The Sengoku era gave birth to many historical legends. One of them is Naoe Kanetsugu, the brilliant military general of the Uesugi family. Together with Maeda Keiji, a legendary warrior on the battlefield, who become lifelong friends with each other, they carve out a piece of history in the most dangerous and volatile time in Japan's history. The two men recall their beginnings and the journey they took to get to the accomplished position they now sit at.
If it weren't for two other particularly strong entries, Gifuu Doudou!!: Kanetsugu to Keiji—the double exclamation marks say it all, really—would probably be a strong contender for the most righteous show of the summer 2013 anime season. Gifuu Doudou!!'s premise is simple: Naoe Kanetsugu and Maeda Keiji, two ridiculously large and powerful "legitimate eccentrics," recount their exploits dispensing their brand of "RIGHTEOUSNESS" all over Sengoku-era Japan. It has the right attitude to make this sort of narrative funny and fun, clearly not taking itself very seriously with things like an over the top opening (entirely composed of recycled footage of course) named "SAMURAI ROCK" with lines like "come on come on come come on SAMURAI BABY" in English and heavily, heavily caricatured depictions of most of its characters. When watched with friends this can all make for a very righteous (and enjoyable) experience.
But don't get me wrong, this show is not very righteous (or good) in any traditional sense of the word. Gifuu Doudou!! is plagued by all sorts of problems, from its extremely low budget to its terrible writing and strawman characters. In the world of Gifuu Doudou!!, physical size roughly correlates to righteousness which roughly correlates to power.
Most characters are not very big.
Okay, so having our protagonists tower over all of the other characters in every scene can be fun if you are the sort of person who can look at that sort of absurdity with an appreciative attitude, but there is one aspect of this show that absolutely lacks righteousness: Gifuu Doudou!! hardly deserves to be called a piece of animation. Perhaps Studio DEEN decided that its money was better spent elsewhere, but this is one of the most plainly underfunded anime of recent years. Foreground characters rarely do much more than flap their mouths, background characters never even move, some episodes are almost entirely recycled footage from previous episodes, and most shots are slow pans across a still image or hilarious slow dramatic zoom-ins on some character's massive face. Most egregious, however, are the "action" scenes. Shirohata Bob, the director, generally does a good job of avoiding action whenever he can by just cutting to shots of bodies on the ground after the enemies have been dispatched (wouldn't want to have to draw too many frames). However, whenever he is forced to show actual combat, the result isn't pretty. Having the top of someone's body literally slide off of his stationary legs while an enormous quantity of horrible looking blood gushes out is bad enough, but even worse is when the director takes a still shot, overlays some diagonal lines, and literally just shakes it for about ten seconds in some sort of pathetic attempt to convey motion. I understand that you're working with approximately one frame every ten seconds, but please, Bob, please don't just shake the camera like that.
If you have friends available to take along for the ride and the right kind of appreciation for absurdly over the top samurai-ninja-tiger-monks (Maeda. Keiji.) I wholeheartedly recommend Gifuu Doudou!!. If not, you won't get very much out of this weekly dose of righteousness.read more
Some might find it difficult to get into this show. The way the story is told to us makes it clear that the two main characters have survived whatever ordeals they faced, and the action itself is not nearly as kinetically satisfying, juicy or frequent as you get in lots of other anime, particularly ones that tend away from the moe side of the scale. Therefore, don't go into this expecting a huge amount of intensity, drama, action or gushing feels. Gifu Dodo is in essence a temperate tale told in smaller stories and adventures that tend to involve strategy, philosophy, courage and loyalty, all imbibed with and pulled together by a theme of fraternal righteousness that actually has an effect unlike the best dialogue between characters many other shows have to offer. It somehow manages to do this without coming across as pretentious, most likely given the upbeat and ridiculous yet resolute tone embellished by some great, strong visuals and soundtrack. Though the show is for the most part extremely serious and can be taken as such, this actually makes it quite humorous too on the side. This is summarized aptly by the character of Uesugi Kagekatsu, the' man who has never smiled', who furrows his brow in such a manly way that it makes creaking sounds...
Despite the humorousness of the exaggerated masculinity, the series is riddled with memorable scenes that are slowly and deliberately set up. It's soothingly anti-hyperactive material that you can really sit down to and appreciate at your pace, one episode at a time or several. The same can't be said of many superior animes, which often are either action from start to finish, or which unhappily lurch between this and filler episodes that fail to satisfy.
Unfortunately, the budding brotherhood between Kanetsugu and Keiji, which by the midpoint of the show had evolved to become one of its main charms, was all but discarded for the second half. It starts to feel strange that Keiji only really has a presence in the opening and closing credits as well as the sake-drinking scenes of discussion with his friend in the present, given that the show seemed to be about the two of them rather than simply how awesome Kanetsugu is, and the plots around his origins. A host of side-characters file in and out of the episodes, but tend to fail at filling the gap left behind by the eccentric tiger-warrior, not least when they introduce a certain non-human character and give the slightly dull ninja a more central role. I'm not saying any of this to spoil anyone, but rather because I kept expecting Keiji to show up again during the second half, and my viewing experience suffered due to this never happening.
Moreover, while I only have praise for the better scenes of this series, there is a lot of time in each episode filled by less impressive or interesting activity, which is a shame because it results in a test of patience that it would appear many potential viewers of this show weren't prepared to put up with. The theme of righteousness and exploration of various individuals' pursuit of it in their own ways is also somewhat dropped and altogether, despite the brilliant denouements in episodes 21 and 25, the second half of Gifu Dodo felt somewhat lacking in departments that it initially charmed me with.
Still, it remains a great anime, its flaws being largely made up for by its exaggerated, uplifting, masculine charm. Feel like a change from screaming, teenaged protagonists, moe and hyperactiveness? Kick back and watch Gifu Dodo.