One of the most anticipated anime for this season was undoubtedly Blade of the Immortal (Japanese: 無限の住人 Hepburn: Mugen no Jūnin, lit. "The Inhabitant of Infinity") a new anime adaptation based on the classic Japanese manga series by Hiroaki Samura.
A short synopsis:
Manji is an immortal swordsman, who has been cursed with eternal life. He has grown tired of living with all the death he has created. He has no skills other than those of killing, thus he forms a plan to regain his mortality: he shall kill one hundred evil men for each good one he has killed. The old witch who afflicted Manji with immortality agrees to Manji's proposition and Manji is set on his path to kill one thousand evil men. On his journey he meets a young girl, Rin, who has her own vengeance to seek against the sword school whose members slaughtered Rin's family. Rin and Manji journey together, each hoping to find some kind of salvation in a journey of vengeance and growth.
Now to be perfectly honest with you I haven’t read the manga or seen anything that is related with Blade of the Immortal before. I saw the first 2 episodes with a clean slate, and this is my honest opinion about them.
Summary and thoughts – First episode
From the get-go the viewer understands that this is a mature series. Other than the amazon message in place warning us about that, the show welcomes extreme violence with open arms from its opening scene and has an off-putting, strange vibe for the first half of its first episode. – My kind of anime –
In this first half we are thrown without context in the past of two different people, seeing, what is probably, the most traumatic day in their respective lives. This is how the show chooses to introduce our two protagonists Majin and Rin. From what Rin says, her father was brutally killed by the Itto Ryu school and she wants to avenge him. After her chance meeting with a self-proclaimed 800-year-old grandma who spends her time in graveyards, Rin sets out to find the “Killer of 100 “and hire him as bodyguard.
It doesn’t take long before she finds him, and this is were the “off putting” vibe I mentioned before vanishes completely. Mind you we haven’t really seen Manji in the story till this moment, however from first glance he doesn’t look like a bad guy – shocking right?
Two things are established immediately, firstly that he is skilled with the sword – in the wood cutting scene – and secondly that despite his looks, he is kind, sharing his already small meal with a complete stranger.
Rin asks him to become her bodyguard and he outright refuses her immediately. Their back and forth is interesting revealing the strength of Rin’s despair and motivation and also traits of Manji’s character, who finally accepts Rin’s plea, partly because he realizes that she is willing to sacrifice everything for her goal and partly because she uncanny resembles his dead sister.
We fast forward to a scene where a Kunoichi and the man who killed Rin’s father have a discussion about love and poetry next to a river. The vibe is weird again. This is where the shows first fight is shown. The Kunoichi is Rin and the moment this is revealed Majin steps in to fight her father’s killer. In a typical anime the bad guy would straight up ditch Rin and immediately fight with Majin, however this is Blade of the Immortal. This is where its truly established that the show is for mature audiences, its not simply a samurai power fantasy. He doesn’t pay any real attention to Manji, he simply cuts off his foot in one stroke and leaves him to bleed out to death. He is strong.
Here it should be mentioned that the man who killed her father, Sabato Kuroi, has been sending lover letters to her for the past 2 years and he wants to kill her to truly merge with her in an absolute way. She throws knives at him; his costume is torn to pieces and we finally see him for the first time. A creepy man with two women’s heads sewed on his shoulders – the first one belongs to his former wife… the second belongs to Rin’s mother.
Yeah, he is completely messed up.
He tells Rin that he wants to replace the head of his former wife with her head. Then he, Rin and her mother can be truly united, and he promises her that he will take his life afterwards truly be together with them forever. Rin has the opportunity to “kill” the man who killed her father. While he was only following orders, her father died by Sabato Kuroi’s sword. She hesitates and decides to take him up on his offer, she decides to kill herself and while see is slowly moving the blade to her throat…
Sabato Kuroi is stabbed from behind by a man with one leg, Manji is back!
He reveals his immortality to Rin and the first episode concludes.
Overall Impression of the first episode:
It was really good as a bottom-line. While the pacing for the first half of the episode felt a little bit off for me with it trying to show too much in a short time– a bit of Majin’ past, Rin’s story and set up their meeting at the same time –
From the moment our two protagonists met this issue got resolved. I love the fact that the show utilizes its mature “tag” to the fullest with unapologetic violence, which fits its vibe completely and mature themes like loss, sexual assault and the horror of senseless killing and perversion. With Isekai oversaturing the market in the past few years and Shounen series doing so well (I enjoy them as well; I am not saying I don’t) there is a lack of dark mature anime like last season’s Vinland Saga and now Blade of the Immortal. So, I enjoy it tremendously and have high hopes for it.
It’s a dark breath of fresh air.
My only worry for the show:
That immortality will become the sole gimmick Manji overly relies on to win his fights, thus making them less exciting. What the first episode conveyed is that Manji is a skillful swords man that happens to be immortal, however in his fight he seemed like an immortal guy that happens to have a sword.