Guin Saga is not the sort of anime you would expect to see with modern storytelling. And this is no surprise as it is based on a story format of the 70’s epic fantasy way of showing things. This is why it has a retro appeal to it very reminiscent of old epic movies like Conan the Barbarian or Krull. If I could describe this series in game terms, I would say it’s like a standard 2nd edition D&D campaign, with rather stereotypical characters, kingdoms at war, armies of thousands clashing, random encounters with monsters and full of the cheesiest dialogues you can probably think of. Still, it can still be entertaining besides a nostalgic trip to times past as the artwork is good and the flow of the story feels compeling on a basic level.
ART SECTION: 7/10 [Conan the Barbarian pays a visit to the Twelve Kingdoms.]
Analysis: General Artwork 2/2, Character Figures 1/2, Backgrounds 2/2, Animation 1/2, Visual Effects 1/2
Animated by studio Satelight, which has done many anime yet I personally only enjoyed Noein amongst them. It just doesn’t feel like it’s trying too hard most of the time. Aside from that, the artwork is simply superb, detailed as many other well made fantasy series such as The Twelve Kingdoms and Serei no Moribito... but in western style. In fact, it has the best looking pseudo medieval western fantasy of all anime to date. The feeling of epicness is all over the place, fitting a marvelous (albeit generic) fantasy/adventure world. Most landscapes have a magnificent variety of colors and details and most outfits are as extravagant as armors in modern MMORPGs. The characters also look interestingly drawn, although they do feel dry on proper reactions to danger or fear… just like in retro movies, hehe.
- The animation is quite subpar for a 2009 production but still better than your average pathetic ecchi / harem series.
- The action and movement in general suffer, such as the mouth moving funny when Guin the leopard or any other monster talks, or the 3D images not fitting well with the 2D.
- Blood in this series seems to be invisible as… there is none shown despite the really brutal battles and numerous deaths of characters. Obviously censored in order to make the series accessible to a younger audience and make more money. Well, too bad because more money means less coolness. Give us Berserk violence you moneyhoarders!
- The battles look a bit more realistic than the average fantasy anime out there, in the sense there actually is swordsmanship and battle choreography, instead of random slashes and energy beams. They also never last more than a few minutes at the most and the fighters use close-combat techniques that have a semi-realistic regard to physics. Everything is straightforward and simple, yet feels better that what you would expect from a series with lots of battles. A character will not do a triple flip, pose, have his face covered in shadow while shouting “super dual slash rock breaking sword” and a huge aura coming out of his body. No magic missiles, impossible recoils and injuries miraculously vanishing in this series. Much better than a Naruto battle.
- But don’t imagine it’s so real it will jump out of your screen. The characters wear armors and hold huge weapons no man could ever hope to use properly. And they break walls with their fists. And when they run it feels like they are scrolling with no regards to the terrain. I culd also question the aesthetics on most uniforms. They look so gay with all the vivid colors and the short skirts FOR MALES.
SOUND SECTION: 7/10 [You will not get away with this evil count Goris!]
Analysis: Voice Acting 1/3, Music Themes 4/4, Sound Effects 2/3
- The music themes are great and fitting to the whole epicness of the series, being a blend of epic rock and Latin chorus.
- Voice acting is also good for everyone, full of emotion and… yes, epicness again. The twin kids sure sound too annoying, being too crybaby and butchy girl but that is a minor detail.
- What I didn’t like is many parts in the dialogues where the characters MUST mention the name of everyone they talk to every five minutes, even if they know him for decades. I understand that this is a language issue as the Japanese show politeness and compassion by stating the name instead of a “hey you” or “him” but it still feels lame in the eyaes of everybody else. Also, the way they talk sounds pretty much like comic book material as they keep using all-time favorite hero vs villain quotes. I mean, lol, how much cheese can you make out of all this? Ok, I again understand that the way of writing way far more woody back in the 70’s but the show was made today, so it feels bad to the ears.
