Blade of the Immortal (2020) Review
I'm honestly surprised I gave this show until the twelveth episode to review it, as by episode six I was already struggling to find a reason to continue (For those unaware, my review policy is that I will stop watching an anime to review it if it gives me no reason to keep watching, a minimum of six episodes), but since I had already started watching it when it was eighteen episodes in, I figured I'd give it a bit longer.
Blade of the Immortal stars a seemingly immortal swordsman killing evil men to atone for killing good men, and he is hired as a bodyguard for a girl trying to get revenge against the group who killed her parents, the Itto-Ryo. The problem with the show immediately becomes my inability to get behind the leading character's desire for revenge. It's not because it's not justified, it clearly is, but multiple times throughout the show she comes face to face with the leader, Anotsu, and she begins to question killing him, or at least how she would do so. The problem is the philosophy behind this internal struggle feels entirely shallow.
At this point, so many people have been killed in their search for Anotsu that she doesn't seem to think twice about, but when faced with Anotsu's reasoning for doing what he did, it doesn't feel like it's something that would cause anyone to question their revenge. Her quest rings entirely hollow to me, and the main draw of the story, at least at first, just feels weak.
A second main problem starts with Manji being immortal, and this drains all tension from his fights. Tension begins to return when you learn there is, in fact, a limit to what the sacred bloodworms that keep him alive can actually recover from, as well as a poison that can counteract their power. We'll ignore for a moment that by sheer coincidence our leading heroine has a secret family remedy that just so happens to work on the poison for no reason that is specified, his whole quest to kill one thousand evil men is to remove his immortality so that he can eventually die. The moment you realize he's not truly immortal though, his quest kind of falls apart. You are sitting here watching two people go on journeys that inevitably feel pointless.
The last flaw I'll point out is the show has some really bad villains. You have Shira, who is just over the top evil and gets off on torturing women before killing them, almost every villain gets a sad and tragic backstory just dumped out as soon as they die (or right before) to try to make you feel bad, and Anotsu himself has a pretty terrible justification for killing people in all the Dojo's across Japan. He feels the Samurai cared more about form and image than winning, so he made his own school and started going around crushing them all to prove his point. There is a bit more to it than that, but not much. There isn't a thing about the story that engages me, not even the characters have all that much chemistry together.
That all said, the fights look fantastic for the most part. There are a lot of great visuals and violent fights that are a thrill to watch. Honestly, I feel if the show just wanted to be that, it would probably be a lot more enjoyable as you would have more time dedicated to all of these fantastic fights it puts on. While it may be hard to care about why they are fighting, the spectacle is great all the same.
And the show does have a way of giving you some awesome moments and lines, despite all that I've said about it. While overall the villain is pretty weak in terms of narrative, he occasionally gets some great lines like, "May you become dust on the roadside, and let it be known to you the weight of my blade". This works in reference to both his goals, as well as the absurdly heavy weight to the blade he uses. I do like how his fighting style and weapon reflect his world view so well, and the show did a good job with the occasional line like this. Throw in something similar with Shira, who sharpened the bone jutting out of his hand so that he uses it to kill Manji, who was responsible for cutting it off. Yeah, he was kind of a one-note and stupid villain, but that was pretty awesome. There is a soft spot in my heart for people doing something that is simultaneously stupid and badass in the name of spite.
The show did have a lot of potential, but constantly lets itself down. It didn't feel like it committed enough to the characters individual story, it didn't feel like it committed enough to the grand nature of many fights, and in the end, it just didn't' feel like the show was accomplishing anything after twelve episodes. While it's good for some great fights here and there, it's not a show that I find has much to offer.