Saint Beast: Kouin Jojishi Tenshitan (2007) - Nanako Shimazaki, Tokyo Kids
This series was like a plateful of pizza rolls. When you first dive into such a plateful, life's pretty good and, even though you know pizza rolls aren’t the greatest food in the world, you think a bit of indulgence can‘t hurt anyone. Then by the end of the experience you’re left feeling greasy and bloated and wondering why in the name of god you did this to yourself. Such is my summary of Saint Beast: Kouin Jojishi Tenshitan.
I suppose now's the time for me to admit that I am a shounen ai fangirl. You probably haven’t noticed because you don’t care, but I’ve watched a decent amount of the m/m ovas in existence (some of which went way beyond pizza rolls and are experiences I never want to talk about again.) I went into Saint Beast KJT hoping for shameless boyfluff and mind candy, because I am a firm believer in the guilty albeit undiminished value of such things. What I found was an even weaker than expected plot, iffy animation, and what would have been weak character development if the series had, in fact, featured characters instead of cheerful cardboard cutouts.
The story takes place in heaven, where the mandatory eternal bliss is in full swing. For the sake of boy love convenience all the angels are dudes, and a majority of those dudes look like chicks. Our Team Androgyny heroes are the Six Saint Beasts, a group of angels specially chosen to protect the mortal world from evil influences (and entrusted with looking longingly at one another from time to time to appease the goddesses of fangirl drool). The plot thickens, however, when the leader of the Saint Beasts, Judas (oooh, Biblical reference!), begins to unearth conspiracy surrounding the almighty god Zeus, and eventually questions the morality of his blind faith. It seems like the story should therefore be a complicated political epic interwoven with an evaluation of spirituality and the ever-burning question of belief’s validity in the face of undeniable doubt, right? But it isn’t (which I guess shouldn't be all that surprising considering the genre). Instead it’s a too-long, piddering creature that can’t muster the energy to do anything climactic.
In other words it’s BORING AS HELL. The pacing runs slower than a snail with a limp. Even the action scenes play out slowly and sometimes offscreen. Different plot elements show up routinely only to change their minds and slug away unresolved, and the ending tacks an utterly onto the word unsatisfying. I admire what the show was trying to be, but that admiration just makes the intense failure of what the show actually is all the more disappointing.
And then there’s the characters. Or, rather, the cardboard chickdudes. A lot of shonen ai series, along with a lot of harem series, feature a preset cast of characters that underpaid writers reuse over and over and over again. Saint Beast KJT tried to use those characters and FAILED AT IT. I don’t even know how that’s possible but Saint Beast managed. Shin is the typical sweet, lovably useless damsel in distress character, except a half-assed monotonous version that rarely says anything interesting. Gai is the typical hyper, mascot-like character, but somehow also manages to be boring despite having more energy than a post (an accomplishment nobody else in the cast can quite attest to). I don’t even know who Gou is supposed to be. He just stands there and looks pretty. The only character that undergoes any real development is Judas, and even his epic struggles with faith are disappointingly understated.
Then there's the shonen ai element… Normally, I would very much laud a shonen ai series where the fanservice takes a backseat to plot, but in the case of Saint Beast the plot was so boring that I only felt gyped when there wasn’t more man on man goodness. A lot of the fanservice was the teasing, we’re-never-going-to-make-out-onscreen kind, which might be praised as slow relationship development if the main couples hadn’t already been pre-established by the first episode. For the whole series I just kept waiting for something to happen plot-wise, and when I realized that it was a lost cause I kept with the show hoping that something would happen on the boy fluff/mindcandy front. But it didn’t. The entire show was one huge cocktease.
The romantic relationships were as uninteresting as they were uneventful. I had a vague fondness for Judas and Shin, but even they never did anything together that wasn’t a cliché. In my book a lot of super cliché shonen ai series can be saved by quirkiness, fun characters, or above all some crazy humor (I probably wouldn’t have gotten through reading Gravitation if it weren’t for Mr. K running around shooting people and the awesomeness of a giant robot panda destroying New York). But Saint Beast didn’t have any sense of humor whatsoever. On the rare occasion when the show would attempt a joke, the result would be wincingly unfunny and all of the characters would laugh in a disturbingly Brady Bunch-like way. It was just… There were so many ways this show could have saved itself, but it didn’t even try, you guys.
Add to this some stiff, awkward animation and an even more forgettable soundtrack and you’ve got yourself one helluva case of indigestion. Next time I’m eating a fricken salad.
- - - -
Disclaimer: I suppose I might be going hard on this series since it’s only a prequel and also based on a drama series (I think). I hope something was lost in adaptation, but even so I stand by the opinion that the anime version isn’t worth watching.
Disclaimer II: Unless you watch it muted and incorporate your own lusty dialogue, because I would totally do that.