Blue Eye Samurai

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Blue Eye Samurai
Promotional poster
Genre
Created by
Directed byJane Wu
Voices of
Music byAmie Doherty
Country of origin
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes8
Production
Executive producers
Producers
  • Jane Wu
  • Nick Read
  • Nicholas Cofrancesco
  • Haven Alexander
  • Kevin Hart
Editors
  • Yuka Shirasuna
  • Brad Lee Zimmerman
Running time35–62 minutes
Production companies
Original release
NetworkNetflix
ReleaseNovember 3, 2023 (2023-11-03) –
present (present)

Blue Eye Samurai is an adult animated action television series created and written by wife-and-husband team Amber Noizumi[1][2] and Michael Green, with supervising director and series producer Jane Wu, co-produced and animated by the French studio Blue Spirit [fr]. On December 11, 2023, the series was renewed for a second season.

Premise[edit]

During Japan's Edo period (17th century), half-white half-Japanese onna-musha (female warrior) Mizu quests for vengeance against four white men, one of whom is her father, who illegally remained in Japan during the closing of its borders by the Tokugawa shogunate.[3]

Voice cast[edit]

Main[edit]

  • Maya Erskine as Mizu, a female mixed-race blue-eyed bushi. Her experiences of discrimination as a mixed-race Japanese woman have left her cold, bitter and vengeful. She disguises herself as a man to pursue her path of revenge more freely.
  • Masi Oka as Ringo, an optimistic, handless male cook who idolizes Mizu. Despite Mizu initially not wanting a companion, she later tolerates Ringo. He proves surprisingly helpful and loyal to Mizu.
  • Darren Barnet as Taigen, a promising but arrogant male swordsman of humble origins. He is in love with Princess Akemi and harbors a strong resentment towards Mizu, which has lasted since their childhoods, and later seeks revenge after being humiliated in a duel which cuts off his engagement with Akemi.
  • Brenda Song as Princess Akemi, the pampered but strong-willed daughter of a nouveau riche lord. She is in love with Taigen and resents her father's control over her and seeks a life of independence.
  • George Takei as Seki, Princess Akemi's male tutor. He sympathizes with Akemi's situation and later takes steps to ensure her freedom.
  • Randall Park as Heiji Shindo, Fowler's nominal jailor and accomplice.
  • Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Master Eiji, a blind swordsmith who raised Mizu. He was the first person to show Mizu kindness, partially because he cannot see her; as a result, Mizu holds deep respect for him, referring to him as "Swordfather".
  • Kenneth Branagh as Abijah Fowler, an Irish smuggler who is allied with the Shogun, in secret defiance of Japan's Sakoku closed-door policies. He plans to overthrow the current Shogun and replace him with a leader who will open Japan to outside influence.

Recurring[edit]

  • Stephanie Hsu as Ise, a prostitute.
  • Ming-Na Wen as Madame Kaji, a cunning and savvy madam.
  • Harry Shum Jr. as Takayoshi, the Shogun's second son.
  • Mark Dacascos as Bloodsoaked Chiaki, an assassin and the leader of the Four Fangs gang.
  • Orli Mariko Green as Young Mizu
  • Judah Green as Young Taigen
  • Patrick Gallagher as Lord Daichi, Akemi's father.
  • Ann Harada as Mama, Mizu's unnamed adoptive mother. Although Mizu initially believed she was her biological mother, it's later revealed she was merely her maid who was paid to care for her.
  • Byron Mann as Mikio, a disgraced samurai in Mizu's flashbacks

Supporting voices are provided by Gedde Watanabe, Patrick Gallagher, Eric Bauza, Clyde Kusatsu, Keone Young, Brittany Ishibashi, Holly Chou, Marcus Choi, Amber Noizumi, Mark Dacascos, Matthew Yang King, Jane Wu, West Liang, Alain Uy, Takaaki Hirakawa, Sherry Cola, and Christine Ko.

