Episodes seen: 1-13 of 13
Daichi Akitaro is probably better known for his directorial work on anime comedy series such as Jubei-chan, Fairy Princess Ren and Kodomo no Omocha. Working with Madhouse again after the more serious 'Ima, Soko ni Iru Boku', he's back to comedy with his latest series, Kazemakase Tsukikage Ran. (kazemakase can be translated to mean 'carried by the wind' or 'going where the wind blows')
Tsukikage Ran harkens back to the live action jidaigeki shows such as Abarenbo Shogun. These shows featured a samurai hero who wandered around performing good deeds with a partner who often acted as a humorous foil to our noble hero. Each episode featured some swordfighting action for added excitement to the stories. It's a familiar formula that has seen countless variations over the years.
Daichi's spin on this formula is making the protagonists of his series female. Possbily named after Tsukikage Ken, well-known author of samurai manga, Tsukikage Ran is a female ronin whose skill with her katana is only matched by her fondness for sake. Her counterpart is a hyperactive Chinese martial artist named Myao who practices the art of Nekotekken (Cat-fist fighting).
There is no grand plot that takes course over the run of the show. Instead, Tsukikage Ran is more like a collection of folk tales about Ran and Myao as they wander the Japanese countryside, stumbling into situations where people need help from thievery, deceit and mistaken identities.
Herself the Elf sez: Dammit, why couldn't Ran be a MAN! ARGH!! I tell you, she's a terrible waste of a good bishounen. But anyways, this was a fun show. Ran is super-cool, but her serious-heroness is balanced well by her obsession with sake, and Myao's just hilarious. We were hypothesizing that she has a gland in her body that secretes sucrose directly into her bloodstream--it's the only logical explanation for where she gets her energy.
The music is great in a classic Enka style and really adds to the whole retro feel of this show. Some people might find it weird, since it's VERY different from the j-pop we're used to, but I loved it. The whole show has a nice classy feel, balanced by dollops of comedy that rarely goes over the edge into cheese. I'd have liked it a bit less episodic, but that's a minor gripe. The animation is clean and solid, with good colour choices that suit the historic feel of the series, and the minor characters, while they seldom reappear from episode to episode, are complex and interesting.
The only problem I had with this show was the one episode where Ran and Myao encounter an American girl, who's portrayed as a blonde giant who's incredibly stupid, clumsy and loud. She follows Ran and Myao around, begging them to teach her to be a samurai, and is incapable of understanding anything. Now in an older show this *might* be excusable, but I don't like racism no matter where it's coming from. I hate racist portrayals of asians in Western media, and vice-versa. This was totally unnecessary. But if you skip over that episode, or just take it with a grain of salt, the rest of this short (13-ep) series is tremendous fun and a welcome re-imagining of the classic traveling samurai genre. Recommended.
Only available fansubbed at the moment.