Netflix Original Anime Series Swordgai: The Animation / ????? tells the tragic story of Gai, a child abandoned from birth, his self-inflicted retribution serves to set a course of anguish and torment in the face of peril. As tragedy unfolds, Gai is gifted a mechanical arm, forged from a sword notorious for being possessed by demon souls. The series aims to answer questions of human error and weakness. The Netflix Anime series was released on March 23, 2018.
Netflix has been creeping into the anime world for quite some time now, streaming classics and beloved anime content sure to bring in a boastful quantity of watchers. Now Netflix is dipping its toes into original anime series‘, expanding their collection and earning a reputation as a platform for anime enthusiasts. Although this has not come without its flaws, Netflix is slowly gaining prominent association for “quantity over quality” with their ambitious number of monthly releases, leading to a jumble of content inconsistent with standards. Albeit as an anime fan myself, I appreciate the investment and interest Netflix is giving to anime material in efforts to bolster their collection of differing entertainment styles. Netflix Original anime series Swordgai: The Animation / ????? deserves some appreciation.
Luckily enough, the worry we often experience when choosing a Netflix original, the fear of it falling just below the mark, does not apply to Swordgai: The Animation. The anime series sets the scene early on as we are greeted with sights of blood, destruction and slaughter. Gai is a young boy found at birth next to the corpse of his mother, gripping onto the sword of Shiryu. He is adopted by a humble swordsmith and Gai soon grows to become his loyal apprentice. After a grisly accident, the young boy has been provided with a mechanical arm that his master created out of the cursed sword, in hope that this new arm will protect Gai throughout his life.
In the Swordgai: The Animation universe, weapons are not just instruments of pain and murder, they have life. Cursed with the legends of their origin, these swords possess wishes, souls and even devils, each carrying the remains of anger, hurt and misery of the victims they befell. The weapons desire to possess a living soul, any human who has been inclined to feel the will of homicide or hurt towards another has the potential to bond with a fated instrument. Once this happens, a human of weak mind will succumb to the weapon‘s intentions, transmuting into a Busoma, a personification of the weapon, full body armour with only the goal of destroying life. On the other hand, a human with a strong mind and favourable morals (most of the time) may be given a second chance to redeem themselves, doomed to eventually become a Busoma. These humans are called Chrysalises, humans who have been bonded with a weapon but also maintain their human form, yet with each fight, each kill, they step closer and closer to their inevitable fate.
Published by Shogakukan’s Seinen Manga magazine Hero’s in 2012, Swordgai was originally a 6 volume Manga written by Toshiki Inoue with original character design by Keita Amemiya and art by Wosamu Kine. The artists of Swordgai: The Animation should be commended for their interpretation of the original source material, sticking true to its style and character; it is clear the artists and writers really took the time to study the Manga, bringing it to life in a beautiful manner. Although the Manga itself is plenty more gory and explicit, Swordgai: The Animation is still abundant enough in scarlet to keep the audience engrossed and in awe of the onscreen violence.
The protagonist of Swordgai: The Animation leaves much to the imagination. His disdain for affection and ignorance of his own good fortune makes Gai almost hard to like. Ungrateful would be an appropriate word for his character. This attitude guides you to feel protective of Gai, so young as he naively stumbles through the plot; you are left yearning for a redeeming character arc as he battles demons both physically and internally. Swordgai: The Animation offers an abundance of eccentric, colourful and unique characters that serve to beautify the narrative and give heart to the anime. It’s easy to have favourites very quickly, no matter what their fate or morals may be, this is an impeccable example of how to write characters with goals, backstory and personality with three-dimensional execution.
Overall, I highly recommend Swordgai: The Animation for your next Netflix binge. A fantastical display of violence, action and humanity, the Netflix Original anime series delivers a captivating story that will leave you without detest for the countdown for the next episode. Although it is only one season with an extensive list of characters and plotlines to get your head around, I can see that Swordgai: The Animation has great prospects and potential for further seasons.
Maggie has been a film critic for Ready Steady Cut since 2018. Maggie gained a BSc in Film Production and Technology leading to her most notable credit for the production designer for a short film screened as part of the London Film Festival line up.