Review of Soukou Akki Muramasa
|Subject||Soukou Akki Muramasa|
|By||Vote: 10blaircatch22 on 2021-01-13 last updated on 2021-01-15|
|Review||From the same dude who made Hanachirasu, the swordfighting otaku extraordinaire Narahara Ittetsu. It really activates your smooth brain considering how bad Hanachirasu is compared to Muramasa. Literally the Magnum Opus of Ittetsu's known works and Nitro+'s library.|
The main theme of the story is 善惡相殺, meaning killing both good and evil. As you can probably guess, it delves into the idea of justice, ethics, and morals. Out of all of the good and evil narratives I have read so far, Muramasa seems to be one of the most fleshed out considering how it uses its story to push on the theme. If you thought that Fate/Zero or Fate/Stay Night delved into the idea of "Justice" quite well, you would be surprised by how shallow it seems in comparison.
Of a novel of this length, I thought it would be tedious to read 50+ hours(which it did take), but thanks to the splendid scenario and writing, it didn't feel long until the latter end of the novel. The writing's pacing isn't fast nor slow thanks to the story only showing what is needed with little to no fluff. Even the characters with little screen time seem to have complexity and they stick in the back of your mind wondering what they are doing off the screen. Although, the story itself is dark and hopeless, the black humor that Narahara imposes is top tier making the side of your lips twirl even if it is completely unsuitable to do so. Other than the revenge route, the other routes were very intriguing and the side route that was the Hero route could have even been one of the true routes from its complexity and overall completion of exploring the themes within. The politics and alternative history of the novel, although seems sometimes ridiculous is well fleshed out and your suspension of disbelief is maintained.
No novel really comes close to the magnality of Soukou Akki Muramasa(perhaps Dies Irae?) without boring you to death. It is action packed and the themes will make that use the pea brain to make you think about morality and the politics within Muramasa. The MC is the absolute highlight and the Demon King route shows the idea of "Show not tell" damn fine. There is no other novel quite like Muramasa.
Now despite the praises I give towards Muramasa, there are a lot of problems that I have with this novel regards to the content and the writing.
The writing is mostly well paced and scenario well done, but the sword fights can be a hit or miss. It is long and often explained in tedium, probably even more contrived than Hanachirasu. Thankfully, it was interesting for me, so I didn't mind. I also had problems with the Revenge route as its quality was significantly lacking compared to the other routes. Its story and theme was bland and the heroine was very very annoying. For the Demon King route, near the end, an endless amount of fighting scenes are presented and it was very very boring. It was a bunch of theatrics and one can get tired of seeing the same trick over and over again, especially if it gets even more ridiculous with each fight. It pretty much broke the pacing and suspension of disbelief for me near the end. The ending itself was wonderful though.
In regards to the content, although Narahara doesn't seem to be an ultranationalist and it is mostly the setting that he has created which makes it seem so, it was noticable at times. The British Commonwealth is the current world leader and Japan lost the war with a conditional surrender where the commonwealth installs GHQ in Japan just like in our timeline. Although indirectly referenced, the Japanese still invaded most of the pacific and that might trigger some people to look at this novel negatively. It also regards the commonwealth to be barbarians and have an useless ideology of democracy, where the characters prefer the tyrannical Rokuhara Shogunate compared to the commonwealth. Probably a remanence of shame when the Empire lost WW2 and had to submit to the US the 2nd time. Despite regarding the Rokuharas as hell incarnate and rightfully so, the main character who is so sensitive towards good and evil, supports the Rokuhara compared to the Commonwealth, which seems to actually not be that bad imo. It's also funny how the story frames Whites(the characters in the commonwealth) to be comically racist. Comments such as "The duties of the White race" or "The Yamato people are inferior and deserve to be dominated" ETC.
The content is also ironic in how 善惡相殺 is explained in depth, serving as way to show that good and evil are equally the same worth, but shows the Commonwealth to be ONLY evil. Also despite the storying being striking faithful to some parts of world history, when it comes to Japan, Japan is considerably somehow better. Like how the Immanuel Turn was done by a foreigner, but surprise surprise, it's actually a Japanese that taught the foreigner how to do it. Or how despite how Japan lacked the resources, funds, and skilled manpower during the actual war, Japan in Muramasa seems to somehow go head to head or even surpass the biggest power in the world in terms of technology or skilled warriors even with the conditional surrender.
It really might just be the setting as Kageaki once says that he wouldn't want a world of war regardless of who is controlling it. The villains and heroes regardless of race should have been portrayed equally good or bad, keeping it neutral to really put in the point of 善惡相殺, but unfortunately, it only made some parts of the story ironic and the themes somewhat contradictory.
Also the kanji that Narahara uses is extremely difficult because no one uses them. Thank god the prose is modern. The difficulty is similar to how you memorize a bunch of old uncommon words and phrases for a SAT test.
Another thing that ticked me off was Narahara's use of choice puzzles. It can seem quite random and a lot of the choice puzzles can only be done by constant trial and error wasting your time.
Although there are the problems mentioned above, Soukou Akki Muramasa is an extremely memorable piece of dark fiction that is unfortunately very inaccessible to western audiences due to the difficulty of the language used and setting it is in. The story, characters, music are all done in an extremely high level and care. One can really wonder how such a Frankenstein of a story could have been created while exploring the themes and the ultimate backdrop at the end.
I hope that unless Muramasa is going to be adapted by Gen Urobuchi, it never gets adapted into a shit anime because it will be tarnished and ultimately misunderstood.
Must play/10 - Masterpiece.
Hero Route 10/10
Revenge Route 4/10
Demon King Route 9.5/10
Evil Route 10/10