After the success of titles such as Arcane – based on the franchise of League of Legends – and Cyberpunk: Edgerunners – spin-off of Cyberpunk 2077 by CD Projekt RED – and especially in the year of final consecration with theOscar for the best animated movie obtained thanks to Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio (here is our review of Pinocchio), the on-demand streaming platform Netflix once again confirms itself as a major, new center of gravity for the animation world with the TV show Blue Eye Samurai.
Entirely original creation by Michael Green (Oscar-nominated screenwriter for James Mangold’s Logan and author of, among others, the scripts of Blade Runner 2049 and the recent A Haunting in Venice), the story of Blue Eye Samurai is set in 17th century Japan, the one of Silence by Martin Scorsese, when the island-nation’s borders were closed to the outside world and, for several generations, citizens never saw a face that was not Japanese: in the unfortunate event that pure Japanese blood came to mix with the impure blood of white demons, the children of this abominable union were treated worse than animals..
Our protagonist is Mizu, a half-breed with Caucasian features betrayed by her blue eyes. From birth, she has faced abuse, violence, and emotional, psychological and physical pain because of her origin. A situation aggravated by the fact that she is a woman, a true identity she has always tried to hide by posing as a male. All her life she has been training waiting for revenge: Mizu knows that at the time of her conception in all of Japan there were only four white men who could have impregnated her mother, and vowed to kill them one after another to repay them for making her a “creature of shame.”
The cost of revenge
A few months after the entertaining Nimona (if you missed it, here is the review of Nimona), which played on the figure of the villain and his role in animated movie stories, Netflix and Michael Green exploit the TV format for an epic story typical of the bloody and ruthless revenge movie, poetic and deeply disturbing.. It is a tale that Americans would call ‘character-driven’ in which, however, the psychological deepening of the protagonist proceeds hand in hand with the frenzy of mise-en-scène and the showmanship of the world in which she moves.
As The Last of Us: Part 2 (the seminal video game from which the TV adaptation of The Last of Us by HBO will also necessarily have to pass) even Blue Eye Samurai will put its protagonist on a path of suffering which will be totalizing and will recount in detail – often even graphically, in the physical sense – what level of sacrifice one must be willing to achieve in order to vote one’s existence to the pursuit of the most dark, violent, immoral but also humanly satisfying of the goals.
It is a recurring theme in this subgenre of action thrillers, the one of the percentage of humanity and inner purity that the protagonist of a revenge story has to sacrifice on the altar of hatred to get to his goal, but it is not always tackled head-on and even less so in a way as effective as it is in Blue Eye Samurai.
Blue Eye Samurai: beyond all expectations
Blue Eye Samurai is located between Mulan and Kill Bill and Lone Wolf and Zatoichi and offers an avalanche of visual ideas, plenty of accomplished secondary characters who can enrich the story as much as the protagonist, and, icing on the cake, the magnificence of Edo-era Japan recreated in a mixture of 2D and 3D able to rival the fantasy worlds of Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.
Michael Green’s work does not deny his own Western gaze (the influences of Game of Thrones are many, starting with the narrative use of sex and sexuality but even more so are those of Quentin Tarantino-esque post-modernism, including the use of a deliberately anachronistic soundtrack) but also manages to to strike an admirable balance between two worlds, between two gazes becoming almost a filmic extension of the narrating protagonist herself.
On Freaking News as you may know we are not snobbish enough to make assigning a perfect grade a media event and on our channels it may happen to see several of them pop up even in the same year: in this case, we will spend it on Blue Eye Samurai without any second thoughts.