26
Feb
11

Shigurui – Lethargy Frenzy

Hurrrr, serious business.

At first glance I thought I would have loved Shigurui. Reading a few synopses told me it had all the stuff I love: hardcore violence, nudity, rape, hardcore violence, misogyny, and hardcore violence. Even the title Shigurui – Death Frenzy, made me super pumped to watch it. Unfortunately, what I actually found myself watching was anything but awesome. Oh sure, it did have hardcore violence, nudity, rape, and misogyny but the execution was piss-poor. If a series like Shigurui was able to sap all the fun out of great stuff like sex and violence, then what hope is there for it to be good?

The story takes place in feudal Japan, and is told almost entirely in an extended flashback. It features two promising young samurai who struggle to become the next heir of an elite Japanese clan of sword fighters. There is deceit and betrayal, and someone emerges victorious while the other sulks away with hurt feelings. The guy who got butthurt ultimately decides to return for revenge. Telling the story in four sentences makes it sound totally awesome. However, the plodding pace and lethargic narrative absolutely kill any chance the series had of being interesting.

Spreading the tale over 12 episodes allowed the animators to tell the story with plenty of breathing room. Too much breathing room. The story could have been told in half that amount, or even as a single film. There was no need to get the thing all fat and bloated and drag it out so much. It took forever for anything to happen. For example, the entire first episode was two opponents staring each other down while they take up comically stupid fighting stances. I don’t know anything about sword fighting, but I do know that whoever picked the “cool” stance would likely end up dead, while the person who picked the practical one would win. Unfortunately, both assholes pick “cool” stances, and end up looking like retards. A modern day equivalent would be a frat-boy with a popped coller. How are we supposed to take the show seriously when the two main characters act like idiots?

And yes, we are meant to take the show seriously. No one dares crack a smile, not even once; everyone is deadly serious. There is no humor whatsoever. Apparently, humor had not yet arrived in Japan by this time in history. This attitude really works against the series. I frequently found myself laughing out loud at the inanity of this series when it would take itself so goddamn seriously and then do stupid shit.

For example, there is a scene where some dude cut off a lady’s nipple, chopped it in four pieces with his ZOMG SO AWESOME ELITE NINJA SKILLZ, and then played around with it on his tongue for like 20 minutes, slobbering everywhere with rivers of drool. How can you do anything but laugh when you are presented with a 13 year old boy’s idea of “cool shit” in an otherwise ANIME IS SERIOUS BUSINESS series?

Anyway, getting back to what I was talking about earlier, the major problem with the series is the pacing. Most of the time, nothing is happening. It’s like punishment for me saying that Moribito was boring. Shigurui is 500 times more boring than that other piece of shit. Here’s a breakdown of every episode:

  1. Opening scene shows someone singing a children’s song.
  2. Fade to next scene of samurai plotting something evil for about 10 minutes.
  3. Cut to next scene of someone lusting over a girl and wanting to rape her (hold camera on rapist’s juicy, flailing tongue for way too long).
  4. Cut to next scene of adversaries staring each other down for about 10 minutes.
  5. Suggest that something interesting is about to happen…
  6. …quickly cut to a “To Be Continued” screen, roll credits.

That’s it. You’ve just experienced every episode of Shigurui. And it only took a minute to read through all those sentences instead of wasting 6 hours suffering through that boring shit like I did.

Two other serious problems with this series are the music and the brightness levels. The music is hardly there, and many scenes drag on and on without music. Other times the background is filled only with ambient noise, while people blather on about nonsense, or just stare each other down. A more rousing score would have gone a long way in keeping the audience awake. On the other hand, there are very few exciting things happening, so a rousing score would seem out of place. I guess it does fit the series, after all if you are going to have a boring show you might as well accompany it with boring music.

The brightness darkness level is totally on a WHAT THE FUCK WERE THEY THINKING level. Shigurui is so fucking dark, half the time you have no goddamn idea what is going on. Apparently, sunlight had not yet arrived in Japan by this time in history. It’s dark. Really, really fucking dark. And I don’t mean dark as in menacing. I mean dark as in, there is so little light I can’t see anything. I may as well have been watching this series blind. You can’t see shit. If you’re going to do a TV series, which is a visual medium last time I checked, you should at least let us SEE IT.

