A few years ago I almost lost the hearing in my left ear. The gory details are best omitted, but I was left with (what the doctors claimed) was 20-30% hearing and only two thirds of the bones I should. For all intents and purposes I was deaf in that ear, a lopsided and mono world where car alarms didn't exist (a boon at 3am) but wearing headphones was painful.
Two years and two operations on I have most of my hearing back. All of this is just context for me to say: my hearing is precious to me and I am precious about it. It is a cliché to say that you don't know what you've got until you've lost it, but when it's personal it really brings it home.
The opening moments of Shiguri are divisive: after a montage of lingering, abstract motions, a retainer prostrates himself before his lord and, in slick, gory detail, fatally offers his intestines up to enforce the severity of his request. What follows in the succeeding episodes is often harrowing, frequently disgusting, but never gratuitous - a meditation on the consequences of violence, set within a fiercely feudal system where the sword is the highest form of law. Coming from the same director as the exquisite Texhnolyze and the same studio as Aoi Bungaku, the subdued and graceful viciousness of the story is accompanied by visuals that are as dark as they are breathtaking. The whole then is a deeply affecting series that challenges many tropes common to the samurai genre and proves there is still a place for a poised and measured storytelling style.
raw and primal, as far from top-knots and toffs as possible
When a local lord calls a tournament, two visibly deformed swordsmen enter the arena: one missing his left arm, the other is blind and limping. The pair share a chequered history as two of the last practitioners of the Kogan style of swordplay. Named after Kogan Iwamoto, who after a faux pas concerning his polydactylism cost him a high ranking position, set up the school. Seigen Irako joined when Gennosuke Fujiki was still an assistant instructor, and after only a year came to rival him in proficiency. Both men vie for the position of successor to the Kogan style, and for the affections of Kogan's daughter, Mie; Seigen's hubris however will be his undoing as the school is unforgiving of slights against them and the punishment meted out will surpass mere cruelty. Revenge however, is just as ruthless.
Bringing back the creative forces behind the 1998 series Serial Experiments Lain came Texhnolyze in 2003: a thoroughly peculiar name and the decade's best example of mind-bending anime. Scenario creator Chikai J. Konaka was riding high after 'Lain and the well received Hellsing TV series, around the same time Texhnolyze was released he had already lent his hand to the RahXephon movie (Pluralitas Concentio) and would go on to do the Air Gear TV series as well as Masamune Shirow's Ghost Hound. Character designer Yoshitoshi ABe meanwhile had leant his hand to a number of series previously including Haibane Renmei and Nie Under 7, however this would remain his last character work for anime for the foreseeable future.
a meditative look at the effect machines have on humanity when all barriers between them are removed
The setting could not be more verdant for exploration: an underground society - the only place on earth where the component for artificial limbs can be harvested - carved up by ceaseless gang fighting. The company-sponsored Organo tussle with the anti-prosthetic Union while in the middle is a religious sect who worship prognosticators born only once in a generation. Ichise, a bare-knuckle brawler, is mutilated by his employer and only saved after being taken in by an arrogant and capricious doctor, eager to experiment. He is fitted with the latest prosthetic limbs, texhnolyzed in the series' parlance, and eventually joins the Organo in their ongoing fight. However those who control the city, the Class, begin to move and the streets of the decaying city, Lux, become a warzone.