Blade of the Immortal #2 Print
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R2 DVD Reviews
Friday, 07 January 2011 00:00
Blade of the ImmortalRather than having Manji go looking for the Itto-ryu, this volume of Blade of the Immortal has the Itto-ryu coming after him - and in at least one case, they've got a solution for dealing with his immortality, which makes for a rather interesting battle. And all the while, behind the scenes, it seems Manji and Rin aren't the only people after the Itto-ryu...

6 - Cry of the Worm
There's a new man in town, a samurai willing to fight unarmed and with an eye - and silver tongue - for the ladies. After "saving" a woman from the abuses of her husband, though, he finds he's tangled with the wrong person, as her thanks to him is to poison him. Her reasons are simple, though - her rescuer is second-in-command of the Itto-ryu, and she has business to settle with them. He's not the only Itto-ryu member to meet a sticky end this day, either, as her colleagues are dishing out some vengeance of their own. While this is going on, Manji and Rin are minding their own business - but their own exploits against the Itto-ryu haven't escaped the attentions of Hyaku and her colleagues. A travelling monk, Shizuma Eiku, is also taking an interest in them - and he also bears the curse of immortality...


7 - Three Ways
The effects of Eiku's poison are unpleasant, to say the least and yet Manji at least doesn't seem to be dying from its effects. Rin's doing what she can to tend for him, and has given him an old family antidote that she learned from her parents - but past that she doesn't know what else she can do. While looking for help, though, Rin's deceived, kidnapped, and handed over to Eiku. He's fully expecting Manji to survive his poison, and wants a little advantage when the time comes to settle their quarrel...

HostageTo the death

8 - Pizzicato
Eiku may have told Manji and Rin where to find Anotsu, but it's fair to say that they're not too certain how trustworthy his information could be - he was their enemy, after all. But it does no harm to check such things, and they prepare to hit the road once more. While Rin's shopping for supplies, though, Manji is proposition by a hooker - an offer he can't quite resist. But the woman isn't quite what she appears - she's been hired to kill him, and the description of her client sounds suspiciously like Anotsu...


9 - Dream Play
Apparently, saving the life of one connected with the Itto-Ryu can earn you a death sentence, if you're a woman - men shouldn't have to suffer such an indignity - and that was the fate that Makie once faced, until her own family connections were revealed. The boy she saved then is now the leader of the Itto-Ryu, and the bond between Makie and Anotsu is unusual but strong - and it's her desire to keep him safe that has led to her challenge Manji a second time. With their first battle having been such a mismatch, though, can Makie really defeat Manji..?

Proving worthRealisation

Starting with the side threats first - Hyaku and her colleagues were seen a few times in volume one, usually hiding in bushes and keeping a close on Manji and Rin. That they have their own grudge with Anotsu and his group is without doubt - what that grudge is about, and how they fit in with Rin's crusade, so far remain unseen. What's unusual about them is the way that they're played for laughs, up to a point - they're almost the comic relief of the series on their occasional appearances, despite them being involved in the rather deadly business of killing people, and I can't help but like them. Shame there isn't more of them.

The main action of the volume, though, is the two battles that Manji finds himself in, the first against the man who genuinely could kill him, the second against a woman who's struggling with issues in her own past and who finds Manji to almost be the source of her own redemption. The two confrontations are presented very differently: Manji versus Eiku is fast, brutal and gory, with a lot of emphasis placed on the effects of Eiku's poison and what that means for the bloodworms that infest his body & his ability to regenerate. This is shown it very fine detail in places, reinforcing the notion that Manji is no longer what you could call human, and that - should he actually die - it's going to be a slow, painful and messy business, because of the way the bloodworms work. It's a lesson that Manji, Rin and the audience need to learn, because he is mortal under the right circumstances and is going to need to take that into account. The high gore level, though, does make it one of the harder passages of the series to watch - while you'd never call Blade of the Immortal light-hearted, neither has it been particularly dark, until now.

That dark them continues when Manji is sought out by Makie, a woman with a close connection to Itto-Ryu leader Anotsu and with a past that is anything but pleasant - a fact that's reflected in her demeanour. She's very softly spoken, with very little emotion seen or heard in her - she always seems to be simply going through the motions of life, wanting to end it for herself but perhaps not yet gutsy enough to do it. Even during her first battle with Manji, there's a feeling that she's going through the motions and that her heart just isn't in it, something that Manji himself picks up on. What this means is that she's not a character you really want to watch - her depression is catching, and the scenes dotted around the two episodes she features in that explain why she's in the frame of mind that she is really don't help, either.

Somewhere along the line, though, something sparks her into caring again, and finding something to live for other than Anotsu's approval. It's a journey to redemption, of sorts, and it should be uplifting to watch, but Makie's personality for three-quarters of the time she's on screen is so, dark, moody and negative that it's hard to get into her story. The ending of it is worth seeing, but you have to wade through so much of the negative side that it's difficult, and a little emotionally draining, to get there.

It has to be said, though, that getting the audience quite so emotionally involved in its story is one of Blade of the Immortal's plus points. While it's probably the fighting that most people are watching the series for, that's almost supporting material, in this volume at least, for other material surrounding the lives and deaths of the characters. Add in some background material on Anotsu's past that begins to explain what's driving him now (it's not a simple case of him just being evil), and hints at Rin's growing feelings for Manji, and there's a lot here to take in even outside the battles, which remain visually impressive and well worth watching in their own right.

Overall, then, you get something of a strange volume: it's difficult to watch in places, but is well worth the effort for what you get out of it at the end. I've said before how scepitcal I can be of shows set in this sort of time period, as often the fighting takes precedence over all else, but Blade of the Immortal seems to have struck an almost ideal balance between action and characters that makes it riveting viewing. Go get.

Rating - ****

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