Typical scene from Shigurui. Note the impossibility to discern what is happening.

Now I’m sure some of you will argue, “LOL BUT BRIK TIHS ANIME IS SUPPOSE TO BE SLOW AND ARTISTIC AND BUILD UP TO SUM AWESOM ACTION AT TEH END LOL!” I’m sorry, but no. Just because something is slow does not make it artistic. It just means it’s slow. Having a bunch of juicy-tongued old men raping their daughters doesn’t make it artistic, it just means it came from Japan. By the end there is really very little “build up.” The butthurt samurai comes back and kills everyone except his nemesis (oops, spoilers!). He kills his enemies with single sword-strokes; there is no action. I realize this is not an “action series,” it’s not Rurouni Kenshin. But they could have at least rewarded us with something after slogging through 11 episodes of nothing happening.

Perhaps most annoying of all is that there is no ending. Shigurui ends where it began: with two douchebag samurai staring each other down. We never see the resolution of their fight. After all that, after suffering through so much boring shit, after receiving such a grueling lesson in patience, there is no conclusion. Things remain unresolved. A little reading led me to discover that this series was based on a manga (which was based on a novel) which has yet to be completed. That explained why they didn’t animate an ending, there isn’t one. You know what? They should have just made up an ending. Who gives a shit if the story isn’t completed? If they were going to cop out like this, then they shouldn’t have made the thing at all. They should not subject us to one of the most brutally boring anime series ever created to not even humor us with the promise of an actual fucking ending. Total bullshit. It’s not like people are going to be clamoring for Shigurui 2 – Another Lesson in Patience. Just end the fucker, so we can all move on with our lives. Everything about this series was bullshit. Fuck you, Shigurui.

Verdict: Shitty

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23 Responses to “Shigurui – Lethargy Frenzy”


  1. 1 Frootytooty
    February 26, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    Wow, never gonna watch that anime then. I’m already blind enough as it is without the anime trying to make things worse. Thanks for the warning!

  2. 3 Mac Colestock
    March 4, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    Man, Brik, I’m surprised you even picked this title up. The show has been hyped & promoted as a loldeep “artistic” work from Madhouse, which pretty much guaranteed that it’d be something you’d find detestable. What were you expecting?

    I didn’t mind the show, but I had almost all the same complaints that you seem to. I thought that the artsyness and pretentiousness were passable because it was shot remarkably well, and I excused the pacing only because I continued to give it the benefit of the doubt. The only thing I had real trouble with was its narrative, which included somewhat stale, mostly undeveloped characters that no audience could possibly care about, and utterly ridiculous action scenes that did more to break cohesion and believability than anything else. But to its credit, the animation, art direction, and overall storyboarding were great.

    That said, I never had any problems whatsoever with the light/dark contrast when I watched it.

  3. March 6, 2011 at 9:07 am

    I’m not opposed to watching “loldeep artistic” works. If you check out my 20 Awesomest Anime of the Decade post you’ll find: Boogiepop Phantom, Paprika, Paranoia Agent, Monster, Haibane Renmei, and FLCL. Not to mention the good reviews I wrote of Serial Experiments Lain and Mononoke. There are quite a few other “loldeep artistic” works that I enjoy which I haven’t written about. In fact, I prefer those types of series, but I think it is very difficult for an anime to go that route and successfully pull it off. Shigurui tried and failed.

  4. March 6, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    Noted. Never watching this.

    Poorly lit scenes piss me the hell off, mostly because they’re usually pointless. Night time scenes? Yeah, they make sense. Obscuring things for a little while with an obvious reason that will be revealed? Sure, that can work. Doing it for the luls? No, fuck that shit, let the viewer see it.

  5. 7 Wolf
    March 10, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    I understand how you feel about the terrible lighting in the show. I’ve been trying to catch up on Stargate Universe but it’s damn hard because half the time the scenes are so dark that I have no idea what’s going on. You’d think that quality control would pick up on this kind of thing.

