I’ve honestly been having a hard time getting my thoughts together about this one, and I’m not entirely sure why.
It’s not that I can’t handle non-linear storytelling, but the way the conceit was approached in episode #1 here almost felt like a recap was being presented for a story already in progress. The time-displaced plot threads seemed like clips from the past half-dozen episodes of BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL - - but the numbering here would, of course, seem to rule that out, wouldn’t it?
Dark Horse has been publishing imports of the manga for many years, now, so I’m familiar with the basic concept. An un-killable samurai has to slay a thousand evil men in order to atone for his wantonly-murdering ways? It's sort of like the serious, Edo-era equivalent of that one TREEHOUSE OF HORROR episode where Homer’s sentenced to eat a continuous stream of donuts for eternity. Only the joke of that bit was that Homer ended up being content to just keep eating, anyway - - even after his gut was bursting from the stuffing - - and, judging by how many volumes of this series there are, I imagine our man Manji is likewise just getting a seemingly-more-benevolent excuse to satiate his bloodlust.
And hey, I’m not objecting to that. I just wish I got a clearer introduction to the guy!
I know I’m usually rolling my eyes when a series puts us through too rote and prolonged of a set-up, but even the seemingly-straightforward expository opener of Manji confessing his sins seemed a little obfuscating. Maybe this is just playing up on a bunch of samurai fiction tropes and archetypes which I’m not familiar enough with? I thought the situation with him caring for the deranged widow of a former victim was pretty intriguing, but then she’s offed just as quickly, so maybe I was expected to know what her deal was.
Manji, of course, shows up after the last slaughter and presents his plan for bloody redemption only after has the gallows humor moment of him picking a severed foot out of his kimono - - so I get the feeling that is probably a very self-aware revenge saga. Because of that, I'd be willing to keep watching and see if if it eventually untangles all these narrative knots and ties them into a nice, sanguine bow.
Watch this episode, “Criminal” here and decide for yourself.