Review: Samurai Deeper Kyo (2002)

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What with all the popular culture featuring one of the most famous periods in Japan’s feudal history – the Battle of Sekigahara – it’s not a wonder we all feel like we know simultaneously everything and nothing about it. But this is what happens when you rely on TV for all your factual information.

So it might be easiest to just assume that Samurai Deeper Kyo has absolutely nothing to do with the events of the Realm Divide, and that anyone’s relation to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. It’s probably better that way. Let’s instead say that Samurai Deeper Kyo is all about Jungian ideals.

Mibu Kyoushiro is a seemingly harmless young man. But a little like Yuuri Shibuya in Kyou Kara Maou, Mibu becomes a different person under pressure. Not as in he behaves differently; he actually is a different person – Demon Eyes Kyo. And Kyo, as you can imagine about anyone with a name like that (the glowing red eyes are a bit of a give away too), kicks butt like no one’s business and enjoys himself in the process.

This is a bit of a twist on the ‘ordinary boy magically turns into powerful warrior’ trope however – and incidentally where Jung comes into the picture – because Kyoushiro isn’t just unknowingly sharing his body with a bigger, nastier tag-along; he’s the product of two distinct, conflicting parts of the original Mibu Kyoushiro. You see, rather than develop a split personality disorder like normal people, Kyoushiro (the original one) somehow thought it would be a good idea to take all his own unwanted violence and cruelty and put it in a separate body. Presumably, he could then tell it to go to its room or something. Well, that didn’t work out so well, and so discovering this wasn’t such a Good Plan after all, he then proceeded to try and defeat his evil self at that battle we were talking about before. This didn’t go quite according to plan either. Kyo’s soul is back in Kyoushiro’s body, sure, but they’re far from on friendly terms, and as a result the new sum of the parts – the harmless Kyoushiro – retains no memory of either.

Our story opens officially when Kyoushiro v.2 meets Yuuya, who’s hunting for the killer of her brother. No prizes if you can guess who that might be. Pretty soon after this meeting, the bad guys start crawling out of the woodwork and Kyo makes a timely appearance. Cue fight.

And really, that’s as much as you need to know. Back in Jung’s day, Kyoushiro (version 2) would have been automatically made a guest in a comfy little padded room, but the result would have been the same – a divided psyche is in some way, shape or form an unnatural state. In Samurai Deeper Kyo‘s case, it’s clear from the outset where the dramatic tension is to come from – Kyo, as much as his behaviour isn’t exactly socially kosher, never asked to be his own man and now he is, he’d rather like to keep it that way. That’s understandable. But equally, having the most brutal and bloodthirsty part of yourself running around unchecked is no way to live and likely to upset not a few people. Again, cue fight, this time on the inside.

Noticing a bit of a theme? Doesn’t take a genius to spot it, and let’s face it, we should be grateful for small mercies. A little old school in terms of production and sound values, with its action wipes, its mid-90’s soundtrack and its goofy hijinks, Samurai Deeper Kyo holds up for one reason alone, regardless of the fact that it has a serious case of adaptation decay. It’s flawed when compared to its source, but what it lacks in adherence to its source material it makes up for in big swords and badassery and an array of freaky enemies and suspicious allies. And fighting. Lots of it. As flaws go, that’s not so bad. After all, it could certainly be worse. They could just spend the whole series standing around talking about their feelings.

6.5 unrecognisable historical figures out of 10.
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