First Impression: Revenger

It’s nighttime in the dregs of the Tokugawa era, Japan, and assassins abound. This particular one kills his mark, but not before the victim is able to plant a couple of clues as to his death for subsequent detection. Cut to daytime, and a young samurai is moping beneath a bridge when another young man, rocking an impressive faux hawk with his traditional garb, initiates him in polite conversation. The two share a very Holmesian dialogue, during which it is revealed that young mopey, aka Kurima Raizo, is in fact the assassin, and he’s just killed a man he respected, though he did so on orders from his clan leader who had good reason to require the execution. Or did he? When Kurima is cornered by his leader’s henchgoons, their rudimentary pistols at the ready, the whole affair starts to feel a bit fishy. Amid his confusion, Kurima hears a young woman’s voice telling him to leap off the cliff. And so…he does. Thus begins his adventure with a ragtag band of odd jobbers, headed by faux hawk, Usui Yuen, who excels at making lacquerware in his downtime, and including also the young woman who kills with kites, a thuggish fellow who throws small rectangles of metal (?) with deadly accuracy, and a guy with glasses and Westernish dress, whose role is as yet undetermined. Thus begins, also, his quest for revenge against the boss who betrayed him—a quest undertaken not simply for honor’s sake, but for the sake of his relationship with his beloved fiancée Yui. You see, that man he killed? It was Yui’s father.

I do love me a historical action-drama, so when it turns out to be one that is not only an anime-original, but also one conceived and written by the mastermind behind Madoka Magica, Gen Urobuchi, well, what can I say? Count. Me. In. At first blush, a mid-19th-century historical set piece centered on political machinations during the Opium Wars may seem to be a relatively conservative setup for Urobuchi, whose other credits include the imaginative, wildly philosophical sci-fi series Psycho Pass and Aldanoah.Zero. Yet, there are some interesting hints here that all may not be as it seems, and they all center on Usui Yuen. This mysterious young man not only kills using sheets of gold leaf, but also calls his hapless target to repentance as he does so, intoning a prayer to Mary who is tattooed in resplendent technicolor on his back. The series is set in Nagasaki, which has been a prominent city for Japanese Christians (including the Hidden Christians of the Tokugawa era) since the 16th century. To say I’m intrigued to see where this series will go is an understatement. To my knowledge, there has yet to be an anime focused on the Hidden Christians, of which Usui is likely to be one. The blend of traditional and martial arts and the beautiful costumes and sets are also a draw for this series, particularly for viewers who enjoy the aesthetics of the past, where even acts of brutal violence were executed seemingly with grace and artistry. All in all, this promises to be another philosophical deep dive, focusing on themes of repentance and atonement (rather than the revenge of the title), and maybe, just maybe, proving to be Urobuchi’s most ‘Christian’ series to date. 

Revenger is streaming on Crunchyroll.


3 thoughts on “First Impression: Revenger

  1. I wasn’t aware of the author’s background, but now this makes me even more interested in this series (which already looked interesting from ep 1). It will be interesting to see how they incorporate Christianity, especially Catholicism, into this series: Nagasaki, the setting for ep 1, was home to one of the two largest communities of Catholics in Japan—the other one, coincidentally, was Hiroshima.

    1. Yes!! I think this is going to be a really engaging series for Christians in particular, and a motivator to learn more about the history of Christianity and the unusual Hidden Christians of Japan as well. Urobuchi is really such an interesting writer, engaging as he does so deeply with a wide range of philosophies and religions. I’ve yet to watch any of his work ‘unscathed’ as it were: he always provokes one to reflect and ponder, considering truths taken for granted from a fresh perspective, going deeper, so that one can be ‘prepared to give a reason for the hope that is in you’. We may even get a few more scripture quotations for our master list of Bible verses in anime, a la Psycho Pass!

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