Miyamoto Musashi: Souken ni Haseru Yume: An Anime Documentary

Miyamoto Musashi: Souken ni Haseru Yume is a 2009 Production I.G film based on the historical figure. For those of you who don’t know who Miyamoto Musashi was, he was an expert swordsman and a Ronin from the late 1500s to the mid 1600s. He was highly regarded and even founded his own swordsmanship style. He also wrote The Book of Five Rings, which is still studied as an important tactical/philosophical piece. The bottom line is that this dude led an interesting life so there should be plenty for Production I.G to work with. Let’s see how they did.

Story:

This is less a film with a traditional story and more a historical documentary. It opens by talking about the fiction that’s grown around the figure of Miyamoto Musashi and segues into the facts that are known about his life with some theories and conjecture about what he was likely thinking and when covering other topics that are more uncertain.

So, how is it as a documentary? Well, it is quite informative and I do like that it addresses the myths and how they came to be. I also appreciate that the documentary uses some slapstick humour between the narrator and his assistant as well as some animated action sequences portraying some of Miyamoto’s most famous battles, in an effort to keep things entertaining. Admittedly, they are mostly pretty effective at it too. The biggest problem is that the film doesn’t always stay on topic very well. There’s a semi-long discussion about western knightly customs which eventually moves into talking about the Olympics and first world war and the only important point to it is to bring up some similarities between the western knights and Japanese bushi, or mounted samurai. The segment itself goes on about four times longer than it needs to to bring that up.

Characters:

There aren’t so much characters in this. You get quite a bit of conjecture about Miyamoto Musashi himself that tries to provide an explanation for why he acted as he did and what likely motivated and shaped him as a person. It’s a lot of biographical stuff and a lot of it is pretty fascinating.

Art:

The artwork is a bit iffy, to be honest. There are drastically different styles employed throughout the documentary. Some of them are kind of lazy, some of them are weird and creative and may or may not be effective and the ones used for the action sequences use a more traditional action anime style with muted colours like you might see in a flashback for a more ordinary anime.

Sound:

There’s only one vocal performance in this, the narrator who talks throughout giving information and providing conjecture. His narration is mostly effective although they occasionally do odd things with it. For example, there are several cases where he sounds like he’s trying to sing something, and doing it pretty badly. The music is pretty mediocre too. It’s serviceable but not anything interesting or good.

Ho-yay:

There isn’t any. I don’t know what Miyamoto’s love life was like, but the film doesn’t talk about it.

Final Thoughts:

Miyamoto Musashi: Souken ni Haseru Yume is a pretty solid documentary. It has a lot of good information and presents it in a pretty compelling way. It isn’t anything great, though. It goes off topic for a bit and there are some questionable decisions in the artwork and the narration. If you want to learn more about Miyamoto Musashi as he actually was rather than the romanticised version you get in a lot of media, it’s a good choice. My final rating is going to be a 7/10. With that we close this year’s film festival week. Next Wednesday I’ll look at Sunabouzu.

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