Fuse: Memoirs of the Hunter Girl
In Tokugawa Era Japan, Hamaji Ohyama (the "Hunter Girl" of the title) is invited by her brother to come stay with him in Edo after their grandfather's death. Brother Dousetsu is a bit of a ne'er-do-well, but he thinks his ticket to a well-paid government position is to hunt the Fuse, dog-human hybrids who consume peoples' "essences". Hamaji, however, ends up being rescued by (and developing a relationship with) a young man named Shino, who turns out to be a Fuse himself- one of the last ones, in fact.
I honestly have no real knowledge of the work that's ultimately behind this show, Kyoukutei Bakin's Nanso Satomi Hakkenden. I was able to find out that it's the source material behind a 26-episode anime series, Hakkenden: Eight Dogs Of The East, and 2 OVAs, The Hakkenden. The show being presently reviewed is based on a novel titled Fuse Gansaku: Satomi Hakkenden, by Kazuki Sakuraba, which is apparently based on Bakin's novels, so this is an anime adaptation of a novel that is itself "inspired" by a series of 19th Century novels (according to Wiki, 106 of them!). The show goes "meta" by including Bakin, the original author, as a character in the show itself (as "Bakin Takizawa"); and then uber-metas that by having Bakin's granddaughter commenting on a Kabuki play based on Bakin's story (which is how this show presents the little bit of backstory it DOES give you) by having her slyly note that adaptations present their own slants or angles on their source material! (Remember that this show is ITSELF an adaptation of an adaptation.)
The OVA's director, Masayuki Miyaji, has worked on numerous Studio Ghibli projects, and really Hamaji could BE a Ghibli heroine; she's spunky, and absurdly rosy-cheeked. She's equipped with a strange-looking firearm. (I guess gun designs weren't yet standardized in Japan in those days.) Very early in the show, she's shown hunting a dog; one doesn't normally think of (wild?) dogs as game animals, and the emotional affection we feel toward dogs gave me problems with a scene that I think is too disturbing for younger kids, despite Amazon's venturing (for once) on an actual age rating of 13+. (I'd go 15+ at minimum.)
AND there's that thing about Shino's "consuming essences". This consists of suddenly transforming his arm into a giant hairy clawed paw, inserting it into his victim, and eating- something- that he pulls out of their chests. Maybe this really isn't a nicer-sounding euphemism for eating their hearts, but it still leaves his victims with a big hole in their chest, and QUITE dead, so I found this a distinction without a difference in any case. The show further tries to justify this by showing Shino only doing this to "bad" people (meaning people who either attack him, or Hamaji); it's the same sort of dodge a writer might use to portray, say, a vampire as a sympathetic, heroic character. (I'm thinking of the movie Innocent Blood here, among other examples.)
There are some interesting side characters, though most only get a few brief appearances. One of note is a young woman named Funamushi who sells prepared food from her boat (kind of an early food truck), who has a surprising revelation for another member of our cast. (It surprised ME, too; I had NO idea this was going on.) The show also has a delightfully imaginative visual involving a statue in Yoshiwara (a city of courtesans.)
But I gather that we are near the end of the story of the Fuse here. From the Wiki article it seems the events in Bakin's stories were set 350 years before his OWN time, and we're shown that the Fuse have almost all been hunted down by the beginning of this OVA. So I kind of felt like someone who'd, let's say, come in ten minutes before the end of The Lord of the Rings, with the Kabuki play our cast watches being the equivalent of a person in the next seat trying to summarize everything that's gone before in a couple of sentences. In other words, I felt- well, cheated here, even if the show came to a conclusion I could live with...
Not having seen the other adaptations of this material mentioned earlier, I couldn't in good confidence recommend them (or NOT recommend them); so just FYI, as of the time I'm writing this Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East is still available on Crunchyroll. As I said, this feels like a fragment, almost like a coda, despite its appealing heroine, and her endearingly bumbling brother. It's diverting, but I didn't find it really that engaging- because the most interesting parts of the tale may have been long over before we got here. Besides, I'm not sure whether tales should wag dogs. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: As I said in the review, because of its violence (and a little bit of nudity) I think this is more appropriate for a slightly older group than 13 years. 15 and up, I think, would be better.
Version(s) Viewed: Streaming on Amazon Prime
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Fuse: Memoirs of the Hunter Girl © 2012 TMS Entertainment.
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