Samurai Seven volume 5 : Empire in Flux

Image of DVD cover (40k jpg)

Released by: Madman Entertainment.
Region: Four.
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 (anamorphic)
Disc 1:

With their dead buried and most of the Samurai now helping in the process of rebuilding the village and finishing the harvest life begins to return to normal for Kanna village. Both Kambei and Katsuhiro are brooding though - each for quite different reasons. To everyone's surprise Kambei takes off without explaining what he is doing other than he feels his task is not yet complete. This abrupt departure distress Kambei and the others till a few figure out that Kambei is trying to return the village women who have been taken by the Nobuseri. As they put the pieces together they realise this will lead Kambei directly to the capital and into conflict with the Emperor.

Parelleling Kambei's journey is Ukyo's own travel. He too ends up heading to the Capital where a very surprising revealation is made regarding his past and the shape his future will take. Never one to pass up an opportunity for himself Ukyo seizes the hand fate has dealt him and furthers his own position at the expense of several other people. This includes Kambei who by the end of the disc is threatened with execution for both his actions and Ukyo's.

So the story begins to radicly shift away from the film and chart it's own path. You can see echoes of the point of the film here with frequent emphasis put on the background of various characters deeply influencing the way they handle their social status and attitude to life. But I can't help but feel that perhaps the writers missed the point a little especially in their handling of Ukyo. Here rather than having a character whose outlook in life is deeply influenced by his upbringing we instead have someone who is more determined by his lineage than anything else. A large part of the point of Seven Samurai the film was the social commentary on why the Samurai were both a blessing and a curse with the example of the noble ones who defend the village generally for the right reasons, the ones who turned down defending it for selfish reasons and the ones who turned to bandity simply because they knew no other way of living other than fighting. It made similar observations about the farmers too in how their own attitudes tended to engender the brutality they suffered.

While the series had been following the film plot structure closely a lot of the same subtext carried across. With the events in the capital it is now changing in focus and becoming more about the power plays at the upper echelons of society. Hopefully future episodes will pull this firmly back into context and there are hints that this is intended with Ukyo frequently referring to his background having been raised in the more rural environment. It still is entertaining and the cliffhanger that the last episode leaves yous will have you eager to get the next disc to see how this interesting remake will pan out.

Philip R. Banks
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