For the first few episodes, Samurai Deeper Kyo (サムライ ディーパー キョウ) seems quite formulaic. Kyo establishes himself as a badass who can crush all opposition while sneering disdainfully, and combat consists largely of exchanges of flashy-looking quasi-magic power attacks. So far, so shounen. There are some un-shounen elements even at this early stage, though – if you’re paying attention. I didn’t notice until maybe my third or fourth viewing just how short the battles tend to be. This could easily be seen as a bad thing – one or two explosive techniques from each combatant and it’s all over.
But having sat through (and enjoyed, mostly) every episode of Bleach to date, I’d contend that this brevity of conflict could also be seen as efficiency. There are no episode-long power-up sequences here, or even episode-long fights. Even the best shounen tends to have unrealistic bursts of dialogue in the middle of combat and foes who wait patiently while the hero recites the name of his attack, and that’s certainly true of Samurai Deeper Kyo, but unlike so many other series the fights here get to the point. Sadly, they’re also somewhat more stationary than people raised on Bleach or Samurai Champloo might be accustomed to; there is an over-reliance on speed lines, and a lot of the bog-standard non-superpowered sword swings look clumsy and artificial.