Samurai Shodown was based on the cult hit fighting video game series, Samurai Spirits, made by SNK in 1993 with the game being notable as one of the first fighting games that made use of weaponry as part of its combat system. A TV special that loosely adapted the game’s plot and characters was aired on Fuji TV the following year on September 8. The anime was licensed by ADV Films in the late 1990s releasing the movie on VHS and later on DVD in 2003, with both versions being out of print.
Haohmaru and six other warriors are chosen Holy Warriors tasked with preventing the unsealing of the power of the evil god Ambrosia. However, one of the warriors named Amakusa betrayed the other six by breaking the god’s seal to obtain Ambrosia’s power. He proceeds to kill the six in a confrontation yet fails to prevent their souls from escaping. One hundred years later, Amakusa is now the corrupt leader of Japan and seeks to wipe out humanity by freeing Ambrosia from his seal. Fortunately, the six Holy Warriors have been reincarnated and are prepared to fight their former comrade. However, Haohmaru has no memory of his past life as a Holy Warrior and the other five warriors find themselves having to try getting him to recall his former life before confronting Amakusa.
-Haohmaru- One of the reincarnated Holy Warriors who has no memory of his former life. The cocky and energetic young swordsman had settled in a small Japanese village before it was wiped out by Amakusa’s forces. Consumed with rage, Haohmaru seeks to avenge the loss of his mother and other villagers, unaware that he is becoming a pawn in Amakusa’s plans.
-Amakusa- A powerful sorcerer who was once one of the Holy Warriors. After being fatally wounded in a heated battle, Amakusa used the last of his strength to release the seal on Ambrosia’s power so he could be resurrected. However, this power corrupts his mind and consumes him to destroy the six other Holy Warriors and have the desire to wipe out humanity by releasing the evil god from his seal.
Samurai Shodown is no different from many horrible anime adaptations of video game titles as the movie’s creators seemed more concerned with making a quick buck off the video game’s popularity than offering a quality anime title to watch.
The title’s Holy Warriors storyline is an anime-original one that has a nice number of glaring plot holes and logical lapses. Considering it took one hundred years in the storyline for the six killed warriors to be reborn and reunite, you would have to wonder why Amakusa didn’t bother wiping out humanity in that time or kill the warriors outright
while they were much younger to keep them from being a threat.
Alongside its issues with its anime-original plot, Samurai Shodown carries all the typical flaws you would find in an anime adapted from a fighting video game series. Characters from the video game, regardless of their role, are added in having little depth compared to Haohmaru and Amakusa, seemingly being around just to please fans of the video game. Pacing is clearly rushed which greatly limits any depth one can get from the anime’s plot and characters for one to even care about them. Also, the anime borrows enough clichés from typical action anime such as sudden power upgrades, hammy and cocky villains and way too much emphasis on the main hero despite earlier plot mentions.
Even as an action title, Samurai Shodown fails to deliver good quality in its action scenes thanks to its below average animation. Lazy choreography, reused animation frames and the use of speed stripes in backgrounds are the norm with any action scene you can find in Samurai Shodown.
ADV even had its part to play in enhancing the horrific quality of Samurai Shodown when they changed Amakusa’s gender into a woman for their English dub, only adding more to the gender confusion folks had of the androgynous villain’s character.