In the final volume of this series, Rin and Manji are getting ever closer to their goal of obtaining vengeance for the murder of Rin’s parents. Having already defeated ten members of the dastardly Ittou-Ryuu clan, Rin finally comes face-to-face with the two men most directly responsible. First she meets the man responsible for the rape of her mother, only to find he is now a single parent to a good hearted young boy. Can she avenge her mother knowing that she will make an orphan of the child, and possibly set him down the same path she now follows? Later she faces the man who murdered her father, only to find his skills greatly outclass her own.
The four episodes on this disc bring the series to an end, and are on par with the earlier episodes of this classy, atmospheric samurai drama. The animation and design are of a high standard – although obviously simplified from the phenomenal art of the original manga. The visuals have a slightly washed out look, lacking the bright colours of many anime. This suits the atmosphere down to the ground, and gives it a kind of timeless feel. Apart from a few fairly subtle digital effects, this looks like it has been animated by hand and could have been made years ago. The animation quality throughout the whole show is also consistent, being well done from start to finish.
The real strength of the series though is the characters. Everyone, from hero to villain, and even some of the minor characters, is depicted with considerable depth. The bad guys are given believable motives and are not just two-dimensional pantomime baddies. Likewise the heroes are flawed, and not just pure hearted saints. Rin has to make tough decisions, and it makes for some very compelling viewing.
Something you may have picked up from the synopsis, is that these episodes revolve very much around Rin. In theory this is very much Manji’s story – he is The Immortal of the title after all – but for much of this disc he takes something of a back seat. It’s a potentially risky idea, but it pays off as Rin’s story is so engaging. In retrospect it’s actually her quest that is the driving force behind the whole series, and it’s that that keeps you coming back to see how it will resolve.
This is where the problem comes in. Blade Of The Immortal is a very long running manga, having run for about twenty years and counting, but the anime is quite short. At thirteen episodes, you could never expect (and would not want) them to fit in the whole plot. Attempting to tell a shorter story such as Rin’s quest is quite a sensible idea, then. At least if you finish it properly. Sadly, considering how well executed (no pun intended) the rest of the series is, the end is highly unsatisfying. I wasn’t expecting it all to be tied up with a neat little bow, but the end pretty much just fizzes out. What we have here might have been OK as an end of a season, but as an end of a whole series it is disappointing.
There are a number of possibilities for the ending. I have suspicions that it may have been that they intended to continue the series but low ratings put paid to that. It could have even been cancelled part way through; it certainly doesn’t feel like an ending. It’s a great shame that there hasn’t been another series, and at this point it is highly unlikely there will be. Of course if you want to know what happens, you can always read on in the manga; it’s possible that this was always the intention.
Duff ending or not, this shouldn’t be allowed to take away too much from the series as a whole. Other than this misstep, this has been a very strong, elegantly made series, up there with the best of samurai sagas. It seems that this series has been somewhat underappreciated, and has not made much of an impact on either side of the Pacific, which is a great shame indeed.