  6. March 20, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    No ending biggest fail of all. Agreed, make it up even if it is a predictable good over evil. By the time they get around to releasing an OVA that finishes this shit nobody will care.

  7. 11 Bomber
    September 29, 2012 at 6:56 am

    This is the most accurate representation of this anime you will find on the net. Couldn’t of said it better myself. Shitty McShit Shit.

  8. 13 Alex
    February 18, 2013 at 2:34 am

    Yeah you’re the type of guy that thinks Tarantino films suck I take it? You just don’t get it.

  9. 15 Andrusz
    May 20, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    Thank! Fucking! You!

    So glad I found this blog post 2 years after you wrote it! Cause I just watched this shit and I had the exact same complaints! I go on YouTube and it’s just populated with pretentious weeboos defending the shit outta this garbage as some “high art”, cause of its slow and methodical approach to perversions. It’s obsession with voyeurism; it’s self-indulgent samurai duals; it’s so indictive of Japanese culture. The darkness was horrible, the pacing as boring as it gets, and typical of most high art animes, it’s zen approach to understanding something by doing or saying nothing just shows how irritating this vegetative approach to art really is. Instead of being profound, we’ll be pretentious and pretend like there is substance. It irritates me to no measure… And I have the astute displeasure of reading the Manga as well. If you like wonderfully drawn body horror than look no further, but it’s just as shallow and inept.

    Japan needs some serious lessons from some Greek Cynics.

    • May 21, 2013 at 7:56 am

      LOL! I’m glad you appreciated the post. And I’m truly sorry you read the manga. I can’t imagine anything worse…except watching the series twice.

  10. 17 Hurricane
    September 18, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    The problem with the story is that it ISN’T a glorification of samurai culture. While the Kogan style was revered, the real truth was it represented everything that was going wrong with Japanese culture at the time. To me the story showed how ambition and persuit of perfection in martial arts can lead to dark and evil path. All of Kogan’s students sold their souls with the belief that they would inherent the Kogan style and become revered as a master swordsman. But why become a master swordsman was never part of their thinking, and in the end they ignored the obvious psychosis of Kogan and revered him as deity, never understanding that there wasn’t ANY method to his madness. In the end Kogan lost his dojo, his heir, and any chance at keeping the Kogan style alive. It also resulted in the ultimate expression of the perversion of the Samurai in the 2 main characters.

    As for the art style and pacing I am pretty sure that this anime was made in a the traditional style of Japanese storytelling and therefore they did not cater to “western” ideals in terms of pacing and exposition. Also it assumes you are very well versed in Japanese samurai culture and history. Hence it was not made for easy viewing. You have to pay attention, draw inference and conclusion, and assume everything happening on screen is there for a specific reason. This is not like Dragonball Z, which incorporated a lot of bushido concepts and samurai warrior philosophy in way that people could easily understand. Watching this anime reminds me of reading the Iliad or Beowulf, it is a glimpse into another paradigm and mode of thought. If you try to judge this show and story based on popular and commercial anime you will find it wanting. However I think it was a great work of art and the story was a view of how blind faith and strict obedience can lead to horrible tragedy and twisted souls.

    • September 21, 2013 at 8:24 am

      Thanks for your reply. This is actually the most thoughtful post I’ve ever read about why Shigurui is a good show. I appreciate your efforts, and clearly you got a lot out of this anime. For me, though, it’s still boring and ridiculous. While Dragonball Z certainly is no masterpiece, I’d rather watch it any day of the week. Why, you ask? Because it isn’t so dark I can’t tell what the hell is happening on screen.

  11. 20 SamsWrath
    October 29, 2013 at 1:07 am

    It seems like the posters in this thread expect a substantial series from a 12-part anime series. Did you know that the manga has 77 chapters and that the show only scraped the surface of the first 30? Read the manga and you’ll stop complaining. The manga has everything you wanted in the anime.

    http://www.mangahere.com/manga/shigurui/

  12. 22 Princess Luna
    April 20, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    Power Rangers Samurai was much better. And let me guess why nopony in Shigurui was named here: Its characters aren’t worth caring about?


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