosawa’s classic or its western remake, the retelling is still quite interesting and well thought-out. The samurai action is well conceived, and now involves bombs and robot samurai and so forth. The characters are well illustrated, the landscapes and cityscapes well represented and generally it is quite a lavish, entertaining animated production. Seven Samurai it is not, but that does not mean that it is not enjoyable in its own right.

Samurai 7: Volume 1

Video


Samurai 7 is presented in a decent 1.85:1 aspect ratio anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer. The line detail is generally excellent, with little softness or hazing—other than for the out-of-focus background images. There is negligible grain and the transfer is free of digital artefacting and edge enhancement. The colour scheme is rich and vivid, and well represented at all times, with solid blacks that allow for decent shadowing. Overall it is a decent transfer for this animated series.

Audio


We get two solid Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks to accompany the movie: one in the original Japanese language and another dubbed into English. For animated productions, I seldom have a problem with the dubbed alternative (the lip synchronisation is generally much more acceptable than for live action productions) and this is no exception. Vocals come clearly from the frontal array, with plenty of effects to bounce around the surrounds, from swords clashing to bells tolling. The score ranges from quaint Eastern tones (reminiscent of classic samurai movies) to more dramatic action beats, all totally dependent on the on-screen happenings. The English subtitles tend to differ from what is spoken on the dub, but are also perfectly coherent.

Extras


In the way of extras, all we get is the original promotional trailer, some character profiles for the samurai and villagers, textless versions of the opening and closing songs and trailers for other animated releases.

Samurai 7: Volume 1

Overall


Samurai 7 is a thoughtful, respectful and action-packed animated remake of Akira Kurosawa’s classic Seven Samurai. Whilst not particularly original, and also only the first of many volumes which will tell the same tale—just over multiple episodes—it is still quite enjoyable even for fans familiar with the source material. The video transfer is quite decent—anamorphic for a start—and the six-speaker surround sound tracks also do the series justice. The extras are a little disappointing, but it is otherwise a decent DVD release for an interesting and involving new animated TV show that is worth taking a look at.


Links: