BLUE EYE SAMURAI. The original, BEST Netflix series of this year

This Netflix series is a real hit.

Jakub Piwoński

27 November 2023

A successful, valuable, and engaging series on Netflix is as rare these days as the blue color of Japanese eyes. For this reason, the new anime instantly rises to the status of a true original.

As I write these words, the average rating on IMDb is 9.0 with around 15,000 votes, which is quite an achievement. Is it deserved?

In November 2023, an anime bathed in Japanese cultural sauce premiered (though created with the participation of Americans). With samurais, shoguns, and katanas, crafted in accordance with the principles of bushido. No, I don’t mean the Onimusha adaptation that entered Netflix’s library around the same time. Blue Eye Samurai – that’s the title that should be added to the must-see list not only for every sushi enthusiast but generally for anyone who appreciates strong and vivid flavors in cinema.

If Japanese stories are to sell in the Western market, they need a universal, tested theme. One that resonates with the culture of both sides and is understandable to them. It just so happens that Asians – whether Japanese or Korean – are masters at telling revenge stories. Takashi Miike knows something about it, having turned bloody revenge into a sign of his style; Quentin Tarantino also knows it, as one of his films, paying homage to martial arts cinema, is based precisely on the theme of revenge.

Exactly the same tones are struck by the Blue Eye Samurai, telling the story of a warrior who desires nothing more than the death of his former tormentors.

For those somewhat more familiar with Asian cinema, the plot chosen in the Blue-eyed Samurai may seem cliché. Because how many times can the idea be exploited, according to which we find out that revenge is blind, and the one who is guilty must die, catering to primal instincts in the process. Apparently, in this simplicity, there is still a method for strongly impactful cinema. The key is the skillful selection of nuances and building the plot axis so that it contains much more stimuli for reflection. In this regard, the Netflix production is once again original.

The protagonist of the Blue-eyed Samurai is a certain Mizu, a mysterious warrior who has set out to avenge the death of his mother. Actually, it should be said “heroine” because, as it turns out, one of the mysteries Mizu hides is his own gender. Although she is a woman, she has decided to don the “costume” of a man because it is much better suited to achieving the set goal. Unfortunately, women in Edo period Japan had a completely different role to fulfill. They were far from wielding a sword. And it was precisely the art of wielding this weapon that interested Mizu the most.

The title Blue Eye Samurai should be considered an oxymoron. It is a juxtaposition of two conflicting concepts. Not only because it refers to a woman disguised as a man but also because the blue color of the eyes was something difficult, if not impossible, for the Japanese to achieve and therefore probably desirable. From the very beginning, the heroine draws the attention of those she meets on her path because, in behavior and appearance, she is difficult to define. This is also the case with this series, escaping clear categories, built on the theme of revenge, containing elements of melodrama, historical film, and adventure.

It is worth noting that another metaphor can be found in this. The Japan of that time was closed to the West. The black character of this story is, in turn, of white skin color. The twist in the film is that the appearance of a representative of the Caucasian race disrupts the old order and introduces a new quality. Japan is soon to open up, initiating the period of its prosperity. Before this happens, however, the new military technology must bring about destruction. We are dealing here with a story that tells that after the night comes the day, and the shedding of blood purifies not only the soul but also the environment.

Change first arises in thinking. Blue Eye Samurai is also a story about prejudice and cultural stereotypes. The title color is supposed to express mystery but also be a harbinger of change. Also, those that inspire fear. The story unfolds on both macro and micro scales. Japan wants to be different, but at the same time, it is comfortable in stagnation. Like the film’s heroine, for whom gender is a fluid concept, paradoxically, it is precisely the connection with the truth about herself and her physicality that allows her to make a breakthrough in the final scene.

These are probably just a few layers of this story, proving itself both as bloody action cinema and a philosophical allegory about the twisted nature of humanity. There is much more gold in this series, I assure you, as stylistically, it is also the highest test. It is watched in one breath; the eye likes it and wants more. It’s bold, escapist, and sexy. This last quality, alongside death, is the main seasoning of the series, giving it spiciness because it reduces the story to the inevitability of human desire – and whatever it may be, whatever sword it may be directed with, there is something enticing about it.

Jakub Piwoński

Jakub Piwoński

Cultural expert, passionate about popular culture, in particular films, series, computer games and comics. He likes to fly away to unknown, fantastic regions, thanks to his fascination with science fiction. Professionally, however, he looks back more often, thanks to his work as a museum promotion specialist, investigating the mysteries of the beginnings of cinematography. His favorite film is "The Matrix", because it combines two areas close to his heart - religion and martial arts.

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