Have you ever watched a show and immediately known that you would sell your right kidney to make everyone else watch it too? That’s what Netflix’s new adult animation series Blue Eye Samurai does for me.
The premise for Blue Eye Samurai came to co-creators and married couple Amber Noizumi and Michael Green upon having their daughter. Noizumi has spoken about her original excitement at her daughter’s blue eyes until she took a moment to think about it. “I kind of started thinking, “Why am I so excited that my daughter has blue eyes? What’s the big deal about that? And why am I so excited that I have a baby who looks more white?” In our early creative conversations, we were talking about how back in the Edo period starting in 17th-century Japan, it would’ve been illegal to be white. Nobody would’ve wanted to look white like that. We started spinning a tale that progressed slowly over the following 15 years.”
Thus began the tale of Mizu, the shunned Blue Eye Samurai herself. Based in 17th-century closed Japan, Blue Eyed Samurai follows a mixed-race woman as she journeys to get revenge on the four white men who could be her father. While hiding her identity as a woman and her blue eyes, Mizu travels across Japan on a quest for vengeance.
Is it worth checking out? If my desperation for fellow viewers hasn’t already spoiled you, let’s find out!
[Warning: Mild spoilers and impressions for Blue Eye Samurai below!]
Netflix’s Blue Eyed Samurai has something for everyone
Let’s cut to the chase. Should you watch this show? Yes. Absolutely yes. I wish this Blue Eye Samurai was in a bottle so that I could drink it. This series is visually beautiful, narratively captivating, and full of action-packed scenes that will leave you on the edge of your seat.
This series has something for everyone. Animation studio Blue Spirit has done a wonderful job creating a feast for the eyes. While fans of animation will love the gorgeous art of Blue Eye Samurai (a stunning 2D/3D blend), the show undeniably has a live-action edge. It has a cinematic nature that almost makes it feel like you are watching a heavily stylized live-action show. Even if you find yourself to not be the biggest fan of animation, I’d recommend checking this out.
It’s reminiscent of plenty of popular live-action cinema. If you liked The Witcher for its story of a shunned stoic warrior traveling with their goofy companion, you’ll love Mizu and her reluctantly accepted sidekick Ringo. Do you prefer the power struggle of Game of Thrones? The twists and turns of the Irish trader Fowler’s scheme to open Japan is for you. If you want the action and blood of a Tarantino movie, the fights of Blue Eye Samurai are an absolute must-see. Seriously, in one notable fight scene, our hero uses a fake sword to knock a man’s teeth out of his mouth and into another man’s eye. And that’s just from episode one.
Blue Eye Samurai has romance, politics, vengeance, and some tasteful gore, all wrapped up in stunning visuals. What more could you ask for?
Additionally, it’s thematically quite compelling. In many ways, this is a tale about how to achieve your goals in a world dead set against you. If you are a woman, or poor, or disabled, how do you find power in a world that gives you so few options? The characters each set out to find this out in their own ways. And oh boy, what compelling characters they are!
A captivating cast of characters in this adult animated series
The core of this show is its cast of characters. Something about our main character Mizu had my heart from the get-go. It wasn’t just her badass introduction: a classic restaurant fight scene where our mysterious protagonist introduces herself. It wasn’t just her killer character design or her stellar vocal performance by Maya Erskine. Mizu has the appeal of a classic vengeful hero done right. Her conflict between allowing herself to care for people, and her need for revenge, never gets boring to watch.
Equally entertaining is the way she can tear through an army of men like they’re made of wet paper towels. She’s possibly one of the strongest non-magical protagonists I’ve seen this year.
In all discretion, Mizu seems like she was made in a lab to occupy my brain specifically, but her morally ambiguous stoic charm cannot be understated. There wasn’t a single moment I wasn’t captivated with her, or any character I did not delight in watching her interact with.
Speaking of which, the side characters are stellar as well. Writers Amber Noizumi, Michael Green, and Yana Bille-Chung are great at delivering well-executed unique spins on well-known character archetypes. First, we have Mizu’s friend Ringo (Masi Oka), a soup chef born without hands who commits himself to be her disciple. He is a delightful underdog to root for and the core of the show’s more lighthearted moments. He’s the Donkey to Mizu’s Shrek, if Donkey had dreams of achieving greatness in either swordplay or noodle cooking. While Ringo is clearly already more capable than he thinks he is, his journey to become a hero is very compelling.
Then there’s Mizu’s self-proclaimed rival, a man named Taigen (Darren Barnet). After Mizu defeats and dishonors him, Taigen becomes hellbent on revenge. He’s got that age-old stuck-up rival charm. His commitment to defeating Mizu on fair and honorable terms shifts into a possibly romantic friendship that’s plenty of fun to watch unfold.
However, by far the most compelling side character to me is the princess Akemi voiced by Brenda Song. Throughout much of the show she has her own narrative going on. It’s quite enrapturing to wait until her path finally crosses with our protagonist. Akemi is a classic tale of a princess who feels trapped in her role and wants out. Her clever nature and continuous schemes get her in and out of endless precarious situations. While Mizu fights through the world with her blade, Akemi fights through the world with her brain. If you enjoy a good bout of mind games and political intrigue, you’ll like her.
The excellent voice cast also includes George Takei, Randall Park, Kenneth Branagh, Stephanie Hsu, and Ming-Na Wen, among others.
And, of course, we have our antagonists. Fowler (voiced by Kenneth Branagh) and his people. They’re solid villains, a good mix of intriguing and despicable. Basically, you hate them, you want to know more about them, and yet you wish you knew a little less about their unfortunate sex lives.
They were a continual reminder of this show’s mature rating. I do not think I have seen another animated series with this much full-frontal nudity. For all those who still are under the notion that animation is for kids, do not go into the show lightly. There’s sex, violence, and horror galore. It’s plenty of fun! But it is definitely an adult animated series.
When and where to watch Blue Eye Samurai
My biggest criticism of this show is that there is not yet a season two, and the season finale has me begging for more. Blue Eye Samurai is well worth the watch. It’s all the joys of a live-action historical drama tied with a bow of drop-dead gorgeous animation. If you like stellar characters, beautiful cinematography, and some kick-ass action, check it out!
You will find the first season of Blue Eye Samurai streaming on Netflix starting November 3rd. If you haven’t already, take a look at the official trailer on YouTube here. Are you planning on checking out this new animated series? Let us know what you think of it on social media @mycosmiccircus or The Cosmic Circus Discord.