Episodes[edit]

Series overview
SeriesEpisodesOriginally released
183 November 2023 (2023-11-03)

Season 1 (2023)[edit]

No.
overall
No. in
season
TitleDirected byWritten byRuntimeOriginal air date
11"Hammerscale"Jane WuAmber Noizumi & Michael Green62 min3 November 2023 (2023-11-03)

In a soba (noodle) shop, Mizu encounters a "flesh-trader" (a purveyor of women to brothels) with a Western pistol. Mizu forces him to reveal the name of the weapons dealer, Heiji Shindo. Ringo, the kitchen attendant, follows Mizu and implores to be taken as an apprentice.

Princess Akemi, the only daughter of the Daimyo of Kyoto, Lord Daiichi Tokunobu, convinces her father to approve of her marriage to Taigen, a young and accomplished samurai. Mizu seeks a meeting with the master of the Shindo Dojo to find out the location of his brother, Heiji Shindo. When the request is denied it leads to conflict; Mizu defeats the students easily. Taigen, who tormented Mizu as a child, is now the dojo's prized champion, but when Mizu defeats him, the master reveals the location of his brother.

In a flashback as a child, Mizu encounters Master Eiji, a blind swordsmith; they recover a glowing blue metallic meteorite. She becomes his apprentice and learns swordsmithing and swordcraft.

In the present, at the behest of a foreigner, Heiji Shindo dispatches assassins the "Four Fangs" to kill Mizu. Ringo discovers that Mizu is a woman.
22"An Unexpected Element"Ryan O'LoughlinMichael Green & Amber Noizumi48 min3 November 2023 (2023-11-03)

Reluctantly allowing Ringo to join her, Mizu arrives at a coastal town, seeking to hire a boat to reach Shindo’s island fortress. Shindo and the foreigner plot a 'surprise' for the Shogun in Edo. Taigen pursues Mizu to regain his honor. Because of Taigen's defeat, Akemi's father plans to marry her off to the Shogun's widowed second son and will take her to Edo in five days, despite her objections. She decides to run away in search of Taigen, although her father's retainer Seki catches her and, unable to stop her, joins her instead.

While Ringo participates in the town Hadaka Matsuri festivities, Mizu trains on the cliffs above. She remembers an assassin named Blood-soaked Chiaki, who tricked her and Sword-father into forging him a sword, which broke near the tip during the forging process due to Mizu's inexperience. The Four Fangs attack, with their leader revealed to be Chiaki, still using the broken blade. Mizu battles the Fangs on the cliff face and kills all four, although she is heavily injured in the process. Taigen, having tracked Mizu down reveals himself and challenges her, to which she complies but suddenly collapses due to blood loss; leaving Taigen hesitant to strike.
33"A Fixed Number of Paths"Earl A. Hibbert
Alan Wan
Michael Green & Amber Noizumi45 min3 November 2023 (2023-11-03)

Taigen and Ringo take Mizu to shelter at a nearby shrine. Mizu agrees to a contract to duel Taigen once she is recovered. A huge man with a club delivers an invitation to a ‘Tea ceremony’ with Heiji. Though Taigen suspects this to be a trap, Mizu accepts and they both travel to the meeting. Heiji gives Mizu three options: be paid off to renounce her vendetta, be smuggled into Heiji's castle in sake barrels to kill the white man, or refuse and be killed by archers supposedly hiding nearby. Mizu calls Heiji's bluff and cuts off his arm. Taigen and Mizu escape with Ringo's help while being bombarded by hundreds of arrows. Afterwards, Mizu knocks Taigen unconscious and leaves him with Chiaki's broken blade and a note promising to attend their duel at a later time. Taigen is subsequently kidnapped and taken to Heiji's castle.

