In the realm of anime on Netflix, the success criteria have been elusive, with varied outcomes for different shows. However, Netflix’s recent release, Blue Eye Samurai, has defied expectations, emerging as a global hit within just a month of its November 1 debut.
The show, spending two weeks in the global top 10 and earning acclaim from critics, is being hailed as the best Netflix show and the best-animated show of the year. What sets Blue Eye Samurai apart from other anime on Netflix, and why has it garnered such widespread success?
Unraveling the Success
1. Gorgeous Animation:
Blue Eye Samurai distinguishes itself with its stunning animation, courtesy of the French Canadian studio Blue Spirit. While technically not anime (as it wasn’t made in Japan), its anime aesthetic and Japanese setting have resonated well with fans. The show’s visual appeal has played a crucial role in attracting viewers.
2. Strategic Marketing:
Netflix took a unique approach to build mainstream interest in Blue Eye Samurai before its premiere. By positioning it as a mainstream release, the platform featured an exclusive preview in Vanity Fair, a departure from the typical niche marketing for anime. Additionally, Netflix released the first episode for free on YouTube, garnering over 3 million views, creating anticipation for the full series.
3. Compelling Story and Diverse Characters:
The show follows Mizu, a biracial samurai raised as a boy to navigate societal constraints. Her journey involves battling childhood trauma, internalized shame, and misogyny. The series cleverly deconstructs racism within a nationalist, xenophobic society, making it both a compelling and socially relevant narrative.
4. Mature Themes and Diverse Cast:
Blue Eye Samurai challenges the notion that anime is solely for children. With mature themes, including violence and sex, the show caters to an adult audience. The diverse and star-studded cast, featuring high-profile ethnically Asian actors, further positions it as a legitimate Netflix drama.
5. Narrative Innovation:
The series showcases artistic excellence and narrative innovation rarely achieved in many Netflix productions. With deep characterizations, a spare tone, and a balance of violence and naturalism, Blue Eye Samurai stands out in its storytelling approach.
6. Visual and Thematic Ties:
The show incorporates highly stylized visual sequences and experimental camerawork, drawing inspiration from Japanese folklore and classics like Seven Samurai. Its aesthetic style and thematic ties to directors like Akira Kurosawa and Kenji Mizoguchi contribute to a unique viewing experience.
Blue Eye Samurai breaks new ground for anime on Netflix by combining exquisite animation, strategic marketing, compelling storytelling, and thematic richness. Its success indicates a departure from Netflix’s conventional approach to anime, and the show’s ability to captivate a global audience suggests a shift in the platform’s anime landscape.
By embracing diverse narratives, mature themes, and innovative storytelling, Blue Eye Samurai sets a precedent for future anime endeavors on Netflix, proving that a thoughtful and nuanced approach can yield both critical acclaim and widespread popularity.