David Ayer’s film, Bright, sets the basic premise of Netflix’s Bright: Samurai Soul. The animated film is a spin-off of a 2017 live-action film written by Max Landis. Bright: Samurai Soul is directed by Kyōhei Ishiguro and written by Michiko Yokote.
Set during the Keio Period (1868), the animated film follows an alternate world where humans coexist with other sentient creatures like elves and orcs. A human samurai teams up with an Orc hitman to save a young elf who can wield the power of a magical wand.
‘Bright: Samurai Soul’ Plot Summary
The diplomatic talks between Saigo Takamori, a Japanese nobleman, and Count Katsu Kaish, broke down in 1868. Saigo’s army captures the shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, leading to a civil war in Japan. Eternal darkness falls upon the land that leads to death and destruction. However, a magical light illuminated the world, revealing everything.
A few years after the civil war, the old era transforms into a new dazzling era with recent reforms. The feudal system of government is dissolved, and a new imperial system is restored to defend the land against foreign influence. The event is called the Meiji Restoration.
In the new era, Izo, a former samurai, becomes a guard at a brothel, Asahiro, in Kyoto. The brothel is the residence of the most beautiful woman in Kyoto. The guest, enchanted by the high courtesan, Chihaya, forgets to return. As a result, she has earned the moniker “The Forgetful.”
Izo attends to a new young and wild elf, Sonya, who arrives at the brothel. On a visit to Chihaya’s Chamber, Izo informs the high courtesan about Sonya. Chihaya develops a liking for Sonya and brings her to her chamber. Later, Chihaya reveals that she is an elf too.
While Chihaya shares her secrets with Sonya, a brutal lord attacks the brothel. He commands his wild hitman, Raiden, the orc, to capture the young elf. Raiden’s boss finds Sonya with Chihaya, and to protect the young elf, Chihaya attacks Raiden’s boss. He retaliates and stabs Chihaya with her kanzashi hairpin. A furious Sonya opens up the hairpin and unleashes a magical wand that calls a pillar of light. As Raiden witnesses Sonya’s brightness, his heart melts from nostalgia. He helps Izo and Sonya to run away. Along with her salient bodyguards, Sonya embarks on a journey to find a land of elves, Hakodate, where she may feel at home away from human discrimination.
Major Spoilers Ahead
Who were the Bright?
While running away from Raiden’s boss, Izo and Raiden jumped off a cliff and lost Sonya. However, at the foot of Mount Fuji, they found a hermit, Tsukuyomi, the centaur, who told them about the magical staff.
According to the all-knowing sage, the wand was a rare magical artifact that could shape the world as per the command of its wielder. If a man cloaked in light wielded it, the world would be brightly lit. However, if it is possessed by darkness, the world would face eternal darkness again.
Those remarkable beings who could use the wand were called Brights. Two rival groups wanted control over the wand and the bright. One group was called the Shield of Light, and the other was called Inferni. Because the number of brights in the world was finite, both adversaries wanted to seize them for themselves.
In Bright: Samurai Soul, the dead Chihaya was a member of Shield of Light, but after she used the wand to bring light upon the world, she lost her memory. On the other hand, Raiden’s boss and his master, Kōketsu, were the Inferni. Kōketsu wanted Sonya and the wand to wake up a mythical dark lord in a deep sleep, to bring eternal darkness upon the world.
Who was Chihaya?
Tsukuyomi, the centaur, informed Izo and Raiden about an Elf community in Yokohama from where they could learn more about the Wand and Bright. They could even find Sonya while seeking the answers.
In Yokohama, Izo saw Chihaya’s twin sister, Anna, a member of Shield of Light, who revealed the identity of The Forgetful Courtesan Elf. Chihaya was a wand wielder who wanted to illuminate the world and rescue it from the darkness.
In 1868, during the Civil war, Chihaya located the wand and left the Elf homeland, Hakodate, for Tokyo. Chihaya took advantage of the ongoing battle to infiltrate Edo Castle to steal the wand before it fell into the wrong hands. Anna surmised that maybe Chihaya was caught, and thus she unleashed the power of the wand.
Though Chiyaya ended the civil war and brought new light to the world, she couldn’t sustain the incredible power and thus lost her memory. She ended up at the Asahiro, and when Chiyaya saw Sonya at the brothel, she found an heir to the wand. In Sonya, Chiyaya saw the light and thus handed the magical wand to protect it from Inferni. During the attack on Asahiro, Chiyaya lost her life, and Sonya was the faded silver lining for a new, better world.
‘Bright: Samurai Soul’ Ending, Explained
Izo discovered that the Inferni officer, Kōketsu, was his samurai lord and mentor who tried to kill him. Raiden questioned Izo whether he would pick up arms against his mentor as staying loyal to one’s lord was a part of the samurai doctrine. At this point, Izo courageously declared that he was not a Samurai anymore. He was Sonya’s bodyguard. Izo abandoning his Samurai Soul was a vital part of the historical revolution. Samurai bound by an oath followed their treacherous master’s command even when their own morale argued against it.
Anna informed them that Kōketsu was taking Sonya to Inferini’s homeland, and thus they needed to stop them. They followed Kōketsu’s ship and attacked it. In the final battle, Raiden killed his boss, but Raiden’s boss tricked him before dying and shot Raiden’s head.
On the other end, Izo confronted Kōketsu but failed to match his powers. Kōketsu cut Izo’s other eye and finally stabbed him. However, a grieving Sonya resurrected Raidan and Izo. She cast the “Vykwarus” spell, which turned Kōketsu into dust.
A few days later, Sonya, Anna, and other members of the Shield of Light left Yokohama port for the elf homeland, Hakodate. Sonya parted with Izo and Raiden and sailed away.
After Sonya’s ship left the port, Izo found out that Sonya had left the wand with him. Izo looked at the magical wand and threw it into the ocean. In the end, he shared a moment of wisdom with Raiden and told him that humans would take care of things with their own abilities. They won’t need magic and wands to settle their disputes.
Baron Okubo Toshimichi shared a similar belief and explained that they would unite the Japanese land with their own power. The ending of Bright: Samurai Soul depicted a silver lining for humans who could probably carve a brighter future for themselves without any magic.
In David Ayer’s Bright, the magic wand is found again in the modern century, and the struggle to keep the Dark Lord away continues.
Bright: Samurai Soul is a 2021 Animated Film directed by Kyōhei Ishiguro. It is streaming on Netflix.