The last couple of years have spawned some anime series that ditched the usual 20-minute
episode format in favor of longer episodes. ‘Break Blade’, ‘Kara no Kyokai’ and
‘Katanagatari’ all released new installments that were (at least) double the
length of a typical anime episode up to and including feature length films.
Upsides to this approach are that the production values tend to be much higher
and that the longer format allows for more deliberate pacing. The downside is
that viewers who follow these series end up waiting a long time between the
release of new installments.
‘Towa no Quon’ (TnQ) is a superhero story as well as Studio Bones’ attempt to hop on the bandwagon. How is it?
Not bad, actually.
It opens with a tense sequence involving a shady organization chasing a young boy. Their
attempt at capture is swiftly interrupted by a strange figure who proceeds to
engage them in a blistering and beautifully animated action sequence. Eventually
said figure manages to escape with the boy, and it’s from then that the story
well and truly starts up.
The rest of the movie is basically what you’d expect from a first installment. It mostly
concerns itself with establishing the major players, the setting and the main
conflict. It’s all handled well. Characters all fall under familiar archetypes
but not annoyingly so and the larger conflict has the potential for cool
developments. Kudos for introducing it all without too much spoon feeding of exposition.
Which is something Bones has often tried to do though it’s lead to incoherent messes like ‘Darker than Black’ and ‘Xamd’. The narrative in this, however, is simple and
straightforward so there’s no fear of getting lost, for now at least.
By far the best thing about TnQ’s first episode is the excellent balance between all its
elements. It manages to introduce all the important things while keeping the
story going. This is further enhanced by the fact that titular character Quon
is already introduced as a skilled fighter from the very beginning. Thus
avoiding typical clichés revolving around a hero who must come to grips with
his powers et cetera (this gets turned into a subplot). On the flipside, it
avoids making Quon so powerful that he can effortlessly defeat any opponent. He
gets considerable injuries in most fights he’s in and he actually needs the
help of his colorful ensemble of sidekicks. This makes it all the easier to
warm up to the characters even though they’re yet to be fleshed out.
The animation is great. Environments are well drawn and most of the characters have
distinctive designs rather than recycled models with slight alterations. But
most of the effort went into creating the wonderful action sequences which,
this being a superhero story and all, are sure to be the main draw of this
series. They’re not just well-animated, however. They also manage to feel
compelling because of the way they’re written. It shuns dry 1-on-1 fights in
favor of dynamic confrontations between groups of powerful characters with all
sorts of abilities which they use in cool ways in order to get the upper hand.
The director deserves props for showing these fights in such a way that they
feel dynamic and hectic without making them chaotic. Once again, the balance is
excellent. It’s no exaggeration to say that the action sequences are some of
the best since ‘Sword of the Stranger’.
The music doesn’t particularly stand out even though it was composed by acclaimed
composer Kenji Kawai. It’s competent but little more.
Judging from the first episode Towa no Quon has the potential to make for a great
action series. The brisk pace, well built up tension and outstanding action
certainly make it very promising. One can rightfully criticize the series for
its liberal use of clichés and lack of depth but those hungry for something
action-packed should seriously consider giving this a try. The jury is still
out on whether or not the rest of the series will be good but this first movie
is still well worth checking out.