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DVD Review

DVD cover

Shigurui Death Frenzy
The Complete Series


Starring (voice): Daisuke Namikawa, Emi Shinohara, Houko Kuwashima, Nozomu Sasaki and Seizo Katou
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 18
Available 31 August 2009

1629, and in Kanagawa a lord has decreed a match with real swords. Two warriors step up to face each other, one blind and one missing an arm. Before anyone can complain that their physical condition is dishonourable the audience understands that both men have overcome their disabilities and remain powerful and dangerous fighters, what more they know each other. This is a fight to the death...

Shigurui: Death Frenzy (2007) is an anime which is unlike anything you will have seen before. Based on the manga, written and illustrated by Takayuki Yamaguchi, Madhouse has taken this extraordinary work and given it to director Hirotsugu Hamazaki, in whose sure hands the anime is likely to become a classic of its type. Here the show's twelve episodes are presented as a two DVD set, which provide a very good picture to accompany a powerful story. One word of warning, this is not an anime for children; it deals with violence of a psychological, physical and sexual nature.

Most shows have a combination of comedy and tension, this one just has tension, which is further enhanced by the relentless musical track and background noises. Both of the DVD discs have the audio options for either an English Dolby Surround Sound 5.1 track or the original 2.0 stereo Japanese track, with English subtitles, and to be honest both suck you right into the middle of the story, but the 5.1 definably has the edge.

The story opens with the fight, which is the culmination of the rivalry between Fujiki Gennosuke, a young warrior who had his sights set on taking over from the insane master of the Kogan-Ryuu martial arts school. His plans are interrupted by the arrival of a ronin who challenges and beats him. The victor, Seigen Irako, determines to stay at the school and so the rivalry between the men begins. They fight for the right to succeed and for the hand of Sensei Kogan Iwamoto’s daughter. Kogan is mad and only attains sanity one day in every year, though his actions on that day will make you wonder just how sane he actually becomes.

The rivalry between the two main antagonists brings forth an orgy of violence, experiencing the show is not unlike watching Ninja porn; the violence is compelling and disturbing. More disturbing is the treatment of women who are subjected to rape bondage and incest.

Disc one holds episodes one to six - Sword Match at Sunpu Castle, The Yodare-Azuki Ceremony, Kamaitachi, A Children’s Song, Secret Swordplay Technique Instruction and Birth Cry. For extras you get a full episode commentary for A Children’s Song.

Disc two hold episodes seven to twelve - Fangs, Chorus of Cicadas, Tiger Cubs, Kengyou’s House of Punishment, Moonlight and Mumyo Sakanagare. Extras on the disc cover a full episode commentary for Kengyou’s House of Punishment from Christopher Bevins the English voice director plus some of the cast, static pieces on both the characters and the settings as well as the textless opening and closing sequences.

The combination of the sheer brutality and relentless music made the experience of viewing this story a mesmerising one. True the anime only covers half of the manga’s story which leaves the narrative essentially unresolved, but this actually becomes a minor quibble compared to the experience of watching the show.

Due to its content the show is likely to polarise audiences, between those who are appalled at the content and those think that the combination makes for a beautiful, if disturbing experience. Although the show looks good in the DVD version, the Blu-ray edition has superior picture and sound, but is more expensive.


Charles Packer

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