Sunday, August 09, 2009

六三四の剣 (Musashi No Ken)

This was an anime series that I have wanted to see for quite some time. After being barred from purchasing it due to it's prohibitively expensive $500 price tag for the whole series for several years, I finally was giving the opportunity to get it at 6% of the previous price at $30 for the entire series. Well, was it worth the wait? Should I have paid the original $500 for the series? Read below to find out.

For the uninitiated, Musashi no Ken is a Kendo-themed anime about a boy, named Musashi (a play on kanji for his birthday of June, 3rd at 4pm), who is involved with Kendo from birth to adolescence. The series is divided into two parts, the first being from birth to the end of elementary school and the second being his high school years. In each part, Musashi is faced with the ordinary challenges of school life, as well as the challenges brought forth by the martial art of Kendo.

I believe the first part was the best part. There was a lot of character development involved with the main character as he grows from an arrogant kid and learns what Kendo really is about. It really kept the story moving along nicely for the 43 episodes or so that the series lasts. The second part gets a bit more philosophical and outlandish at the same time. While kenshi (people who practice Kendo) might get some appreciation out of this aspect, at the same time, some of the outlandish practices kind of ruin the feeling at times (training on cliffs, for example).

The animation is your standard 80s anime fare, which most definately improved from the first few episodes. But if you're expecting very crisp animation ala the Gundam series that was out at about the same time, you will be dissappointed. It's not terrible, but it does its job.
Overall, this is pretty much as true of a representation of Kendo that one can get in an anime. There is a lot of the philosophy behing kendo in here along with the action sequences with the shiai (fights) and drama between the characters and what they believe Kendo should be.

So who is this anime for? Well, the most important thing to say is that it's only available in Japanese. At most, you can get Chinese subtitles, but if you know neither language, then you are out of luck. I would say that it's worth a look if you practice Kendo or are interested in it, since these kinds of people would be the ones that understand the most out of it. One thing to note is that the anime follows very closely to the manga, so if you already read it (which I believe is the better version), then you are only missing the motions that are going on in between the slides. I believe that just about anyone can enjoy the series, whether or not you know about Kendo. Despite how in depth the series goes with it, there is some interesting human interaction going on between the characters and the character development of Musashi from childhood to adolescence is pretty interesting. Though, if you are into Kendo, it's pretty much a requirement if you're also into anime.

EDIT: I recently found a DVD set that was released which has English subtitles. They do get the job done, but the quality leaves much to be desired. You can tell that the people that subtitled this didn't know English because it has the quality of someone with a Japanese -> English (or Chinese -> English) dictionary and did a word-for-word translation. Even the names aren't translated right. They are either over-translated (Musashi becomes 6-3-4 or Ooishi becomes "big-stone"), used the Chinese readings or just completely uses the wrong name. If you don't believe me, the clip below shows just how bad they can get.

Really?!? Really?!?

If you want to watch a preview of the anime, I have uploaded episodes one and fifty.
Episode 1 -
Episode 50 - first episode in the second season

Here are some places you can buy it as well as preview the manga.
E-Book Japan - a site where you can buy the manga and view them on your computer. The catch is that you need to know Japanese or be patient enough to navigate the site.
- If you aren't able to navigate the previous site, you can come here to read the first chapter.
Amazon Japan - This one seems to have a version with the whole series in one book
Anime Collector - This is the only place that I know of that sells the version I bought with the English subtitles.


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