STORY SECTION: 5/10 [Now where did I put that 2nd edition Dungeon Master’s Guide?]
Analysis: Premise 2/2, Pacing 1/2, Complexity 1/2, Plausibility 1/2, Conclusion 0/2
- As if straight out of a cheesy campaign book, it is the story of two kind hearted royal twins TM being hunted by an evil army TM and being saved by a man with a leopard head, who has memory loss TM. The story is not bad at all but it doesn’t feel much either. More mature than a fairy tale yet not close to be seen as realistic or serious.
- The first half is about the gang being chased by evil minions and Guin the leopard fighting them in order to protect the twins. He even gets to rally all the savage tribes of the wilderness in order to fight the Mongol (racism or what?) army. This part is actually ok to watch. The story is generic and the battles rather dull but everything is done with such passion and atmosphere that unless you expect Hellsing action every 5 minutes, you are not going to be bored.
- The second part is where things get rather dull as the action is almost zero and there is a lot of political intrigue and mystery going around. This part fleshed out the characters, introduced some romance amongst them and made the world to feel a lot more complicating than just “save the princess, kill the dragon”. Still, not many things happened, the pacing was slow, and the ending is way too open for a sequel as nothing is really resolved. Which makes sense as the series only adapted the first of a very long line of epic fantasy books written in the 70’s.
- The story had a dramatic change from Conan the Barbarian to Rose of Versailles and it seemed to never use the good parts of each kind. Too little story, no twists on the first part, too little plot, no action on the second. It is still an ok watch but seriously, it could be done better. And as I said, it is not even finished so tough luck.
CHARACTER SECTION: 6/10 [Hasta lavista… Guin]
Analysis: Presence 2/2, Personality 1/2, Backdrop 2/2, Development 1/2, Catharsis 0/2
- The cast is an interesting bunch. It begins very generic and rather boring but as the episodes go by, many get killed and many more develop through romance or some revelation about themselves. Heck, they even grow up physically, as there is a time skip between the two arcs. Thus they become a lot more than yet another generic cast.
- Still, they will feel weak for half of the show as there is nothing going on around themselves and it is mostly “get the twins / oh harsh world” type of plot where the story drives the characters and not the other way around. What I mean is that there was a lot of DM help (cough) Divine Intervention to help the plot move along and the characters were not masters of their own fates. Also, Guin seems to strike too much like “I can beat you all, I can outsmart you all, I am the destined one yet I know nothing about my past” type of lead (if not like a Tiger Mask or King look alike) that seems to have the scriptwriter in his animal skin boxer pocket. Adding a mascot fuzzy animal just for kicks did not help in taking them seriously. Also, we have yet again two dynamic women in the cast who take no shit from anyone until they are mocked for being born female, fall in love and turn to passive sheep thereafter. On the opposite hand, the two main boys begin as crybabies and grow up to be badass. Oh the cheesiness…
- Even the character development is quite messy, since because of the time skip you are not allowed to properly understand how their personalities changed so much, plus the whole thing is quite convenient.
- Beyond all that the cast is fine and it sure has a lot more meat than most counterparts in other shows. Still, leaving the story unfinished could only lead to their development being unfinished as well. That detracts a lot from the overall.
VALUE & ENJOYMENT SECTIONS: 5/10
Value Analysis: Historical Value 0/3, Rewatchability 1/3, Memorability 3/4
Enjoyment Analysis: Art 1/1, Sound 1/2, Story 1/3, Characters 2/4
Some parts feels great and some are plain snoring, thus I half liked this series. It was thresholding too much between epic feeling and cheesy storytelling to really shine and is not even complete. I no longer like the simplistic plot of the 70’s plus I got too spoiled by A Game of Thrones. The scenario was way too simple to bother watching it again, and the battles were too short and usually “divine interventioned” to actually care scrolling through again. Thus, it was a so-so experience.
Serei no Moribito