"Samurai 7 Vol. 5" – Even With The Clip Show It’s Still Awesome.
Yeah, you heard me right, a clip show. This volume of Samurai 7, coming hot off the blistering action from the 4th volume (which likely burned out the animation staff for a week,) leads off with a clip show. However, even that episode is pretty darn good. In general, this volume backs off the action, but the plot hits hard as the next arc heats up and builds to a cliffhanger that’ll leave you breathless.
In the wake of death of Gorobei, the samurai that defended Kanna Village begin to fracture. Kambei, eager to bring the fight to the capital so he can keep his promises to Rikichi and Honoka, runs off without the rest of the samurai. Kyuzo follows on in pursuit, but at a distance – Kyuzo still wants to be the man that kills Kambei, but he also respects Kambei’s wishes as a samurai. Kikuchiyo and Katsuhiro aren’t so patient, and begin to make their way to the capital as well, and with Komachi and Kirara in toe – Kirara to help find Rikichi’s wife and Honoka’s sister, and Komachi in case Kirara’s love for Katushiro undermines her divining skils. Rikichi, injured but eager to take on the emporor, hangs back with Heihachi and Shichiroji who are helping the village to rebuilds. Kambei makes a bold play by trying to pose as the person who had assassinated an envoy of the emperor, but it’s twarted before the final blow can be delivered, and Kambei is jailed and sentenced to death.
Alas, the samurai aren’t the only ones having to cope with change – the merchants come back into play as well. Magistrate Maro is summoned to the capital to explained what happened. In the vacuum of power, Ukyo proves to be quite the young Machiavelli – he quickly seizes power of the city and unfurls a plan to strike at the Nobuseri. He then goes out to the capital to see who is trying to take the fall for him for the assassination. Upon his arrival, Ukyo is revealed as an heir to the emperor, and after passing a test of wisdom, Ukyo becomes the true heir. He soon turnsaround and kills the Emperor, allowing him to kick his plans against the Nobuseri into overdrive. However, someone has to take the fall for that envoy’s death, and Kambei’s already prepped to take the fall. Will Katsuhiro and Kikuchiyo be able to save everyone who needs to be saved in the capital, and will Kambei survive? That’s for the next volume to reveal.
This volume is a huge shift in pace from the previous episodes, but somehow, it’s still very compelling. Even the clip show moves certain critical points along, and it’s well placed because it makes perfect sense to have a degree of remembrance when some one has passed. Of course, it’s much more interesting to see the plays in the latter episodes on the volume, particularly the genuinely evil-but-brilliant moves pulled off by Ukyo. Part of me initially thought that this was a bit of an unexpected turn of events, but then I’d remembered the assassination realized just how much he’s been playing the game all along. Sure, getting the emperor position unexpectedly sped things up, but that’s clearly been his aim from square one. All in all, though the action wasn’t really a factor that much in this volume (though the few places it turns up, it’s awesome,) the story and writing are more than compelling enough to make up for it.
On the technical side, Samurai 7 volume 5 is scaled back from the previous volumes. The animation isn’t bad, it’s just not seething with energy like the last volume. Some of the key work definitely seemed a little shaky early on, but the compositing stayed great, and by the second episode, it’s back on pace. Meanwhile, the sci-fi side of the show is explored in greater depth visually for the first time in a while outside of the Nobuseri mechs, as the capital is a nicely realized piece of sci-fi design with its fusion of futuristic elements and historical Japanese design. The life support unit the emperor lives in is particularly well thought out. Meanwhile, the music and voice acting are both still great, which helps maintain the overall quality and consistency; the VAs from both casts keep their work in top notch form, and the music continues to wonderfully accent the emotions of scenes.
When it comes to the DVD, the audio and video are still great, though extras are little light. On the other hand, we’re 5 discs in and that’s sort of par for the course. It still has a huge booklet included even with the regular volumes with lots of background information like staff interviews and line art, and the gallery and creditless OP and ED are still on the DVD itself, so it’s still a notch above a lot of other releases. The basic hallmarks that make Samurai 7 a nice DVD in general (8 points of access per episode, two video tracks – one with the English credits, and one with the original Japanese video, Dolby 5.1 and 2.0 tracks for both English and Japanese) are still in effect too, so if nothing else, it’s starting out with a basis that’s better than a lot of other anime released.
All in all, Samurai 7 continues to deliver, albeit slightly differently from the last volume. It’s a bit more sedate this time around, but it’s just as compelling nonetheless. Perhaps more so now because it’s clear that things are being manipulated at a level that’s outside of the influence of samurai until the battle is already joined. Regardless of why exactly I’m still enjoying Samurai 7, the fact is I’m still enjoying it. If you’ve not checked it out already, you ought to because I can tell you that at least 5/7th of Samurai 7 is engrossing and excellent.