Seki and Akemi are ambushed by brigands and lose their money and transport. They hire a cart using the last of Akemi's jewelry, but Akemi discovers that they are traveling in the wrong direction. Seki reveals he has enough money to hire a horse back to the palace, and implores Akemi to give up the search for Taigen and accept the marriage which he brought before her father. Akemi angrily rejects the offer and tricks a flesh trader into transporting her instead.
44"Peculiarities"Ryan O'LoughlinMichael Green & Amber Noizumi47 min3 November 2023 (2023-11-03)

Mizu seeks out Madame Kaji’s brothel to follow up on what Heiji Shindo revealed about how prostitutes enter the castle of Abijah Fowler, the white man she is seeking. Kaji promises to give her the information if Mizu agrees to mercy kill Kinuyo, a deaf-mute girl who was in Kaji's care before being forcibly taken by the local "thousand-claws" mob boss Hamata. After convincing Kinuyo to believe Mizu will protect her, Mizu carries out her task and leaves the scene making Kinuyo's death look like an accident. However, on her way out a boy sees her; Hamata arrives at Kaiji's brothel with his fighters and orders them to kill everyone.

After realizing Akemi has run off, Lord Daiichi sends his men after her. Akemi ends up in the same town as Mizu and sees her with Taigen's scarf, entering the brothel. Akemi persuades the purveyor to trade her there. To prove her competence when tasked by Madam Kaiji with pleasuring a veteran customer with erectile difficulties, she tactfully uses his interest in poetry and her proficiency in the subject to stimulate and bring him to climax. While she's being applauded for her talent she volunteers to serve Mizu in an attempt to drug her.

At the castle fortress, Taigen is being tortured by Shindo for information about Mizu.
55"The Tale of the Ronin and the Bride"Michael GreenAmber Noizumi46 min3 November 2023 (2023-11-03)

Faced with the threat of Hamata's men, Mizu gathers the women of the brothel in the cellar and tasks Ringo with guarding them. Inside the brothel, she starts taking out the thousand claws individually, but one manages to wound Mizu, resulting in her slowly losing strength.

In a flashback Mizu has while being attacked, allegorical with the tale of the first rōnin, Mizu is seen receiving a similar wound from some gangsters, and is later saved by her presumed-dead mother, who goes on to arrange a marriage between Mizu and a disgraced samurai, Mikio. Mizu gradually opens up to her new husband, but when she beats him in a sparring match, he calls her a monster. He fails to help her when soldiers arrive to collect the bounty on her head. Feeling betrayed, she battles the group and kills them. Mikio and Mizu's mother fight over who betrayed Mizu. Mikio stabs Mizu's mother to death. Mizu kills Mikio and leaves. A narrated bunraku puppet theater play intersperses and complements the storytelling, with its female protagonist eventually transforming into an Onryō, a vengeful spirit.

In reality, Mizu is pinned down but manages to summon back her strength, turns her sword into a makeshift Naginata, and kills Hamata’s men. The men sent by Lord Daichi arrive to take Akemi back home and though she pleads with Mizu to help her, Mizu doesn't intervene. Ringo, angered over his master's callous decision, ends his apprenticeship.

Panning out from the frame narrative, Princess Akemi is shown at the Shogun's palace with her teeth blackened to mark her status as a bride.
66"All Evil Dreams and Angry Words"Earl A. Hibbert
Sunny Sun
Amber Noizumi & Michael Green35 min3 November 2023 (2023-11-03)

Mizu follows the instructions relayed by Madam Kaji, finding the underground passageway to the castle littered with the skeletons of women and infants. While trying to unlock the door to exit the tunnel, she accidentally triggers a water trap and just manages to escape drowning, but loses most of her gear. Her covert entrance is blown when a soldier sounds the alarm, interrupting Heiji and Fowler's meeting at the upper level with two of the Shogun's advisers as they conspire to kill the Shogun and his family to take power by force using guns in Fowler's possession.

