"What you saw at the castle on that windy night... and what you saw at the bridge last night... how I smiled... never utter a word to anyone. If you dare speak of it, I will find you wherever you are, and I will kill you. I will rip you apart... crush your bones and eat your flesh... I will drink your blood... I will devour you."Kigeki
— Opening lines
) is an anime
short film by Studio 4°C
, released in 2002 as one of five other Sweat Punch
shorts, that were collected in the anthology Deep Imagination
Set during the Irish War of Independence
tells the story of a little girl who goes to seek out the Devil's Castle, home of a mysterious Black Swordsman, with whom she needs to strike a deal in order to save her family from the advancing English army. The Black Swordsman is a dark, reclusive individual, and a highly skilled warrior, who will only accept advance payments in the form of books. However, not just any old book will do...Kigeki
is a beautiful, gothic fairytale steeped in symbolism and rich in visuals, animation, atmosphere, and music. Clocking in at only 10 minutes, it manages to tell the engrossing story of a young girl's salvation more effectively than most full-length anime series. It is accompanied by two pieces by composer Franz Schubert
, the "Ave Maria" and "Erlkönig".
This anime provides examples of:
- All Myths Are True
- Armor Is Useless: When you're up against a being who can move at the speed of light, at least.
- Badass Bookworm: Despite appearing as a refined and scholary gentlemen who has chosen to live a quiet life dedicated to reading books, the Black Swordsman manages to singlehandedly slay 200 soldiers in one night.
- Badass Cape: The Black Swordsman, during his battle.
- Barefoot Poverty: At the beginning the young peasant girl is barefoot, though it could be that she was in such a hurry she forgot to put shoes on. Later it appears that the Swordsman has provided her with some.
- Bishōnen: The Black Swordsman, again.
- Cue the Sun: Following the penultimate battle the sun rises, bringing hope after the gloomy weather in previous scenes.
- Dark Is Not Evil
- Deliberately Monochrome: Gives the animation an aged and very gothic feel. It also brings out the more vivid colours, such as the little girl's Green Eyes, and the red of the blood.
- Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: The Black Swordsman.
- Evil Laugh: It's supposed to be a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming as the last sound you hear is the euphoric laughter of The Black Swordsman, having finally found the perfect book, but damn if it doesn't sound more evil than joyous.
- Field of Blades: Our first shot of the Swordsman shows him standing in one of these... though it is implies that they are the weapons of people he has killed himself.
- Flash Step: The Black Swordsman is revealed to move quicker than the eye can see, so quick in fact he appears as nothing more than a flash of light to the viewers.
- Flower Motifs: After the opening narration, we see a group of blood-spattered white roses, which turn completely red and the shot pans upward.
- The Greatest Story Never Told
- Harmful to Minors: The Young Girl witnesses the Swordsman brutally slaughter an entire army and devour the corpses. However, she doesn't really seem all that bothered by it.
- Haunted Castle: The Devil's Castle, supposedly.
- Hey, It's That Voice!: Hikaru Midorikawa, who plays the Black Swordsman to perfection (despite his lack of lines).
- I'll Kill You!: And moreover, I'll Eat You.
- Intelligence Equals Isolation: Interesting subversion. Before the story takes place, books symbolized knowledge and status, and to keep the people in check all comedies were burned. The Black Swordsman isolates himself from society and lives as a recluse to preserve his pursuit of knowledge and joy through his own personal collection of books.
- Katanas Are Just Better: The Swordsman's Weapon of Choice.
- Living Relic: The Swordsman, who was born in the time before people were banned from reading books which made them laugh.
- Luminescent Blush: The Young Girl, whenever she's around the Swordsman, possibly hinting at a Precocious Crush.
- No Name Given: Neither of the two main characters are named.
- Ominous Fog: Most prominent when accompanying the climactic battle, but is prevalent throughout the film.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: "Ave Maria". Its prominent haunting tune permeates the entire film and damn if it isn't effective at setting the mood perfectly.
- One-Man Army: One man. One book. One sword. An entire army of armored knights on horseback. It ends as expected.
- Our Vampires Are Different: Assuming he is a vampire; it's not explicitly clear. Amongst other things, the Black Swordsman doesn't seem to suffer any negative effects from the sunlight, nor does he have noticeable fangs.
- Peek-a-Bangs: The Swordsman, adding to his gothic appearance.
- Pet the Dog: The Young Girl serves as a Morality Pet to the Swordsman throughout, showing that he can be nice if he wants to.
- The Promise: The Swordsman makes the little girl swear never to tell anyone about what happened, on pain of death. She has apparently stayed true to her word.
- The Quiet One/The Stoic: The Black Swordsman. He only has two lines in the entire film, and even fewer facial expressions.
- Rain of Blood: Holy hell is there a lot of blood when The Black Swordsman cuts down the unsuspecting knight. Looks downright awesome when mixed with the red, explosive jagged flourishes of his sword.
- Really 700 Years Old
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: The army of knights look particularly menacing with glowing red eyes.
- Retraux: The scenic shots bring to mind Disney feature animation from the 1930s.
- Scenery Porn: Some of the background art is simply staggering.
- She's All Grown Up: In the epilogue, fifteen years later.
- Shrouded in Myth: Rumors of the ominous Black Swordsman say that the recluse will complete any task not for money but for rare books of a specific genre. What genre you ask? Although it's revealed at the very end, it's not hard to figure out beforehand.
- Sitting on the Roof: The Black Swordsman is briefly seen sitting on the castle roof, after which he uses a tree bathed in the moonlight for an elevated reading position.
- Sliding Scale of Vampire Friendliness: Though certainly not friendly as far as the English army are concerned, the Black Swordsman is shown to be very patient, hospitable and even kind toward the Young Girl when he finds her unconscious in the wilderness and gives her a place to sleep, then lets her tag around after him for a few days. He does make it clear, however, that if she breathes a word about him to anyone he will kill her in the most horrifying way imaginable.
- Spot of Tea: As if wearing a suit, living in a castle and reading avidly didn't make him sophisticated enough, the Swordsman also serves his guests tea.
- Tall, Dark and Handsome: Guess who.
- Wise Beyond Their Years: The Young Girl (5 years of age) is able to determine the perfect book the Black Swordsman is seeking just through piecing together his personality from the rumors she's heard. She also manages to take the initiative and save her village and family from imminent destruction through a deal with the Swordsman.