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The name Yoshiaki Kawajiri carries some serious weight among anime fans and aficionados. The franchise “Highlander” carries the same weight amongst it’s legions of loyal, sword wielding fans. In 2007 the two came together in a symphony swordplay and beauty. “Highlander: The Search for Vengeance” was a joint effort between Imagi Studios (“TMNT”) and anime powerhouse Madhouse Studios (“Ninja Scroll,” “X,” “Trigun”) and was one of the recent efforts at a East-Meets-West collaboration on anime with others including Kawajiri’s own “Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust” and “Afro Samurai.” This was the first time a Western franchise or concept was adapted to anime, but was followed closely by the “Witchblade” anime.
Okay now deep breath. You still with me? Good, because “The Search For Vengeance” is an amazing anime and the best and most interesting thing to happen to the franchise since the TV series. Written by Highlander series and movie writer David Abramowitz, this is a new tale with a protagonist that predates both MacLeods. Colin MacLeod dies his first death in 125 AD in Roman Britain. After the loss of his entire village and wife, he swears vengeance, against his wife’s dying wishes, on the immortal who carried out the atrocity, Marcus Octavius. What follows is a 2000 year chase to exact his revenge.
Right from the start the visuals are stunning, with very decent voice acting and good music to boot. The story is also very good, if a bit paint-by-numbers. What makes this story different than other Highlander films is Colin’s single minded pursuit of Marcus. Around the world and through centuries, Colin battles Marcus repeatedly and only survives by luck. Whereas both Connor and Duncan have led many lives, and had many loves, Colin has limited himself to his search for the man who destroyed his life, and when he does find some semblance of happiness, he messes it up. Flashbacks abound as is the nature of Highlander, and as usual they serve to give a bit more history about our characters.
But enough about the story, the action is as important in the franchise as good storytelling, and with Kawajiri-san on board it’s bound to be good, and it is. The action set pieces are lots of fun, and there’s plenty of bloodshed and well choreographed fights to be had.
I really enjoyed this piece, just as much as I did “Bloodlust” and “Ninja Scroll.” Kawijiri-san usually does about one film every five or so years, with the last one being “Bloodlust”, with the “Animatrix” installment “The Program” in between. “Ninja Scroll 2” is supposedly in production, and if that does get made I’m hoping for a sequel to “The Search for Vengeance” because it’d be great to see more of Colin. It really was a great entry in the franchise and is heads (pun intended) above any of the actual film sequels.
If you’re a fan of the franchise and don’t own this, shame on you. If you’re a fan of anime and don’t own this, shame on you. Bottom line, it’s worth it if you’re a fan of good action, Highlander or anime.
Yoshiaki Kawajiri, Takuji Endo (visual director), Hiroshi Hamazaki (co-director) / David Abramowitz (screenplay)
CAST: Alistair Abell … Colin MacLeod (voice)
Debi Mae West … Dahlia (voice) (as Eid Lakis)
Zachary Samuels … Marcus Octavius (voice)
Scott McNeil … Amergan / Gregor / Lab Director (voice)
Hank Banks … Joe (voice)
Janyse Jaud … Kyala (voice)
Jim Byrnes … Doc / Rudy (voice)
Kathleen Barr … Moya (voice)
Emma Fairley … Deborah (voice)
Roger Franks … Sergeant (voice)