Recent Viewing: Samurai 7

As many of us know, Toonami is back on Cartoon Network and airing many of our favorite shows, such as Ghost in the Shell, Cowboy Bebop and InuYasha. But Toonami has also been airing new titles and also some titles that have slipped through my personal viewing list. Which brings up todays review of Samurai 7.


Samurai 7 was released in 2004 by Gonzo, which was one of the earlier adopters and experimenters of CGI in anime. Funimation currently holds the rights to what is known as the most expensive anime, costing around $300,000 an episode to produce and is based on the Akira Kurosawa film, the Seven Samurai but with a sic fi twist.

I haven’t seen Kurosawa’s film so the anime has been my first introduction to the storyline, and also leaves me blank in drawing comparisons between the two titles. Admittedly, I am not a huge samurai fan, the title has been suggested by several friends so I went on a week by week episodic journey via Toonami. Maybe it was the week by week viewing method, but at certain points the story felt a little slow and there were weeks that the story felt a little rushed, which gave the overall story a bit of an inconsistently paced impression.

There are a few strings of episodes that feel very well put together, there is mostly a little lag at the start, middle and the end feels a bit rushed. Overall, the story contained an interesting premise and I wonder if the uneven pacing is due to my viewing habits or if they are places that were drawn out when compared to the original film.

Since Samurai 7 was produced in the early 2000’s, the CGI is typical of the time period and consistent with some of the other titles I have reviewed such as Burst Angel. This means the robots are animated stiffly, some objects and special effects are rendered in CGI and also that there is a gap in the overall compositing of the project (the explosions feel as if they are overlaid onto the animation and not blended in) which Burst Angel used a destroyed city with an orange sky to help blend the two.

Having said that, the CGI in the last few episodes is noticeably better than the previous 20+ episodes. Most likely a combination of their more experienced CGI animators and more of the budget allocated to those as well.

Overall, Samurai 7 is a title worth checking out. The unique combination of the samurai lifestyle and enemies using sic fi weapons and robotics is an interesting twist on the time period. The CGi isn’t too distracting from the rest of the art, and the show has a wide variety of interesting characters. There is a samurai that almost anyone can connect with.

You can even check out the episodes on Funimations site here since it recently finished up its run on Toonami. Have you already seen Samurai 7? Let me know what you thought of the show!

Recent Viewing: Burst Angel


At the suggestion of a friend, I decided to marathon Burst Angel in the span of a day while getting some work done. Burst Angel was created in 2004 by Gonzo and licensed in America by FUNimation (I told you I would get to a FUNimation title).

The story is very similar to Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 (BCT 2040). We follow around a group of girls that are fighting against mutated people/creatures that are wreaking havoc in Tokyo. Each character set has the a few archetypes of characters. The strong silent/ rebellious leader, the loud quirky girl, the young genius (in BCT 2040 its a young male), and a serious but yet sometimes fun leader or business head.

I really had no knowledge of the series going into it, it had been a while since I had seen a trailer for it and I have never really looked into the title to see what it was about. Having said that, there was an early episode that really had kinda set up some high hopes of a direction the series would go. However, the story never progresses down that path. After a few episodes of introducing characters in the first few episodes, I thought this storyline was going to be the main plot for the remainder of the series. It only turned out to be a one off kinda episode that never touches the topic.

All was not lost, from a production standpoint, Gonzo creates some of the best CGI in all of anime. I really got familiar with their work when I was preparing my SGMS presentation last year. However my presentation covered only 3 time periods of CGI in anime, it’s inception, the titles when it started to become more mainstream and where it was at today. If I had a longer period of time to present, one of the areas I wanted to go into was the mid 2000’s. Some titles that were the first to use CGi were in the late 1990’s and Gonzo was one of the studios that was at the forefront of the movement.

So to see a title from 2004 which is the time I wanted to study more as there was a flurry of new techniques and such coming out. Burst Angel had some really nice animated robot sequences in the later episodes. A couple years prior to this title there were studios that when animating robots, would animate them very robot like and not too responsive, they look very rigid and unnatural. Burst Angel has scenes where robots are slinging around large weapons and you can get a sense of the weight of the weaponry from the way the robot is wielding it. The robot will swing the weapon into position and they go past where they need it and bring it back just a little. It is one of the animation principles, but you didn’t see these applied to CGi robots before in anime.

The downfall of the series a little bit is the lack of compositing in those final episodes. By compositing I mean that there are effects that look like they are just dropped onto the animation and don’t blend into the environment to make it fit in. Explosions are placed over the top of the animation and sometimes you can see that things around them aren’t effected by the burst of light and fire. In one shot in particular you can see the building underneath an explosion has no breaking windows or even damage.

I may be coming off as really harsh, but I’m not. At the time this was released it probably was pretty solid to other anime titles being produced at the time. A lot of titles in that time were experimenting with CGI and how they could use it. I have a fascination with this time period because in a way it relates to what I am working on as well.

All series have budgets and restrictions, in my Cosmic Rage project, I have the limitation of doing the whole project with my laptop. I dig into these titles because it is very intriguing to see how other animators cut corners to save on budgets and how they have to keep budgets in mind. It is fun to dissect how they did things to get a certain look as well. And to be honest some of these things they can get away with because the audience doesn’t know what they are looking for in some cases.

I enjoyed Burst Angel, I thought it was an entertaining 24 episode series that really allowed me to see more of what Gonzo was doing in the mid 2000’s. It is a time period that I would enjoy to see more titles from since it was such a time for experimental techniques and balancing looks with a computers render power as well.