Manga Review: Shigirui

The above video is the intro to the anime. This is a review of the manga.

Details: More information can be found at https://myanimelist.net/manga/3868/Shigurui

Score: 7/10

Shigirui is a very violent samurai story that takes place in feudal Japan. What I really enjoyed about this was how foreign the story felt. Most times, you get a period story, but they adapt the characters motivations into something understandable by modern audiences. The motivations and character mentalities here were just so different from contemporary thinking. It was one part the author’s portrayal of the culture of that time period, one part the author’s portrayal of the psychology behind a fanatic.

Our story focuses on two young samurai who are destined to be rivals and mortal enemies. The story starts from when the two meet and ends with their final duel.

The story is very violent and is noteworthy in how alien it feels. I don’t know if someone Japanese would feel so estranged from the tale, but certainly did. I also don’t know how historically accurate the depiction of the culture of this time period was, but it is very different from contemporary western culture at least.

The setting of this story is a fanatical time. Most of the characters are driven by a single idea to the point of madness. Our two rival protagonists especially. They offer competing views, where one seeks to reject the hierarchical world of feudal Japan and the other seeks to remain in it. What is so interesting is that the conflicting themes of these two characters is one of many themes that is mostly glossed over. The story focuses on other ideas such as vengeance, restraint, violence and order. The story truly is told in a fragmented way that I want to say is like the culture of feudal Japan, except that neither I nor the author actually lived through those times so how the heck would either of us know. Instead, I would say that the author has done a great job creating an alien world were the culture and values of the characters are foreign to the reader, but sufficiently explained in a way so as the reader can take part in the story. I’d compare it to how a well written science fiction or fantasy story can create this foreign world with foreign rules, but succeed in immersing the reader into it.

The art is uniquely styled, but I wouldn’t say it’s magnificent. It does a great job expressing the mood and the gore and violence. Halfway through the series, there is a very clear shift in art and it’s obvious a new artist took over. I wouldn’t say the art gets worse at this point, but it is a bit jarring and more cartoon-y.

Overall, I enjoyed this series. There were some good fight scenes that were well drawn, which only emphasized the ending when taken in context to how detailed the violence was drawn throughout the whole series. I won’t spoil it, but the ending clearly wanted to make a statement on something. I’m just entirely sure what that was.

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