Samurai 7: Vol. 1

This is a long awaited release for me. I’m a huge follower and fan of the work of Gonzo Digimation, so this latest installment in Gonzo’s releases to the US has been one that I’ve looked forward to for some time. So I hate having to say bad things about this release, but it’s really not Gonzo’s fault.

Backstory: Samurai 7 is a rather capricious undertaking for several animation studios. Primary animation was handled by Production IG (most famously known for Ghost in the Shell and Blood: The Last Vampire), direction and story writing was done by the venerable Akira Kurosawa. Even if you aren’t an anime nut, it’s likely that you’ve heard of Kurosawa. Production, meaning the money behind the show, was done by Gonzo Digimation. So all of the major players in anime were involved here, and some heavy hitting film-makers as well. With all of this heavy hitting cool factor going on, it’s hard to think that anyone would have anything bad to say about Samurai 7.

The truth is, I don’t have much bad to say, but what little there is I have to blame on Funimation.

The Story: In the distant future, the world has become a place much like feudal Japan, Samurai are honored by peasants, feared by city dwellers and deemed as unfortunate necessities by nobility. In the country, samurai turned bandits rampage. They steal harvests of rice and take advantage of the village’s women and then leave. Fighting back is impossible for the peasants who quietly grow the rice, or so it seems. Then the water maiden, Kirara steps forward and goes to the city in search of Samurai to defend her village. Armed only with a payment of as much rice as the samurai can eat, and the companionship of her younger sister, and dear friend, Kirara sets out on a dangerous journey, one that will show her the ways of the world and of the samurai.

The Art: Gorgeous. This is IG and Gonzo here. It can’t help but be gorgeous.

The Dub: The English dub for this series really, really stinks. Don’t bother.

The Package: Very, very nice. Lots of premiums in the box if you purchase the series now, and if you don’t, oh well. The box still looks gorgeous, makes a nice presentation on the shelf.

DVD Logistics: The menus are nice and clean. The audio encoding works well, the video looks nice and clean on my home theater system, but I’ve got a major beef. Funimation sets up the opening and closing titles for all of their releases on a viewing angle. Many older dvd players simply put the word “angle” on the display on the unit itself. Current DVD players have minimalistic displays, so the “angle” notation shows up on the screen and sits there all the way through the opening and closing titles. It’s very disruptive to viewing. Also, the physical DVD itself is thin and seems flimsy. I’ve been tempted to make myself a second copy of the discs, remove the angle switch on the titles, and store away these thin originals without playing them a second or third time. When I buy a series, I tend to watch it over and over again. A flimsy DVD is not something that entices me to buy more products from Funimation. Funimation released these same flimsy DVD’s with Fruits Basket and never replaced them, so that’s a major down side.

All in all, Samurai 7 is a thing of beauty, but the release from Funimation is really less than I expect from an anime title. So buy with caution.