Mugen no Juunin: Immortal/Blade of the Immortal
Mugen no Juunin is not your typical samurai anime – at least, not for the year 2019. For one, while obviously having an updated art style, it reminds me quite strongly of those super gritty, darkly subdued OVAs produced in the 80s and 90s in terms of style and tone – unsubtle in the extreme, yet somehow at the same time neither loud nor showy. For another, it’s clearly taking full advantage of the fact that it’s an ONA rather than a TV series, meaning it’s not afraid to push the boundaries of what’s acceptable in terms of its on-screen depictions of violence. Sure, it’s not particularly uncommon to see anime with violent themes or intense action sequences, but these often pan away during the fatal moments, or show only silhouettes of flying body parts or undeniably cartoonish sprays of blood. Mugen no Juunin, on the other hand, is entirely visceral, at times reading closer to horror than anything else. Every fatal sword stroke is accompanied by wet, viscous sound effects, heads aren’t simply chopped off but faces cleaved in two, eyes still wide and staring. People don’t smile or grimace – their faces contort, the tiny gaps between each individual tooth in the close-ups giving the artwork an unsettling kind of realism. At the same time, much of the background music you’d usually expect from a samurai show, or any action/adventure anime for that matter, is conspicuously absent, with nothing to distract from or dilute the explicit violence playing out on screen.
I can’t recommend this anime to everyone. It’s actually pretty unpleasant at times – likely intentionally – and while not scary per se, I certainly don’t see it appealing to the squeamish, or to anyone who prefers more colourful or lighthearted fare. However, if the idea of something that feels a bit like a combination of Blood: The Last Vampire and Shigurui sounds good to you, by all means, give it a try.
Edit: Having now watched the second episode that was released concurrently, I feel that Mugen no Juunin isn’t going to be anywhere near as intense as indicated by the premiere. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still far from an easygoing or cheerful watch, but with a few humorous moments thrown in – albeit a dark brand of humour – and a noticeably softened art style, the series has instantly become a lot more traditionally anime-esque in quality, making it at once both easier to watch and less unique. Take from that what you will.
Nope. Nope nope nope. I was immediately turned right off by about the first minute, in which we’re introduced to main protagonist (who incidentally looks a lot like Kirito from Sword Art Online) and his young charge – a tiny-framed girl with enormous eyes, tiny skirt that flutters in the wind above thigh-high stockings, and a pseudo-corset, all of which the camera takes a good few seconds to linger on through a series of highly uncomfortable close-ups. I made the unfortunate decision of sticking around until the end of the episode, meaning I also got to watch an overtly sexualized scene of main protagonist apparently releasing Mareida’s ‘mana’ and calling her “My Little Lady” like something straight out of a Kuroshitsuji script. Add to this the plentiful exposition by way of inner monologue and copious amounts of pointless jargon, complete with the type of action involving Naruto-style running and people yelling out the names of their own attacks, and it’d be fair to say I hope I don’t have to watch something quite this bad again this season.
Question of the post: Did you end up watching these shows? If so, what did you think of them and if not, are you tempted to give either of them a try?