Manji is an immortal swordsman, who has been cursed with eternal life. He has grown tired of living with all the death he has created. He has no skills other than those of killing, thus he forms a plan to regain his mortality: he shall kill one hundred evil men for each good one he has killed. The old witch who afflicted Manji with immortality agrees to Manji’s proposition and Manji is set on his path to kill one thousand evil men. On his journey he meets a young girl, Rin, who has her own vengeance to seek against the sword school whose members slaughtered Rin’s family. Rin and Manji journey together, each hoping to find some kind of peace. In their way are many varied enemies. Rin and Manji are almost constantly under attack and must learn to live their lives, avoiding being consumed by revenge.
- Despite being known as the Hundred Men Killer, you have some good in you. I’m surprised.
- I’m flattered.
- Who said it was a praise?
Stop me if you’ve heard any of these before. A daughter of a samurai hell-bent on avenging her father’s death. A ronin with unparalleled sword skills, but no attachments to the world. He agrees to be her yojimbo because she reminds him of his dead sister. A colorful villain of the week demands to hear the protagonist’s name before they can cross swords with him.
Mugen no Juunin is every chanbara cliche possible thrown together into a blender and made into a
smoothie. The original manga started in 1993, it’s an old series, so those tropes are played mind-numbingly straight - do not expect any deconstruction of the genre or postmodern meta-fuckery, this is neither Katanagatari nor Samurai Champloo.
The “smoothie” part of the metaphor refers to the fact that the narrative is incredibly fragmented - you can’t even consider it a road movie, you just see random barely coherent snippets of the character’s lives. This is to be expected, considering the original manga spans 30 volumes and this anime adapts hundreds of pages per episode.
What I’m getting at, however, is that nothing of the stated above really matters. It’s not that kind of series where those things matter. Instead, it’s something you watch to see a freak with severed human heads sewn into his body reciting poetry and arguing that you can’t call it true love unless you kill her. Something you watch to see an artist/samurai struggling to find his “painting-do” and swinging around a brush tied to a katana. Something you watch to have your scenes of period drama grimdarkness counterpointed by a sudden “Onii-chan, baka!” Even the snippet structure actually works, thanks to a masterful directorial work of Hamasaki Hiroshi (Steins;Gate).
9/10 for the style-over-substance show in the best meaning of the word.