Young Sanshiro Kurenai is the proud heir of a judo dojo. One day, he finds his beloved father dead and a glass eye not too far from the corpse. Ready to avenge his father and take his honour back, Sanshiro and his friend Ken start searching for the mysterious one-eyed murderer...
Exploring all the quirks of this anime never ceases to amaze me. You see commenting on Kurenai Sanshiro is like opening a Matryoshka, a Russian doll, every time you uncap a doll you find a smaller doll inside it and so on. Likewise for Kurenai Sanshiro, aka Judo boy, each info leads to another and so on.
So this is no brief review but I humbly believe the anime deserves these clarifications.
First of all Kurenai Sanshiro was never licensed in USA, this might explain why English reviews about it are so scarce. However the anime aired in foreign countries under the name
"Judo Boy" (France, Italy) or "El Rey del Judo" (Spain, Chile). Consequently there is no English dub for this anime. So I will mostly talk about the French dub. Now for the loyal readers who didn’t run away screaming ^^, let’s get to the meat of this review:
This is the tale of a young man on a quest to avenge his father. Sanshiro arrives too late on the crime scene only to find a glass-eye lying on the ground near the body of his father. This is his only clue: Sanshiro knows the killer is a one-eyed man.
Needless to say you can expect Sanshiro to face a sizeable amount of baddies with eye-patches in those 26 episodes ; ). Remarkably for such an oldie, the anime is quite brutal. People die left and right in Kurenai Sanshiro, especially the weak. In other words Sanshiro has the Death’s Touch, often when he shows up in town you can sure bet someone will kick the bucket (friend or foe ^^).
ART & ANIMATION
Even though Judo Boy aired in Europe during the ’80, the original Japanese broadcast actually dates back to 1969. So don’t expect anything jaw-dropping or perfectly smooth. Still this a Tatsunoko Production we’re talking about, so the Character Design and the Art Style truly stand out. Characters are full of life and their looks feels relatively realistic (their face, their clothing, etc). The anime displays vibrant colors which is surprising considering the age of this show.
DVD BOX SETS AND DUB
Note that all these Box Sets have MONO sound. Yeah I know this is pretty rough but the show is quite old so no surprise here.
1- Japanese DVD Box Set: Japanese dub only, goodies included,
2- French Simple Edition: French dub only, no goodies,
3- French Collector Edition: dual-audio Japanese-French, goodies included (illustrations, informative booklet). If you’re a Frenchie this is the recommended edition. Now a note on the French dub:
The French dub is legendary, ‘nuff said. First because the French voice cast was made of the most talented actors of the industry of the time (Philippe Ogouz, Francis Lax, Jacques Balutin, Gérard Hernandez, Georges Atlas, Daniel Gall, Claude Chantal, Amélie Morin…) Seriously the list goes on.
The undeniable highlight is late François Leccia who voiced Sanshiro. He has voiced a multitude of roles in his lifetime, but for anime fans his voice will always be tied to the main characters of Judo Boy and Albator 84, aka Captain Harlock SSX. There’s sincerity in his tone that makes all the characters he voiced forever likable.
Finally there’s the French opening sung by Michel Barouille. Endowed with a superb baritone voice this singer delivered a very solemn/martial rendition of the song, which stayed engrained in the minds of an entire generation of French kids, just youtube it and try to remove it from your head if you can ^^,
Kurenai Sanshiro was based on a manga of the same name drawn by Ippei Kuri. For the record Ippei Kuri was the brother of Kenji and Tatsuo Yoshida. The 3 brothers founded the anime studio Tatsunoko Production. As far as the drawing goes, the manga is nothing earth-shattering. There is a lack of dynamism in some pages that is typical of the era, but the narrative is effective.
In 2014 a quality edition of the manga was released in France by "Isan Manga" under the title Kurenai Sanshiro. This French-speaking collected edition (+370 pages) contains the complete story of Kurenai Sanshiro drawn by Ippei Kuri. Also as a bonus are added a few short stories of Sanshiro (unrelated to the main story) that were drawn by his brother Tatsuo Yoshida. Surprisingly the drawing of both brothers is quite similar.
1- ‘kurenai’ means ‘crimson (red),
2- The red jacket (uwagi) that Sanshiro wears when fighting was given by his mother. And when Sanshiro wears it he becomes almost invincible. On second look this gimmick is quite reminiscent of…Superman. Indeed Clark Kent too wears a red outfit - a red cape- when he turns into Superman. It was given by his mother too,
3- Sanshiro is not a judoka, he’s actually doing Jujutsu. So why this anime was translated as ‘Judo Boy’ in Europe for crying out loud? To find out please read the next anecdote ^^,
4- The whole anime is a tribute to the movie "Sanshiro Sugata", directed by Akira Kurosawa in 1943. To cut it short (I swear I’m trying hard ^_^) the main character named Sanshiro too, hehe what a coincidence, gives up on training Jujutsu only to learn Judo. And believe me the physical resemblance between the actor Susumu Fujita and Sanshiro from Judo Boy is totally stunning: the square jaw, the frank and inquisitive look and the bushy eyebrows, they totally nailed it. It was Akira Kurosawa’s first movie, it’s a decent watch but don’t expect anything of epic magnitude like "Seven Samurai" or "Kagemusha",
5- Akira Kurosowa being so idolized in Europe (for good reasons I feel) the people in charge of the European distribution of the anime probably made the link between Kurenai Sanshiro (the anime) and Sanshiro Sugata (the movie), this might explain why the anime was translated as ‘Judo Boy’ in those countries.
Kurenai Sanshiro is and old show that stands out, first visually then for his dramatic story. If you like animes where characters travel around then Judo Boy might please you: during his journey Sanshiro will visit quite a few places (Mexico, China, France, USA...) and each episode has a different storyline to keep viewers entertained. As a character Sanshiro is unforgettable, not only he’s charismatic but there is probity in him that makes him tremendously likable.
Now if you’re one of those anime fans who only swear by HD, then maybe this watch will cause you severe bleeding damage ^^. However if you care about the old stuff then by all means take a look, you might find it to your liking.
Now it’s time to close this review, ‘cos if we keep on digging like this then we’ll probably trace back to Jesus or the Big Bang even (but I truly could go on about Kurenai Sanshiro ; ) So this is goodbye. I sincerely hope you had a pleasant and informative read.