Given that the first two volumes of Samurai 7 were average but mildly entertaining, I was expecting much the same from the third instalment in the series. Unfortunately, these four episodes proved to be the weakest so far, making for an entirely mediocre and forgettable experience.
Last time around, our heroes had started making their way back to Kanna village, and the first half of the disc concludes this journey, quickly wrapping up the encounter with the Shikimori and recruiting the last of the seven samurai along the way. The final two episodes see the samurai settle in and start putting their plans to defend the village into place, although trouble soon ensues when it becomes clear that not all of the villagers are happy to have them there.
The problem I had with the first eight episodes of Samurai 7 is one that persists here; the story is simply far too generic and superficial to generate any real interest in what is going on. It’s almost as if the writers are simply working through a checklist of standard elements that must be included in the story, whilst wrapping up more interesting ideas, such as the underground dwelling Shikimori, within the space of an episode or two. Even the humorous moments which saved the first two volumes are absent here, replaced with scenes that can only be described as embarrassingly bad.
Characterisation remains similarly insipid; this volume the focus mainly falls on the youthful and eager Katsushiro, and Kyuzo, a new addition to the samurai seven, both of whom seem to be drawn from stock character types. In previous volumes, Kyuzo was introduced as a minor antagonist, but here he joins the group seemingly for no other reason than to fill out the numbers and quickly settles down into the standard anti-hero role- skilled, antisocial, and committed to one day having a proper face-off with Kambe. Katsushiro, meanwhile, is growing from a completely inexperienced warrior into a true samurai, although unfortunately it is an on-the-rails coming of age story that we’ve all seen many times before. The rest of the cast do get their moments in the spotlight, but it really isn’t enough to give them any additional depth; the villagers in particular are an average and uninspiring group, making it even more difficult to feel any sympathy for their plight.
This volume lacks any of the extended action scenes seen in previous instalments, but nonetheless those who like their swordfights will not be disappointed here. All of our protagonists get the chance to swing their katanas this time around, and even the mecha get in on the action, although admittedly their purpose seems to amount to little more than standing around and waiting to be dismembered by a samurai. The series is also back on solid ground with regards to the animation, but as before the majority of character designs are far from pleasing on the eye.
Without even the mild humour that made the first two volumes more enjoyable, Samurai 7 turns in a particularly dull and lifeless offering this time around. There are still several volumes to come, but at this stage it is hard to imagine that the series will have much of worth to offer in its second half.