Blue Eye Samurai is the latest animated effort from Netflix and I feel confident in saying it is the best one yet. Whilst a Western production, the Japanese setting and style will have anime fans loving every beautiful scene as they follow the tale of Mizu, a biracial outcast in a Edo-period Japan where foreigners are not allowed onto the isolated island.
Blue Eye Samurai is a fresh story that delivers a tale that may have elements of familiarity but they are dished up in a way that feels innovative and new. There are clear homages to the work of Akira Kurosawa blended with the brutality of Takashi Miike (go and watch 13 Assassins). Mizu is born a female but raised as a boy in a world with strict gender roles. Born to a struggling mother and fathered by one of only four white men on the island, Mizu’s tale is one of revenge as she attempts to track down her father and kill him for the sins of the past. The childhood trauma plays a big part in shaping Mizu and placing her on the path of revenge fans of grimdark will love to cheer on the deadly samurai as she stops at nothing to get what she wants. Innocents die, blood is spilled, and a path of destruction is created with no thought of anyone else as Mizu goes on her journey, at times accompanied by characters attempting to shine a little light in her world of darkness. It’s a cruel world that Mizu lives in and one of the best things about Blue Eye Samurai is the way in which it shows how characters deal with their trauma and difficulties. Ringo battles through life with a smile on his face, not letting the fact that he was born with no hands and beaten by his father stop in his way of helping others to greatness. Akemi is seemingly born with it all, a princess, but she struggles with the tight boundaries placed on her in her role because of her gender and she fights to break free at any cost. All the characters in the show have their own paths and their own issues to deal with and the way they all interweave with the main story is a joy to behold and a sign of the great writing across the eight brilliant episodes.
Blue Eye Samurai doesn’t shy away from the darker sides of the world. Brutal violence, racism, unique sexual tendencies, prostitution, drug abuse. This is a heavy show that deals with the darkness of humanity broken up by moments of levity. Each episode builds so well upon the last as the story slowly unravels. Episode 5 in particular had an impact on me with its unique style showcasing a part of Mizu’s backstory. It uses a Japanese puppet show in parts and is able to weave separate tales together in a stunning and beautiful piece of storytelling that left my jaw on the floor by the end. Blue Eye Samurai gives each character a reason for doing what they do and this is so important as the violence continues with each episode. There is a lot of darkness in the series but it makes those moments of light shine brighter for it when they do shine through the cracks.
Better than Cyberpunk and Castlevania (I loved them both) and at least on par with Arcane. Blue Eye Samurai is one of the best stories on Netflix, animated or otherwise. Beautiful animation mixed with a perfectly paced story and impeccable voice acting, this is a highlight of 2023 for me. Brutal, beautiful, and brilliant in equal measures. Blue Eye Samurai is incredible. Bring on season two!