Samurai Warriors

Samurai Warriors

IMG_1544.PNGToyotomi Hideyoshi is on the verge of unifying the realm, and all that remains is the Odawara Castle protected by the “Lion of Sagami” Ujiyasu Houjou. Hideyoshi’s personally-trained generals, Ishida Mitsunari, Katou Kiyomasa and Fukushima Masanori, as well as Ootani Yoshitsugu, Shima Sakon, and Naoe Kanetsugu are all on the frontline of the battle. Amidst this esteemed battle formation are the two young warriors of the Sanada household: older brother Nobuyuki and younger brother Yukimura. This is the story of the two Sanada brothers and their determination to do what’s best for their family dynasty and maintain their power and territory.

In recent seasons, samurai anime has seen a surge in pick-ups by big studios. The problem is that they often retread the familiar story of legendary samurai lord Oda Nobunaga from feudal era Japan. I have seen this story told in many forms (including Battle Girls – Time Paradox) and, whilst I appreciate that he’s an important figure in Japanese history, most of these modern interpretations have been so terrible that the mere mention of Nobunaga in an anime has me passing it over. More often than not it’s because that these so-called interpretations are less than innovate and by no means unique. Thankfully, though, Samurai Warriors is not one of these.

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It is based on the popular games franchise Samurai Warriors games line from studio Koei, which looks after many other warrior-esque games. This anime has been released now to mark Samurai Warriors first release. The plot follows the Sanada brothers and their rise to prominence because of their fighting prowess. It’s based (loosely) on sixteenth century Japan, and Totoyomi Hideyoshi is trying to unite the lands, which means upheaval and tumult for many large clans. There’s a lot going on, and half of it requires a certain base knowledge of the main players… which is where this one loses me.

Adding to that, I’m getting the sense that the characters aren’t exactly being fleshed out and coming into their own. It’s been a few episodes, and I’m starting to come to the conclusion that this is not something that the producers are interesting in. Given that it’s roots lie in fighting computer games, this is where the main focus is. As you would imagine giving the setting, there is plenty of fighting, but since I’m not a big follower of this gaming franchise, this isn’t really enough for me.

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None of the characters have really jumped out at me yet. Despite the initial fifty minute special and the flashbacks meant to chop up the fighting and the politics, all the characters still feel the same to me despite their varying (and nicely detailed) clothing. It’s difficult to differentiate between all the male characters and fully understanding who’s fighting for who, who’s allies with who, and what historical elements I’m supposed to remember that apply to each samurai. During the first two episodes it feels like there is a mass introduction to all the characters – but this is just one quick close-up and a brief heading depicting their long and complicated name. It’s not enough. In fact, I would even go as far as to suggest that their name appears over their head every time that character makes an entrance. I can’t keep up. It doesn’t bode well that characters are forgettable and identifying them isn’t considered a priority.

I can't remember who these guys are... but this is my favourite quote.
I can’t remember who these guys are… but this is my favourite quote.

But things aren’t all bad. The rich detail to costume is appreciated (and useful for when you’ve got to remember who’s who, thankfully) and the main characters do stand out. Again, things start to go downhill when the animation kicks into gear – which is frequently, since there’s so much fighting. It’s difficult to have dynamic shots with such a large cast, and the exposition errs on the side of conservative. It just feels a little unambitious. Even the plot seems predictable.

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It’s clear from this early stage that Samurai Wars is aimed at pleasing a specific audience, and not much effort has been made to engage new audiences that are not following the computer games. There are too many elements that are unnecessarily confusing. Due to the amount of background knowledge that is clearly needed to enjoy this story at its optimum I wouldn’t recommend this one as an impulse watch. This anime needs to kick things up a notch in order to not lose my attention.