Mizu proceeds upwards through the palace, sustaining injury from the numerous castle traps and guards. Eventually, she makes it to a dungeon area where she fights her way through released prisoners before stumbling upon the cell holding a badly injured Taigen. She carries him with her till she comes across the giant carrying a club. Mizu defeats him with an explosive that also breaches the outer castle wall. She then climbs to the top of the outer wall while carrying Taigen, and then confronts Fowler. He shoots at them, injuring Mizu and breaking her sword in two. While Fowler is trying to kill Taigen, Mizu grabs him and jumps into the freezing water below where a hand extends towards them as they are about to drown.
77"Nothing Broken"Alan TaylorYana Bille-Chung45 min3 November 2023 (2023-11-03)

Ringo saves Mizu and Taigen, bringing their unconscious bodies to Sword Father’s hut. While recovering, Mizu's relationship with Taigen starts taking a non-combative and suggestive turn. This comes undone when she reveals Akemi's marriage to the Shogun's son, and of Fowler's impending attack on the Shogunate. Taigen rejects Mizu's broken blade and leaves for Edo to save Akemi and warn the Shogun, vowing to kill her when he returns. After multiple failed attempts and an epiphany that results in mending ties with Ringo, Mizu manages to recreate the metallurgy of her sword's steel but refrains from reforging it until she has slain Fowler. Mizu and Ringo leave for Edo to save Akemi and kill Fowler.

Akemi is chafing against the restraints of her new position in the Shogunate and endures the machinations of her cruel mother-in-law. She confronts her husband, discovering him to be gentle, despite his reputation (the result of propaganda), and also insecure—and pliable—due to his severe stammer. She strikes an understanding with him which leads to the consummation of their marriage. She uses her newly gained wealth to hire the prostitutes of Madam Kaji’s brothel as her new attendants. One of these, Ise, informs her of Fowler's plans which they relay to Akemi's father Lord Daichi, who to Akemi's horror kills Ise, revealing himself to be involved in the conspiracy. He then confines Akemi in a basement cell.
88"The Great Fire of 1657"Jane WuMichael Green & Amber Noizumi49 min3 November 2023 (2023-11-03)

Mizu asks Ringo to wait by the sewers while she saves Akemi and sends her his way. Taigen finds Ringo and they decide to storm the front gate to warn the Shogun about the impending attack, which shortly ensues as Fowler’s army breaks through the castle defenses. Seki saves Akemi from her cell, locking her father in her place, but they are outnumbered by soldiers until Mizu arrives. Heiji opens the final gate from the inside, giving Fowler access to the Shogun and his family. Fowler kills the Shogun, but the Shogun's sons and wife escape after Mizu crashes in, leaving Taigen to kill Heiji Shindo. Mizu subdues Fowler after starting a fire while attempting to stop him from fleeing, which rapidly spreads throughout the castle and then to the city.[c]

Fowler tells Mizu that they'll have to travel to London to find the remaining two white men, and that the woman she thought to be her mother was a maid paid to raise her. Seki and Akemi shut the front gate of the castle, preventing Fowler’s men from escaping the roaring fire but Seki is fatally shot. Taigen finds Akemi outside the castle and offers to run away with her, but she declines, choosing to remain in Edo with the Shogun's surviving family and her father, Lord Daichi. Ringo returns to Sword Father, convinced that Mizu has perished in the fire. Mizu leaves on a ship with Fowler as her captive.

Production[edit]

In October 2020 it was reported that Netflix had greenlit production of the series, with creators Green and Noizumi acting as writers, executive producers and showrunners,[3] with 2D/3D-hybrid animation by French studio Blue Spirit.[1] They wanted it to "look like a moving painting" with character design drawn from bunraku puppets. Inspiration was taken from the character Zatoichi, the "Man with No Name", and the works of Akira Kurosawa.[4][5] The creators have stated their aim to make three or four seasons, and a possible spinoff.[5]

Episodes 1-7 have an aspect ratio of 16:9, with episode 8 changing to a more cinematic 2.35:1.[6]

On December 11, 2023, the series was renewed for a second season.[7]

Release[edit]

The first episode was released on November 1, 2023 on Netflix's YouTube channel.[8] The entire series was released on November 3 on Netflix, consisting of 8 episodes.

