Carried By The Wind: Tsukikage Ran
In the vein of Lone Wolf and Cub, as well as the innumerable samurai action dramas on Japanese TV (there must be one every season over there), comes this series of tales of a ronin-and-sidekick duo who cross the countryside, righting wrongs, taking names and kicking ass....
Oh yeah, and drinking heavily all the while. And did I forget to mention that this time they're both women?
The director of this series is the versatile Daichi Akitarou, whose experience stretches from fantasy/comedy (the gut busting Elf Princess Rane) to dead serious SF drama (Now and Then Here and There). He brings both interests to bear in this series; the action scenes where our two heroines leap into the fray are worthy of a Jackie Chan movie, and I mean a good Jackie Chan movie... whereas the scenes in between are filled with enough chuckles (and the occasional bone-shaking guffaw) to keep the viewer entertained.
The series devotes itself mostly to standalone stories that last a single episode; the only real story arc is the growing strength of the partnership, shaky at first, between the two main characters. The characters themselves are great, be they the incidental characters that show up only in one episode, or our protagonists. Ran, the ronin, is calm, focused - and always on the lookout for the next pub to get blitzed in. Her eager young tagalong, the self-proclaimed hand-to-hand combat expert Lady Myao, is so irrepressibly conceited (and almost unbearably genki in the bargain) that it's almost shocking when she proves she can spar it out with the best of them. I mean, when these two start acting like Ran's an incurable lush and Myao-chan doesn't have the brains God gave a cricket, you don't see it coming that they might actually be really GOOD at what they do. Appearances, it would seem, are indeed deceiving.
The animation style of the series is worth a few sentences. The action sequences flow better than you would expect for a TV-budget anime; it's always relatively easy to tell what's going on, and the viewer is never confused - unless you're the type who gets disoriented during Jackie Chan fight scenes. As might be expected from Daichi Akitarou, the only time he lets the frame rate on the animation drop noticeably is when he's using it to add another level to a joke. And it'd be remiss of me not to mention the music on the show, which is as quirky as one might expect, combining a few traditional Japanese instruments with a few modern sounds; there's one bonus that can't be beat - the OP theme song is written and performed in the enka style, the old Japanese folk-song tradition. It sets the atmosphere for the show very well.
To wrap it all up, I think this show is definitely worth a good look. It manages to be exciting and funny at the same time, and also offers an alternate perspective on the live-action samurai shows that seem to populate Japanese TV on a regular basis; in fact, it seems intended to parody them. The situations Ran and Myao encounter take some traditional ideas and stretch them beyond the breaking point; all the while, the duo remain aggressively likeable and maintain their panache as they tear their way through whatever problem the world can throw at them next ... I think you're going to like them.
A surprisingly endearing series. It doesn't have the epic sweep of, say, Rurouni Kenshin, but it's worth a look just for its unique combination of humor and adventure. — Jacob Churosh
Recommended Audience: Despite the fact that bad guys die by the cartload in this show, they die relatively bloodlessly. Aside from that, there's some mild sexual innuendo that never seems to get too far. I've seen worse on the Fox network.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Partial (3/13)
Carried By The Wind: Tsukikage Ran © 2000 Daichi Akitarou / Madhouse / Bandai Visual
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