A Blood-Soaked Tale of Vengeance
Blue Eye Samurai is an eight-episode animated series on Netflix about a samurai hell-bent on revenge. The series follows Mizu, a tormented mixed-race girl with piercing blue eyes. Insults and threats for being a “round-eye” are thrown at her as she is beaten and bullied by the local village children. After her home is burned down, she meets a blind swordmaker who takes her in and teaches her the way of the sword. As a samurai, she sets out to destroy those who were responsible for her suffering and her torment as a biracial “demon” at a time when Japan closed its borders off to the rest of the world.
A Woman Samurai?
The new Netflix series Blue Eye Samurai is an adult-animated show portraying the would-be life of a samurai woman. Following Mizu (voiced by Maya Erskine), a mixed-race swordmaster who lives a life of disguise while plotting her revenge. As a biracial “demon”, and a woman in the Edo period no less, Mizu is persecuted everywhere she goes. Born from sexual violence committed by one of the only four white men in Japan. She sets out to track them down and kill them as payment for her life of pain.
Blue Eye Samurai may be an animated show, but that doesn’t stop any of its graphically colorful action sequences and deeply complex themes of identity, duty, love, and betrayal. Mizu brutally butchers dozens of men who are put in her way. Her vengeance is illustrated in blood erupting from chopped limbs, broken bones, and bashed teeth. Giving credence to her swordsmanship, as a warrior she is no less dangerous than any man she faces with a sword. Painted in a stunning and vibrant style of animation that journeys through frozen forests, a bustling 1600s Kyoto, and huge fortresses. The audience may just find themselves hitting pause to soak up the vibrant visuals. Katanas cross with two-handed Naginatas in fight scenes reminiscent of classic Chanbara films, Blue Eye Samurai is a tribute to samurai cinema with a modern twist.
Mizu’s Allies Are Just as Flawed but Just as Strong
Blue Eye Samurai visualizes Edo-era Japan in provocative adult animation with a live-action edge of brutality. The action is choreographed beautifully and the combat is bloody awesome! Though its characters constantly face innumerable odds, they each have their own journey of self-discovery that pays off by the end.
Mizu’s journey toward revenge is a chaotic inner battle as much as it is outward. Because she is half-white and half-Japanese, she is labeled a “demon” by those who see the color of her eyes and skin. Her master, one of Japan’s most legendary sword makers, is completely blind. This being said,The Swordfather has mastered the use of fire with blacksmithing to teach her about swordsmanship.
On her journey, she meets Ringo (Masi Oka), a noodle maker with no hands; Taigen (Darren Barnet), a boastful samurai; and Princess Akemi (Brenda Song), Taigen’s betrothed, whose life as a princess is completely foreign to Mizu’s. Ringo is a man who was born with no hands, yet he is one of the happiest characters with aspirations to become a great swordsman. Eager to prove his usefulness to Mizu through the use of his tools and can-do attitude making him a stand-out character who audiences would root for.
The major challenge is presented through the female characters, from Mizu’s need to dress and pose as a man to Akemi’s struggle to gain control of her own life when her father decides to marry her off to the shogunate. Blue Eye Samurai gives a realistic representation of historically oppressed groups in a way that is refreshing, original, and tastefully woven into the story.
Initially, writers Michael Green and Amber Noizumi subvert the audience by keeping Mizu’s gender a mystery in order to blend the issues she faces into one. Ultimately adding a second layer of something for her to overcome but by doing so they created a character who challenges the audience’s own preconceived perception of the standard samurai. Mizu is obviously biracial, but making the audience question if she is a man or a woman plays to the strengths of the writers.
Blue Eye Samurai is definitely worth watching because of the way it stays ahead of the viewer. The way Mizu’s story unfolds in directions that seemed impossible is a credit to the husband and wife team of Green and Noizumi. It is as bloody as it is deep, a story of self-struggle and retribution for a character who couldn’t be more alienated by her own country. For those who struggle with their identity, an issue common in the age of social media, this one will hit home while still subverting expectations. With samurai sword fights reminiscent of Kill Bill and amounts of bloodshed that would make Quentin Tarantino proud. In a fusion of 2D and 3D animation similar to some of Netflix’s other shows, Blue Eye Samurai is a good show with a great team behind it.
Blue Eye Samurai (2023) Official Trailer