Series Review: Sengoku Choujuu Giga (Season 1, 2016-17)

Sengoku Choujuu Giga is like clever 3-minute poetry. Each episode uses limited animation to adapt the historical Choju-jinbutsu-giga scrolls, roughly translating to “Animal Person Caricatures” or more commonly called Scrolls of Frolicking Animals, into a modern format. The implied storytelling with unconventional humor puts a unique twist on possibly serious events. Inspired by the nature of the first season, the spoiler-free episode synopses below are stylistically poetic. They loosely interpret haiku and feature interpretive kigo, maybe.

Rating: ★★★★☆ [4/5]

Please note: The Japanese haiku poetry style is interpreted in English as syllables of five, seven, five. It seems those beats could more accurately be counted by sound, which can occasionally be complete words, so I summarized each episode freely in twelve words including, kigo, or seasonal words that necessitate proper haiku.

Something I Want to Show You
Spring flower blossoms with silly smell.

Who is First Spear?
Friendly competition,
summer games now serious,
target acquired.

The Melancholy of Masamune
In a Sisyphus-archetype’s fall,
facing fate together,

Two Weirdos
Chilly status report,
accidentally encounter open secret,
colleagues chit chat.

Poor on thin ice,
tapping into hidden reserves,
family name tarnished.

“My Fundoshi”
Cleaning garment,
fragrant breeze floats under cloth,
amusing music video.

The Secret of the Sandals
Seeking dew chill,
questionable decision,
soaking mistake.

Hit and Cover
Withering wind interrupts game,
or maybe,
bumbling boasting attempts?

Collaborating on word choice,
insects astir decisively,
miracle or probably not.

Leading troops to enemy,
desiring new tea pot,
for questionable reasons.

Mysterious chance encounter,
Offering new rice after misstep,
Possibly sublime surprise.

Water Attack
Fun party,
a clear and cold prank to someone,

New Years
First calm celebration,
party features something off,
something you have.

Pros: Lively look into a historically significant period in Japanese history. Most samurai movies (jidaigeki and chanbara) like the Zatoichi series and Harakiri are set during the Edo period, just before the Meiji Restoration that globalized Japan, while Seven Samurai and this series occur during the pre-Edo Sengoku period that saw warring states solidified through the efforts of fierce Oda Nobunaga, unifier of Japan Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and patient Tokugawa Ieyasu, all prominently featured characters here.

Cons: If all that went over your head and and you’re studying for an important exam on Japanese history tomorrow, well, this series is not going to help you if you wanna pass! The subtle humor is silly, and mostly nonsense, bordering on confusingly surreal. It’s hard to follow because each episode is so fast-paced that even after rewatching an episode, it can be difficult to understand what just happened, or differentiate the background characters.

That said, I’d recommend the first two episodes to any curious onlooker.

The series doesn’t require historical knowledge, and doesn’t rely on its humor, because you could consider each episode as poetic thought pieces on human behavior. If you didn’t care for those two episodes, then feel free to move on to something else.

Season two just concluded, so expect that review soon, maybe.

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