animefringe july 2003 / feature
Animefringe Coverage:
Samurai Deeper Kyo - The Killer and the Healer

If you're an enemy of Mibu Kyoshiro, you wouldn't like him when he's angry. When his life is truly threatened, another personality emerges from within, fully capable of eliminating any potential threat to his well-being.

And no, I still haven't seen Ang Lee's The Hulk, yet.

In Samurai Deeper Kyo, available now in manga form from TOKYOPOP and on DVD from Media Blasters, a seemingly simple medicine peddler shares his body with an infamous man known as Demon Eyes Kyo. Set four years after the decisive Battle of Sekigahara - the bloody civil war that marked the rise of the Tokugawa Shogunate - Samurai Deeper Kyo blends familiar elements of Japanese history with a bit of fantasy, creating a series that fans of Inu-Yasha, Rurouni Kenshin, Blade of the Immortal, or even Vagabond should enjoy.

Kyoshiro doesn't garner much attention until the story's beginning, when he is captured by the beautiful (and resourceful) Shiina, a female bounty hunter. With a combination of good tracking skills, a talent for fooling men, and dumb luck, Shiina captures Kyoshiro for the pittance of a bounty on his head that he earned from eating at an inn and running off without paying the tab.

Shiina knows that there is an exorbitant bounty for the capture of Demon Eyes Kyo, and that he is wanted for the murder of more than a thousand men. What she doesn't realize, however, is that Kyo and Kyoshiro are one and the same. She ends up traveling with Kyoshiro, and in time, we learn that she is on a quest of her own, as well. All in all, the story features interesting characters with a complex history, and it's going to be fun watching the events to come unfold.

From the beginning, we aren't given too much of the back story. From the reputation that precedes him, it appears that Demon Eyes Kyo is a fearsome bloodthirsty killer; yet his behavior while trapped in Kyoshiro's body doesn't quite match that of a murderous madman. His fighting skills are impeccable, which is important as he faces both his enemies as well as the odd monsters that have appeared in the four years following Sekigahara.

Mibu Kyoshiro, on the other hand, is a comical character that is more concerned with his attractive companion's breasts than the outstanding warrant for his (and Demon Eyes Kyo's) arrest. As a healer, his skills are adequate, but there seems to be more to Kyoshiro than is revealed in the first few episodes of the anime (or the first manga volume for that matter).

As the story moves along, we're sure to learn more about Kyoshiro and Kyo's connection, and whether or not they're destined to stay bound to one another forever, or if there is some way they might live as separate beings once again. Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that remnants of the losing faction of the Battle of Sekigahara are gathering, possibly planning to attempt to take down the Tokugawa Shogunate once again. Either way, the mix of historical fiction with trace elements of fantasy and a character with multiple personalities should offer something for all sorts of anime and manga fans.

The anime version is based on the manga created by Akimine Kamijyo and published in Japan in 1999. As such, both the manga and anime editions of the series are visually sharp products. It's nice to see a simultaneous manga/anime release, since you can never really get too much of a good thing. Interestingly enough, Bandit King Jing, another near-simultaneous release, was animated by the same studio that handled Samurai Deeper Kyo, Studio Deen. The anime version of Kyo was directed by Junji Nishimura, and the music is performed by Jyukaikukyousougakudan. I just had to mention that group's name. Long name notwithstanding, the music is an energetic mix of rock and more classical-sounding background music that highlight the action with style.

I'm always a sucker for samurai shows, so you can be sure I already pre-ordered the whole set for this series. I even sprung for the collector's box, which is easily one of the greatest boxes ever released by a studio. It's made of wood with the logo on the front. A wood panel slides up to reveal the discs within, and it's wrapped by a paper sheath with artwork from the show. My box also came with a pack of stickers featuring the character shots shown between commercial breaks. And to top it all off, the collectors' box also had a $5 rebate included.

I got the whole thing at Deep Discount DVD for $27. Not too shabby.

If you love the sound of weapons clashing in a Japan of times past, then Samurai Deeper Kyo is a sure thing in either its manga or anime format. The manga is a bit more mature, for you can always get away with more in a book, but the anime series doesn't disappoint. I'd suggest doing as I did - buy them both!