I was as surprised as anyone when I heard that Netflix’s 2017 dumpster fire was receiving an anime spin-off. A Samurai-era movie in that universe had a ton of potential, so here we are watching Bright Samurai Soul. Let’s see how the movie did in this review!
Bright Samurai Soul Overview
In 2017, Netflix released an original film starring Will Smith and Joel Edgerton called Bright. Critics and the general public widely despised the movie despite it becoming one of Netflix’s most-streamed movies to date. Since the movie did well and took the time to establish a universe, a follow-up was inevitable. An anime follow-up set in Samurai-era japan, however? Not so much.
Bright: Samurai Soul is set in the same universe as the original movie but takes place a long time before the original. Kyouhei Ishiguro directs the movie, the mind behind Your Lie in April and Cider, giving the movie a ton of credibility in the general anime sphere. The movie was developed by Studio Arect and is their first project of this variety.
Bright Samurai Soul Review- The Plot and Characters
“In the early years of Japan’s Meiji Restoration, a human ronin must unite with an orc assassin to save an elf orphan from their common adversary”.
Let’s get this out of that way first- Bright Samurai Soul is heads and shoulders above its live-action original in every manner of judgement possible. The plot is better, the characters are better, and the music is better. However, the anime movie borrows a lot from the story of the original, based around a trio of characters trying to escape with a magic wand that can cause all sorts of chaos.
While the original Bright was set around not so subtle references to racism and dirty cops, Bright Samurai Soul is more a story of loyalty and good vs evil. There are no bells and whistles in the movie’s 80-minute runtime, as it tells a simple yet effective story about two misfits trying to protect a little girl. It’s not going to receive many awards for its originality, but the story still does the job it was written for.
You don’t need to have watched the original movie for Bright Samurai Soul to make sense to you, a decision that I stand behind. I wouldn’t make my worst enemy watch that movie while I enjoyed my time watching this one. The story is entirely predictable and ends very conveniently, so it’s not exactly high art. However, it uses the somewhat interesting universe way better than the original and has a sound emotional core. A tentative thumbs up.
There are three characters of significance in Bright Samurai Soul, Sonya the young elf, Izou the Samurai, and Raiden the Orc. They are all fine characters, if somewhat bare-bones, because of getting little time to shine in a movie as short as this. They did their jobs perfectly, and Sonya wasn’t annoying despite being a child. That is a win in my books as big as any. They are also assisted by various side characters in the movie, including a centaur and Chihaya, the courtesan.
Bright Samurai Soul uses the same racism metaphors as the original, but a lot more subtly this time around. I wouldn’t say it works more than the original, but Raiden is a better and more sympathetic character than Nick Jacoby. Izou might be the dud of the three this time, but he still has a better than average backstory to make up for his lack of a personality. Sonya doesn’t have much to do other than being a kid and be the McGuffin of the story, but she fulfils her role well.
Overall, Bright Samurai Soul has a decent plot and better than average characters, but it failed to be very interesting despite having them. The movie felt long even for its short runtime, and the events in the plot were very predictable. Despite Netflix thinking otherwise, the world of “Bright” isn’t very interesting, and that doesn’t change by setting a Samurai movie in it. That’ll get you a few cool action scenes, sure, but that doesn’t solve all the problems in the universe.
Bright Samurai Soul Review- Art and Music
The music throughout the movie was very solid, packed with great action-oriented songs and mellow beats befitting the story’s period. There wasn’t a single bad or even average track, with all of them ranging from good to great. There is a certain kind of music that most Samurai era anime feature, and it is always fantastic to hear it used properly. The music was the best part of Bright Samurai Soul, by far.
The animation is an entirely separate issue, however. It was the definition of a mixed bag, with some truly gorgeous backgrounds and environments being paired alongside some awful facial expressions and barely synced lips. I believe it results from the movie being animated almost entirely using CG or computer graphics. Now that’s a whole different can of worms that I do not wish to get into right now, but it wasn’t used to its full effect here, making the movement look robotic and the facial animations cringeworthy.
Bright Samurai Soul was miles better than the original despite being a decidedly average movie in itself. The story and music were both decent, while the animation was a mixed bag, resulting in a solid effort worth watching if you like stories like these.Instagram & Facebook to keep yourself updated with the latest news and reviews.