Episode 1 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 5/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 7 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 8 – | Review Score – 4/5
Netflix animation is well-known for being quite hit or miss. For every Arcane, there’s a CGI Saint Seiya waiting in the wings. When it comes to Blue Eye Samurai though, this is one project that’s very clearly at the top of the animation podium. Not only is the show well written, it’s also gorgeously produced, artistically aesthetic and full of interesting, deep characters who well and truly go on a compelling arc.
In its simplest form, Blue Eye Samurai is a story about what it means to be a woman in Edo-period Japan. This is seen through two vastly different women from alternate walks of life. On the one hand you have Mizu, a “half-breed” woman whose father happens to be one of four white men left in Japan during that time. With outsiders shunned, and Mizu subsequently ostracized from society, she sets out to find and kill her father.
Contrasting this tale is that of Princess Akemi. She grows up with a silver spoon in her mouth – but also a cage around her. In fact, Akemi’s lack of freedom sees her forced into a marriage against her will and she makes a bold decision to flee from her oppressive father. In doing so, she finds herself in the midst of a harsh, brutal reality about the world around her.
Both of these stories intertwine beautifully during the midway point of the tale, with two men helping to flesh out the story further. This comes from the “comic relief” Ringo, who’s a chef that joins Mizu as her impromptu apprentice. While he is used as comedy, it’s fair to say he has way more to his character than just that. He also plays a very important part in Mizu’s storyline too.
Opposing this, and playing one of the antagonistic forces (but more like an antihero in truth) is Taigen, who happens to be Akemi’s lover and a man with a serious chip on his shoulder regarding Mizu’s existence.
Blue Eye Samurai is basically Kill Bill meets Mulan, with a dash of Arcane thrown in for good measure. The story is absolutely brutal and pulls no punches over what it’s trying to achieve. This is very much an adult animation, soaked in blood, gore and nudity abound. However, all of this is done tastefully as part of the story.
One of the big themes running through Blue Eye Samurai stems from the idea of femininity and womanhood. How women harness power in Feudal Japan is something that’s equally explored, with Akemi using her beauty, cunning and intelligence to try and survive, while Mizu relies on brute force, strength and skills. It’s such a fascinating contrast, especially when the pair inevitably cross paths and trade ideologies. Even when Mizu is winning, you still get the sense that her life is in danger and she could die at any second, which only heightens the drama.
The show interweaves flashbacks throughout the 8 episodes too, fleshing out more of the past in the process. This works well to really show the journey our two women have taken up to this point and why they’re so driven to see this through to the end.
Written by Michael Green, the same man responsible for Logan and Blade Runner 2049, alongside Amber Noizumi, the character development here is exemplary and while the main narrative is simply “kill four men”, the way this plays out on-screen goes far deeper than this.
Blue Eye Samurai is one of the biggest surprises of the year. It’s a beautifully written, brutal and bold animation that rises above many of its predecessors. Don’t be mistaken though, this is most certainly an adult series, with plenty of blood, gore and nudity along the way. Don’t let that deter you from 2023’s best animated series though, this is an absolute must-watch.
Verdict - 9/10