From Tetsuo Hara, creator of Fist of the North Star, comes several tales of two ridiculously big, ridiculously pretty men with RIDICULOUSLY huge necks (and pecs and chests and...). During this new series, two battle-hardened samurai eccentrics share memories over sake in the moonlight while cherry blossoms drift softly by in the breeze. They’re best friends. They’re war buddies. But this isn’t BL, this is ... Gifu Dodo!! Kanetsugu and Keiji.
So far, this series takes place all in one night after a celebration of the building of Ohnosawa Tarobei’s mansion. Everyone’s drunk or at least feelin’ verrry good. Who’s Ohnosawa? Eh, doesn’t really matter. Name drops — prefectures, provinces, eras, castles, armies, families — are abundant but not at all important to enjoying these tales as a whole. That said, you might just learn yerself a little somethin’ if you pay the slightest bit of attention (and if any of the historical accounts are actually based on something — I’m too wasted to bother and too entertained to care). Gifu Dodo!!’s set at the end of the Sengoku (Warring States) period. What does that mean? Did you not read the title of this review? It means booze, biwa, breasts, and blood!
Four episodes in and the series is still at an after-party for something as lame as a housewarming? How’s that possible? As mystical as the powers of drink can be, fact is that this series is composed of a frame story in which the main characters, Maeda Keiji and Naoe Kanetsugu (the aforementioned samurai eccentrics), reminisce in detailed anime about their exploits. Thus every episode starts with the leisurely tipping of sake saucers and involves some animated feat of samurai righteousness. The best thing? The frame story of catching up with one another while drinking always leads into tales that never fail to involve ... drinking!
Even in the first episode’s tale, where Keiji’s cherry blossom petal-summoning biwa playing lures Kanetsugu through a maze of red light district women, there’s sake at every turn! Ne’er is there a single episode that fails to involve the tip of an intoxicating bottle (usually served by busty beauties (whose backs have to be burdened!)) towards these mega-masculine mercenaries who have necks as thick as tree trunks. And just because every episode is due at least a little bloodlust, there’s a surprise attack in the very first which lets the main characters flex their muscles and show off their wild animal auras.
This pattern continues — the main characters cross paths again and again across memories of personal brawls, cultural conflicts (an uwanariuchi (ex-wife vs. new wife fight!)), as well as government affairs filled with military strategy and deceit. Each episode comes up with some excuse to slice a man in half, shove a spear through a horse, even swipe an iron fan through a tree! On top of that, arrows become tigers, tigers become head wounds, head wounds become ... well, death. It’s over-exaggerated awesomeness at every freakin’ turn! Look at all these exclamation points! Wait, this is supposed to be some kind of review, isn’t it?
The animation from Studio DEEN ranges from portraiture pretty with a rich color palate to standard anime fare. Panned still shots are abundant but don't detract from the scene-to-scene flow; stills can, after all, be excused as lingered-upon memories — or simply laughed at with a “Yeah, well that happened. When’s the next awesome?” Thing is, viewers never have to wait long. The structure of the series lends an almost laughable air of mysticism that makes even the most droll moments of reminiscence necessary to present a contrast with the ass-kicking eccentricity exuded by the main characters. In and of themselves, the character designs (courtesy of Hara and animation character designer Masaaki Kannan) invoke spurious laughter and awe, the latter concerning just how larger-than-life these figures of history appear compared to those around them and the sense that their designs cannot be tainted by the trifles of the world in which they’re drawn. On the other hand, it’s legitimately refreshing to have bulging chests; arms that, in the real world, shouldn’t even be able to fold over each other; and NECKS THE SIZE OF TREE TRUNKS! And even if the faces, hair, and fashion sense of the main characters are bishonen-fied, there’s a lot of perfectly good ugly to go around ... and bless this series for it!
This review is running long, and all I really meant to say is that this series rocks ... it Samurai Rocks (and for so many reasons). Never mind the electric biwa in the OP.... Actually, screw that; HEED the electric biwa. After all, it’s the over-dramatized juxtaposition of modern sensitivities with an outdated sense of feudal era values that make this series absolutely indispensable in our current era of self-involved escapism. More than that, less than that, this series will make you laugh and exclaim out loud and despite your self-restraint again and again and again. Why? Because it isn’t just a series that’s enjoyable; Gifu Dodo!! is something necessary, something righteous, something beautiful.