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Akira Kurosawa's classic 1954 movie gets the modern treatment with the question "What if Seven Samurai had been made in color as a science fantasy show with cooler, younger heroes?" This is, of course, a pointless query, and it's a tribute to the skills of the team rather than the money thrown at this version, allegedly made in "high definition" at double cost of a normal anime series, that the answer is not as awful as one might expect. We start with the basic Kurosawa story-seven penniless fighters are recruited by a group of yokels desperate to stop bandits from stealing their rice crop again. The pay is just their food, but they are all so far down on their luck (for a variety of reasons) that they accept. The story has been moved from the Edo period into a steampunk-pastiche future, in the aftermath of a great war in which the samurai lost their status and influence all over again.

Our heroes have been updated along with their world. The Toshiro Mifune character, Kikuchiyo, is now a tin man with an exhaust pipe on his head so he can let off steam, played for light relief rather than pathos. Seiji Miyaguchi's stoic samurai Kyuzo, who valued honor and sword skill above everything, has become an assassin for a crime boss. The leader of the gang, shaven-headed, dignified Kanbei, now has a mane of flowing hair. The villains too have been updated-the Nobushi bandit gang are augmented humans with metal body modifications, living weapons capable of flight. In order to keep the link to the rice crop and the land as the essential story element, the remake postulates that these cyborg warriors can only be powered by eating rice, which is a fairly silly proposition in a starfaring society. The design is gorgeous, although it is sometimes betrayed by a poor interface between 2D and 3D animation-which, given the amount reputed to have been spent, and the number of shows that have handled this well, is inexcusable. So, too, is the noticeable drop in animation quality partway through; flashy openers that tail off into substandard animation are commonplace in modern anime, but most of the other offenders do not tempt fate by bragging about their high budgets.

As with Samurai Champloo, the show contains many references to other tales of Japan's past-there is even a nod to Goemon Ishikawa from Lupin III, in a sequence where Kanbei leaps from a space cruiser and slices a destroyer in half in mid-air. But where Kurosawa's original depicted real people struggling with life-and-death problems at a time when the nation was in turmoil, S7 is trying to be cool enough to catch the stunted attention spans of a generation for which poverty, danger, and personal responsibility are concepts more alien than tinplate warriors with exhaust pipes on their heads. LNV

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Original US Poster Art

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Name Samurai 7
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Romaji: Shichinin no Samurai
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Start Year 2004
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Aliases Seven Samurai Akira Kurosawa's Samurai 7
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