Simiyu Samurai

Simiyu Samurai tells the story of a young man who left Kenya for Japan to learn ancient martial arts. The pilot briefly shows scenes from his stay in Japan and the relationship with his master. He returns home to his grandmother after an earthquake and with him, he brings trouble.

Simiyu Samurai is a Kenyan production meant to be a TV series with the help of its viewers. The show is trying out a new concept in Kenya, where fans chart the direction of the show and in so doing, funding it. The concept is clever and brings on a new level of interactivity. At the end of each episode, viewers are given multiple scenarios, which the hero might use to forward the story. They choose the desired scenario by sending a text message with an assigned code. The makers will shoot the next episode based on the popular vote. They make money by charging texts at premium rates, Kshs 50, of which, according to Robbie Bresson (the director), only Kshs 15 makes it to their pocket. It’s probably the best way to make a TV show because if the money isn’t flowing, then you know your show isn’t good enough.

I have to judge it from the pilot episode if the show is worth a Kshs 50 text. To a certain extent, I think it might be worth it. I mean, that’s the amount we spare to buy DVDs, right? And besides, this production needs it. Tom Cruise doesn’t really feel the pinch when I do it… I guess. Besides, I look at it as a way of growing the ‘industry.’

But of course, I want to be repaid for my kindness. And that is making the show decent enough for us to watch. And that means there will have to be a lot of improvement from the first episode. Someone at the screening asked if the show should be taken as a serious drama or some sort of comedy. I also had a bit of a problem with that. I wasn’t sure if some parts were meant to be funny or it was just bad. The acting was too stage-like. Wally B was probably the worst actor here. But when significant number of the cast is doing a bad job, I think the director is solely to blame. The fact that that was good enough for him, tells a lot about his standards.

A positive though: the fighters looked like they were really into it. I can’t say much about the choreography of the fights if I’m not sure if they were meant to be comedic or not, because that’s how it seemed. I would also commend the production for the Japan scenes, which were actually shot in Kenya. Good art direction.

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