Akira Kurasawa’s Seven Samurai is one of the greatest films ever created. Having influenced countless movies, it was inevitable there would be retellings of the story in different forms. Samurai 7 is one such iteration, albeit in anime form. While other influences are less overt (Magnificent Seven), this is somewhat of a direct translation, except with mechs. Given the reverence for the story, the animated version was given the greatest of care with its creation. But was it any good.
The premise for both the anime and the movie is the same. In case you haven’t seen either (the movie is longer than The Lord of the Rings), here’s a brief summary. A simple Japanese village is plagued by bandits. Every year they come to take rice. They’ve grown more bold, hurting the villagers and taking women. The villagers set out to higher samurai to protect them, but can only afford to pay them in rice. Fortunately, they find seven who are willing to defend them.
Again, the premise, and even the characters are the same, it’s the setting and the ending that differs. While the movie was in a feudal setting, this has mech / dystopian future aesthetics. The great war was fought with giant 3D robots, one samurai had a mechanical prosthetic hand while another is a cyborg. These elements occasionally detracted, especially with the oddly out of place 3D on 2D animation. It would have been better if this version stuck with feudal setting as this futuristic one added nothing.
Ultimately, Samurai 7 is subpar. It’s only on the strength of the source material does this have a leg to stand on. Given the high profile of series, no expense was spared. Each episode cost $300,000, more than twice the standard price at the time, with most of the money put into the animation. As the 3D rendering was newer in 2004, it’s easy to see where the money went. Unfortunately, this didn’t payoff. Aside from detracting from the animation, the series wasn’t that popular in Japan, or beyond.
If there was a choice, go for the movie. The importance of this film cannot be understated. The anime is entertaining, but your time is better spent elsewhere.
What did you think of the series? Care for the mechs? Comment below!
Short and sweet.