A special version of episode 6 was released on November 15, 2023 on the Netflix YouTube channel. It features a largely black-and-white palette and an altered soundtrack.[9]

Reception[edit]

The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 100% critic rating with an average rating of 8.4 out of 10 based on 24 reviews. The website's critics' consensus says: "Visually dazzling while paying deft attention to character, Blue Eye Samurai is a masterfully rendered animated adventure."[10] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned a score of 88 out of 100 based on 6 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[11]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
2024
American Cinema Editors Awards Best Edited Animated Series Yuka Shirasuna (for "The Tale of the Ronin and the Bride") Won [12]
Annie Awards Best Mature Audience Animated Television/Broadcast Production "Hammerscale" Won [13]
Outstanding Achievement for Animated Effects in an Animated Television/Broadcast Production Thomas Decaens, Karl Burtin, and Laurent Bretonniere (for "All Evil Dreams and Angry Words") Won
Outstanding Achievement for Character Animation in an Animated Television / Broadcast Production Alex Bard Won
Outstanding Achievement for Editorial in an Animated Television / Broadcast Production Yuka Shirasuna (for "The Tale of the Ronin and the Bride") Won
Outstanding Achievement for Production Design in an Animated Television / Broadcast Production Jason Scheier (for "Hammerscale") Nominated
Toby Wilson, James Wilson, and Emil Mitev (for "The Great Fire of 1657") Won
Outstanding Achievement for Writing in an Animated Television / Broadcast Production Amber Noizumi (for "The Tale of the Ronin and the Bride") Won

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Animation and co-production
  2. ^ Production
  3. ^ This coincides with the historical Great Fire of Meireki

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Bitran, Tara (2023-11-14). "Swear Allegiance to the 'Blue Eye Samurai' This November". Netflix.
  2. ^ Breznican, Anthony (26 September 2023). "The Pink-Haired Secret Weapon Behind 'Blue Eye Samurai'". Vanity Fair.
  3. ^ a b Andreeva, Nellie (9 October 2020). "Netflix Orders 'Blue Eye Samurai' Animated Action Series from Michael Green & Amber Noizumi; Maya Erskine, George Takei, Masi Oka & Randall Park Lead Cast".
  4. ^ "Behind the Animation of Blue Eye Samurai", TUDUM by Netflix, 2023-10-31
  5. ^ a b Deckelmeier, Joe (2023-11-03), "Blue Eye Samurai Interview: Creators On Clint Eastwood Inspiration & Live Action Feel In Animation", Screenrant
  6. ^ "List of TV Shows with Aspect Ratios Wider Than 16:9", videofileblog.com
  7. ^ Goldberg, Lesley (2023-12-11), "'Blue Eye Samurai' Renewed for Season 2 at Netflix", Hollywood Reporter
  8. ^ Blue Eye Samurai | Hammerscale | Full Episode | Netflix, retrieved 2024-01-26
  9. ^ Blue Eye Samurai | All Evil Dreams & Angry Words | Special Edition | Full Episode | Netflix, retrieved 2024-01-26
  10. ^ "Blue Eye Samurai: Season 1". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 27, 2023.
  11. ^ "Blue Eye Samurai: Season 1". Metacritic. Fandom, Inc. Retrieved November 13, 2023.
  12. ^ Erik, Pedersen (January 25, 2024). "ACE Eddie Awards Nominations: 'Oppenheimer', 'Barbie', 'Anatomy of a Fall', & More Vie for Editing Prizes". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 25, 2024.
  13. ^ "Annie Awards Nominations: 'Nimona' Looks Down On 'Boy And The Heron' & 'Across The Spider-Verse', Leads Film Field". Cartoon Brew. January 11, 2024. Archived from the original on 2024-01-11.

External links[edit]