I feel like I would be doing a disservice to everyone who wastes their time with both my podcast and this blog if I didn’t write something about this season’s manliest show and by “manliest” I don’t mean like Free!, I mean manly in the 199X, Hokuto Shinken sort of way.
Anyone who claims to enjoy manly anime needs to know the name Tetsuo Hara, the man who’s artwork in Fist of The North Star pretty much defined shonen manga from the early to mid 80s. Now we have an animated adaptation of one his more recent artistic endeavors. Does it live up to its lofty pedigree?
Analysis: I’ll begin with a quick Japanese history lesson for everyone. Back in the mid 1500s up until the start of the 17th century, Japan was divided into about 100 different city states, all vying to control all of Japan, which was known as the Sengoku period. This time lead to the development of many legends and tales concerning various political and military figures in Japanese history who have been featured in many an anime, manga and, video game, such as Oda Nobunaga, Tokugawa Ieyasu, Toytomi Hideyoshi, Sanada Yukimura and, last but, not least, Maeda Keiji. Gifuu Doudou!! starts off at the end of the Sengoku period, with the house warming party of Ohnosawa Tarobei. It’s at this point that
Maeda Keiji, who is now apparently a Buddhist monk, decides to hack into one of the support beams of the house with a hatchet, which is when his BFF, Naoe Kanetsugu, explains that this is apparently part of some lesson that they are teaching Tarobei about the frailty of material gain or how all things eventually wither or, something like that. It’s at this point that these two huge gentlemen (and I mean HUGE) decide to sit outside under the moonlit night and reminisce over their various misadventures. The first of which is of course, how they met, a story that involves an angry ex-wife, wooden swords and an imposter Maeda Keiji.
In this current anime climate, it’s always good to see stuff that harkens back to the age of square- jawed ridiculously muscular protagonists that tower over their more cartoony, and
therefore less significant, sidekicks. Between their facial structure, body size and general expression, the only thing that sets the character designs of Maeda Keiji and Naoe Kanetsugu apart from each other is the slight difference they have in hair styles. The show in and of itself is just incredibly enjoyable to behold. The first episode ends with Maeda Keiji beheading an attacker with a combination of a biwa pick and his radiant fighting aura that can transform into a tiger just because. The sad thing about Gifuu Doudou is that although it fulfills all the necessary requirements, if I were to expose this show to the legions of anime fans who constantly berate newer shows because “They aren’t like the shows from the 80s”, (Some of these people may or may not contribute to this blog) They would find one reason or another to not watch it.
Verdict: I don’t know what’s wrong with me but, place a story anywhere between 16th-19th century Japan, and you’ve got my attention. I don’t know what about the romantic vision of the samurai gets my motor running but, it always seems to get me and Gifuu Doudou is no different. A grand first impression that takes me back to the days of Fist of The North Star. This, more than any other show this season, will most likely be the one I follow regularly.