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Set in 1600s Japan, the series stars Maya Erskine as a mixed-race samurai named Mizu, driven by a quest for bloody revenge. The show, titled Blue Eye Samurai, features breathtaking fight scenes and an all-star cast. One memorable sequence sees Mizu backed to the edge of a seaside cliff, surrounded by the Four Fangs, master swordsmen intent on her demise. Over an intense eight minutes, she transforms the precarious terrain into a battleground, defying physics as she dismantles her enemies. The scene culminates in a stunning visual with a death blow delivered against the backdrop of a crashing wave bathed in the red glow of sunset, resembling combat on the lip of a volcano.

For most martial arts stories, this would be the climax, but for Blue Eye Samurai, it’s merely an appetizer for the mayhem to come. The adult animated drama, which debuted its eight-episode first season on Netflix, was created by Logan screenwriter Michael Green and his wife, Amber Noizumi. Set in Edo-period Japan, when the borders were closed and white people banished, the story follows Mizu, a woman disguised as a man. Her blue eyes reveal her mixed heritage, marking her as an outcast. Mizu conceals her gender and masters swordsmanship to seek out and kill the four white men who might be her father, avenging the misery she endured.

Inspired by Noizumi’s mixed-race heritage, the show blends elements of Kill Bill and Yentl. Despite leaning more towards Tarantino than Streisand, Blue Eye Samurai balances elaborately choreographed violence with moments of beauty, longing, and humor. Mizu’s would-be apprentice, Ringo (played by Masi Oka), provides comic relief. Despite his disability, Ringo’s determination gradually endears him to Mizu, creating a compelling dynamic.

The series doesn’t shy away from depicting naked flesh, both in violent and sexual contexts, without feeling gratuitous. A subplot follows Akemi (Brenda Song), a princess eager to escape Edo society’s constraints, who uses different methods than Mizu. Her journey through brothels deepens her character rather than simply titillates.

Visually, Blue Eye Samurai is stunning, combining 2D and 3D animation to create lifelike landscapes and characters. The animation allows for epic battles that would be costly to produce in live-action. Throughout the season, Mizu faces off against an army of gangsters, bosses in Fowler’s fortress, and even an attempted coup of Japan.

Creators Green and Noizumi ensure the story’s heart remains with its characters. Mizu is portrayed as both supernatural and deeply human, capable of surviving odds that would kill a normal person. Yet, the series never loses sight of the toll her quest for revenge takes on her, transforming her into the monster her countrymen see.

Blue Eye Samurai is a powerful example of animation’s potential to create vivid worlds and characters, rivaling live-action storytelling.

 


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