Looking at some of my previous reviews, it may seem that there is very little anime I truly enjoy. This is at least true for the past couple of months, and so Tenpou Ibun Ayakashi Ayashi (TIAA) a refreshing change from a recent selection of stagnated trash.
A familiar sounding storyline plays out like watching an overly enthused puppy. Eager to please, it bounces around excitedly, performing impressive tricks before the commotion becomes too much and an anti-climactic ending results in a puddle on the floor. Other reviews had me expecting the worst – the show was cancelled partway through and cut from 50 episodes due to a lack of viewing figures. Sure, the finale isn’t as strong as the predominant part of the show, but overall TIAA is an enjoyable journey from start to end.
Expecting the tripe “spirit-fighting” shows typically produce, I was pleasantly surprised by something that had more in common with Mononoke and Mushishi than fillertastic Bleach. The intelligent use of words as weapons is fascinating, especially the awakening of characters who use the meaning of their names to brandish new and remarkable armaments. The engrossing action scenes contrast beautifully against a slow-paced narrative backdrop, and the adrenaline starts pumping during the impressive battles against the diabolic youi. As impressive as the fights are, they are not what will have the viewer coming back for more. Instead, the unfolding back-story for each of the Ayashi team in short, snappy arcs reveal some startling events; showing the heroes to be mere mortals and a darn sight more affable than other shounen stars.
Set in the Edo period, the writers make clever use of history and colour it fantastical; with possible scenarios, such as famous faces coming to power, now involving the demon-hunting Ayashi, they incorporate various levels of the Shinsengumi task force and add the mystery of the demon-spawning “other world”. Unfortunately, the climax takes generous liberties to help bring the show to a rushed close, causing the underlying facts to err more towards fiction. Some of the initial charm of TIAA is lost to a barrage of plot threads colliding in a messy finale, and would definitely have benefitted from a second season. Being maybe a little too forgiving of this untidy fact, the first seven-eighths are some of the most impressive anime story I've seen in a long time and influence my overall story score. Also, expecting the finale to fall flat on its ass and finding it to be more than palatable, I feel that this show is definitely a diamond in the rough.
Utterly stunning visuals in the first quarter of TIAA soon give way to mediocre animation as the show suffers significantly from the budget cuts. As the fantastic CG youi initially blend seamlessly with an animated background, their fluid and natural movements become hampered as the monsters are downgraded to being hand-drawn. The character designs are consistent and definitely a plus to the show, their emotions conveyed brilliantly through Bones' pointy nosed animation and a colourful palette. If the composition had remained top-notch throughout, the animation would definitely have rated a 10.
I am a complete sucker for an excellent soundtrack, and TIAA offers exactly that. With an up-tempo J-rock track opening the aural furore, much of the incidental music is traditional Japanese shamisen that matches the show’s ambling pace. The director seems to have perfectly chosen an audio accompaniment to the visual fluctuating momentum of the show.
One thing surprisingly enjoyable in TIAA is the father-daughter type relationship between the protective Yuki and the captivating Atl. The strength of the pair as they struggle to resist the compulsion to revisit the other world is a must see, especially the hints of a tentative romance. Whilst forbidden affairs like the one portrayed in Solty Rei usually turn me off, the handling of this pair goes beyond a physical desire and more into a mutual respect and understanding.
A balanced team dynamic is brilliantly enforced by a wide selection of disparate characters, all of whom have a murky past. For an action title, there is also a surprising amount of development, and each of the personalities is treated to their own arc in which their reactions and disposition are explained by previous experiences. Even minor parts don’t feel neglected, giving TIAA one of the richest and most endearing casts I have seen since Baccano.
As flawed as the show may be, this does not affect the overall success and enjoyment of an exhilarating ride through multiple genres. With ticks in all of the right boxes, it certainly will appeal to those who like well paced action and development without the pointless powering-up episodes. The period drama and slightly disappointing ending may turn off some viewers, but overall this is a severely underrated sleeper-hit that deserves a look over.
In the 14th year of the Tenpo era (1843), life in Edo is grim for many; famines plague the land, frugality is enforced in many aspects of life, and social standing rules the day. Yuki is a floater who has twice run away from the floater ghetto - an act that has marked him for execution. But when a chance encounter leads him into a fight with a yoi, a mysterious monster from another world, Yuki finds himself being recruited into the Bansha Aratamesho, an organization charged with hunting down and destroying yoi. For Yuki has the power of ayagami, which draws out the true meaning of words and allows Yuki to create weapons from the kanji in the names of his enemies. Yuki must make a choice: will he continue to run, rejecting the powers of the Other World, or will he join the Ayashi in the fight against the yoi?
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As a not-so-closet perv, I love watching anything involving panty-shots, handfuls of cleavage and an innuendo fuelled plot. Although most of my reviews will err on the risque, I also love the obscure, the twisted and things that make you think - drop me a line if you want to discuss any of them!
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