'Blue Eye Samurai' review: Yo, Jimbo, drop everything and watch this

'It's not that I look at the world through rose-coloured glasses... just that whenever I'm around, everything runs red.' Photos: Handout

What if, in some sake-induced haze, the artistic sensibilities of the animated Mulan crossed universes into the gore-soaked realm of Shogun Assassin (the notorious 1980s "video nasty" cobbled together from segments of Lone Wolf And Cub films)?

Why, chances are the resulting hybrid would look and sound (and almost feel) much like the captivating, deceptively gorgeous (and still gore-soaked) Blue Eye Samurai, Netflix's new mature-audiences animated series.

Created by husband-and-wife team Michael Green (co-writer of Logan, Blade Runner 2049, among others) and Amber Noizumi, Blue Eye Samurai is nothing short of stunning.

From its opening to the (admittedly) head-scratching finish, this eight-episode saga will leave you in awe of its writers and animators' unflinching take on a lone ronin's quest for revenge.

'Hmm, so the Four Fangs each wield twin blades – hey, wait, wouldn't that make you the Eight Fangs?''Hmm, so the Four Fangs each wield twin blades – hey, wait, wouldn't that make you the Eight Fangs?'

While there is a Japanese audio track available – and surely, watching this with Japanese dialogue and subtitles on would complement the overall atmosphere – do note that the original English audio dub features a powerhouse cast.

Expect to hear the familiar tones of stars like George Takei, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Ming-Na Wen, Randall Park, Mark Dacascos and Masi Oka backing up the principal cast of Maya Erskine, Darren Barnet and Brenda Song. Toss in Kenneth Branagh spouting, well, let's call it an extravagant Irish accent and your vocal ensemble is complete.

Erskine voices Mizu, the titular character: a half-breed swordsman seeking revenge on one of the four white men overstaying in feudal Japan after its borders were closed during the Tokugawa Shogunate in the 17th century. (Because one of them is Daddy, Mizu just isn't sure which.)

This quest cuts a bloody swathe through samurai, assassins, bodyguards, soldiers and nobles on the way to Fowler (Branagh), a reclusive arms dealer with a sinister plan for Japan.

'It's times like this that make me wish I had my *other* alter-ego's power of teleportation.''It's times like this that make me wish I had my *other* alter-ego's power of teleportation.'

The show's lush visual aesthetic remains constant throughout, while each episode is linked by the vengeance quest and yet thematically different.

For example, the fifth episode The Tale Of The Ronin And The Bride is a haunting, mesmerising combination of puppet show, flashback love story, morality fable and tragedy.

It stands out as one of the finest hours of TV, animated or live action, I've seen in years and fleshes out Mizu's character terrifically – if crushing betrayal turning love into cold, dark hatred can be termed "terrific".

And without missing a beat, the very next episode takes us on a veritable ascent (!) into hell as Mizu storms an enemy fortress in a nod to platform, stealth and plain old bash-'em-up video games (complete with nightmare-level Boss fight).

For the first seven episodes, Blue Eye Samurai is both an enthralling journey and an ever-tightening tale that hints at a sensational finale.

And then... well, it doesn't really come because what seems to be a largely one-and-done story suddenly develops the need to extend itself to a possible second season.

Sure, there is action and spectacle aplenty. Some unexpected things do occur, and not all the likeable supporting characters whose fates we've become so invested in get what they'd hoped for (but maybe, what most deserve).

Mizu's arc, in particular, goes off on a wild tangent that suddenly gives rise to so many questions, the answers to which hinge entirely on Netflix's decision whether or not to greenlight a second season.

This proved to be the one sticking point in an otherwise flawless and spellbinding tale, where the creators' passion for its setting and themes shines through in every frame.

All eight episodes of Blue Eye Samurai are available to stream on Netflix.

9 10


Time to pay the Kill Bill.

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