Driven by a dream of revenge against those who made her an outcast. A young warrior cuts a bloody path toward her destiny. Netflix Animation, the streaming services’ in-house animation department, recently released one of their best-animated features. Blue Eye Samurai is an original animated series by husband and wife creative team Amber Noizumi and Michael Green (Logan, Blade Runner 2049) that is being loved so much that its being described as Kill Bill meets Yentl.
Blue Eye Samurai is a story set in 17th-century Japan during the Edo Period when the region was controlled by a military dictatorship instead of a monarchy. We follow Mizu (voiced by Maya Erskine), a mixed-race master of the sword who lives a life in disguise, seeking to deliver revenge.
17th century Japan is closed to the outside world; citizens never see faces who are not Japanese, except in rare cases of illegal trade “. Outsiders and children born of outsiders are seen as “less than human”, “monsters”, and “impure”.
Mizu’s blue eyes give her away as the child of a “white devil.” Mizu (Erskine) knows there were only four white men in Japan at the time of her birth and sets off to kill these men, one of whom might be her father, who made her a “creature of shame.” But revenge is not an option for women, so Mizu must forge her revenge quest while hiding her gender and her blue eyes.
Mizu is joined on her journey by Ringo (Masi Oka), an overeager soba maker who dreams of greatness; Taigen (Darren Barnet), a pompous samurai whose rivalry leads to an uneasy truce; and Princess Akemi (Brenda Song), Taigen’s betrothed, whose gilded life seems a foil to Mizu’s. Her revenge quest leads us across Edo-era Japan in a provocative series that immerses viewers in vivid adult animation with a live-action edge.
The Blue Eye Samurai cast includes famous names like Star Trek’s, George Takei (Seki), Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (The Swordmaker), Randall Park (Heiji Shindo), Tenet and Knives Out star, Kenneth Branagh (Abijah Fowler), Stephanie Hsu (Ise), Ming-Na Wen (Madame Kaji), Harry Shum Jr. (Takayoshi), and martial arts legend Mark Dacascos (Chiaki).
Audience and Critical Reception
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Netflix viewers and critics have praised the show. Blue Eye Samurai has a 100% critic score and a 94% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. Rebecca Nicholson from The Guardiancalls Blue Eye Samurai a fun, cinematic epic, praising the animation feature for its fight sequences, stellar cast and gorgeous visuals.
Writing for Slant Magazine, Ross McIndoe describes the show’s visuals as “quite stunning, from snow-covered forests to quaint villages and elaborate palaces, every corner of this world is gorgeously rendered.”
Speaking to Tudum about the show’s plot, creator Amber Noizumi described it as “an Edo-period tale of revenge — Kill Bill meets Yentl.” Mizu’s lone wolf character is similar to The Bride character in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill franchise. Like her, she is on a path of revenge, filled with epic sword fights.
Mizu’s conflict makes her an alien in her land and feeds into a personality which seeks violence and retribution. She is a silent, stoic cowboy figure similar to Clint Eastwood in films like The Man with No Name and Once Upon a Time in the West.
The excitement of following a gunslinger or, in this case, a sword master across feudal Japan hunting down bad guys sounds just as exciting as watching an old western with simple good guy vs bad guy setups. Blue Eye Samurai plays with genres like the Western and the Samurai film but also mixes in influences from historical fantasy epics like Game of Thrones and The Witcher.
Like Barbra Streisand’s Yentle character, Mizu has to negotiate her place as a female samurai warrior in a male world. The story explores themes of revenge, isolation and identity. Mizu is an outcast who experiences loneliness and rejection from her community because she is mixed race. The samurai warrior’s path of revenge forces her to deal with her anger and rejection, but at what cost?
Blue Eye Samurai is unlike any anime or Netflix animation that we have seen before. Blending beautiful art and animation techniques to give the series a traditional feel while still exploring the magnificent art style that the animation studio has been developing over the last decade. The way that the environment shifts and moves around the characters is beautiful, and if you give this stunning Netflix animation a chance you will be left in awe of the skillful way that the series was brought to life and how each frame builds your anticipation for what comes next.
Sensitive or younger audiences should note that Blue Eye Samurai is exceptionally violent and bloody. The series is aimed at adult viewers and contains sexual content as well. Blue Eye Samurai was released on Netflix on 3 November 2023.