Shigurui: Death Frenzy is a twelve episode anime series that nearly covers the initial seven volumes of the Shigurui manga by Takayuki Yamaguchi. I’ll start out the gate by saying, this one isn’t for the kids. No sir. Japanese Anime, widely known for its extremely graphical content, has given birth to a new gem that will have your heart palpitating with each sickeningly blood-drenched moment. Shigurui’s tale of a violent power struggle commands attention. Shigurui starts off as your basic Samurai tale during the Tokugawa peace. In the year 1629, a daimyo under Tokugawa Tadanaga has initiated a tournament to satisfy his own blood lust. Instead of fighting with bokken, wooden swords, the competitors would fight with traditional weapons.
Fujiki, a one armed swordsman is about to throw down against Irako, a blind swordsman. As the crowd looks on, the story dissolves into a series long flashback that explains how these two men came to that point in time. Shigurui does in fact contain a lot of nudity, sex, bondage, near-rape, incest, and abusive treatment of its female characters. If any of that offends you in any way, I suggest you stay away from this series.
There is not one moment during this series where the mood lets up. Unlike Afro Samurai, there’s no Ninja-Ninja for comic relief. From the moment you see the first two competitors, you’ll realize that Shigurui is anything but your typical tale. The story is interesting and totally watchable, just not emotionally engaging. It bears down on you with a heavy weight that never, ever lets up. Every scene, set in the night or the day, seems designed to depress. Regrettably, we only get half of the story. Sadly, Shigurui falters where so many other anime shows do. The ending. More specifically, the lack there of.
I really wish I could give this a perfect score because it is so harsh and uncompromising but still manages a beautiful and artistic palatte that flourishes which give this anime a credibility that few examples of the genre have anymore. To be honest, I almost abandoned Shigurui somewhere around the first 2 or 3 episodes. It tends to draw moments out to create a feeling of tension and often contemplation. The action sequences aren’t really your run-of-the-mill choreography. Slow-motion animation, freeze frames and close-ups are utilized.
Madhouse did a bang up job on production. The animation is spectacular. It is really something to behold. The series really harnesses vivid animation skills as well as very sound story telling. If the tension is the foreplay and the fights the consummation, then Shigurui Death Frenzy is certainly the anime equivalent of tantric sex. Though we’re working with a completely human cast, the art style has an easy time in showcasing which of the characters are heroic and villainous. These incorporations blended with the occasional artistic shots like dandelion seeds floating in the wind, offered a lovely contrast to the brutality of the overall production. I saw this on Blu-ray and I recommend you do as well. A stunning series that should be added to your anime library immediately.