"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 hiding, and I will kill you. I will rip you apart. I will shatter your bones. I will eat your flesh. I will drink your blood dry. And 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:
- Absurdly Sharp Blade: Can cut a man in half lengthways with one swing.
- All Myths Are True: The Young Girl doesn't doubt the Swordsman's existence for a second. But then she's a child.
- An Odd Place to Sleep: The Swordsman is shown taking a nap on the pavement outside the castle with a book on his face, using a thick tome as a pillow.
- Armor Is Useless: When you're up against a being who can move at the speed of light, at least.
- Artistic License: In one of the final scenes, the Swordsman is shown sitting in a tree reading his book, and turning the pages from right to left, Japanese style.
- Badass Bookworm: Despite appearing as a refined and scholarly gentleman who has chosen to live a quiet life dedicated to reading books, the Black Swordsman manages to single-handedly slay 200 soldiers in one night.
- Badass Cape: The Black Swordsman, during his battle against the English.
- Barefoot Poverty: At the beginning the young peasant girl is barefoot, though it could be that she was in such a hurry that she forgot to put shoes on. Later, it appears that the Swordsman has provided her with some.
- Bishōnen: The Black Swordsman. The narrative hints that the little girl might even have a small crush on him.
- Cue the Sun: Following the final battle the sun rises, bringing hope after the gloomy weather in previous scenes.
- Dark Is Not Evil: In spite of what he does in the battle against the English, the Swordsman appears to have a gentle side.
- 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 all that 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's implied that they are all the weapons of people he has killed himself.
- Flash Step: The Black Swordsman can move quicker than the eye can see, so quick, in fact, that he appears as nothing more than a flash of light.
- Flower Motifs: During the opening narration, we see a cluster of blood-spattered white roses, which turn completely red as the shot pans upward. They seem to foreshadow the little girl's loss of innocence.
- The Greatest Story Never Told
- Green Eyes: The little girl has a particularly vivid pair, emphasized through the overall desaturated background.
- 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 at the time.
- Haunted Castle: The Devil's Castle, supposedly.
- I'll Kill You!: The chilling words that the Swordsman utters in the opening are later revealed to be what he whispers in the young girl's ear after the battle at the bridge.
- 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. Despite this being Ireland.
- 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.
- Noodle People: The Swordsman is drawn in this style.
- 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.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: The pale young man is only known as the Black Swordsman, the nickname given to him by the villagers.
- 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 mysterious, Gothic appearance.
- Pet the Dog: His treatment of the Young Girl shows that the Swordsman can be nice when 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 an unsuspecting knight. Looks downright awesome when mixed with the jagged red flourishes of his sword.
- Really 700 Years Old: The Young Girl guesses that the Swordsman was born in the age before censorship, which only the very elderly seem to have even heard of.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: The army of knights look particularly menacing with glowing red eyes.
- Red and Black and Evil All Over: The Swordsman's clothes are black with a few red lines. He does not appear to be pure evil, but he does kill and eat people in exchange for books. While in the story, the Englishmen were seen as villains so the Swordsman doesn't look so bad, keep in mind that the rumors say he will complete any task for the right book, which brings a bit of Fridge Horror to his characterisation.
- Retraux: The scenic shots bring to mind Disney feature animation from the 1930s, such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Bambi.
- Scenery Porn: Some of the background art is simply staggering.
- She's All Grown Up: In the epilogue, fifteen years later, and apparently coming to terms with her feelings for the Swordsman.
- 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 is 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.
- Wall of Weapons: The Black Swordsman has one in what appears to be his room in the castle. It's unknown whether the weapons belong to him or to the previous lord of the castle.
- Wise Beyond Their Years: The Young Girl (5-years-old) 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.