Brought to us by the same guy who made Ayashi no Ceres, and basically following the same formula to the point I will reuse text from the review I made for it. It another one of those sappy melodramatic shows that made some impression at their time but were otherwise forgotten fast after several other better shows came about.
Romance is a very specific genre. There is not much variation to how “boy and girl meet” and usually everyone expects the exact same thing to happen in the conclusion. That is why to spice things up, the conditions under which the boy and the girl meet or the ordeals they are going through need to be different each time, in order to at least make the world around the otherwise one-track romance to appear interesting.
Take this series for example. We have quite the usual fuss. Naive good girl meets mysterious pretty bad boy and falls in love with it 0.13 seconds after they first meet. Why? Well, she is naive, he is a boy, he is pretty, and apparently being bad is quite fascinating if you spent your life pampered and see this as a way to get wild before you grow old and wither away in boredom with some fat, bald poor business man who cares more about football than you. Ok, I understand; it’s been like that in most corny shoujo and it still sells today no matter the stupidity of the whole deal. For more information, check out the success of frakking Twilight .
STORY SECTION: 6/10
Analysis: Premise 2/2, Pacing 1/2, Complexity 1/2, Plausibility 0/2, Conclusion 2/2
But that is now and this is, what, twenty years ago; a time when romances were to the most part not happening in space, in the past, or in magic fairylands. Very common today, very rare back then. This anime did not receive its fame because of its romance, which to be honest is following the book of corny romances to the letter. It is about the world around that romance.
-Let’s have the girl being the reincarnation of a celestial maiden, whose mystical powers can control the forces of the world.
-Let’s have her knight in shining armor be a super warrior in a magical land and part of her elite followers.
-Let’s have her best friend tuning out to be her worst rival, because fate requests it and because the villain in the show exploits her emotions.
-Let’s add a hundred other people trying to exploit, survive or just have fun with all that.
-Let’s add flashy superpowers. Lots of them.
-And tears. Lots of tears.
-And let’s always end the most important episodes with a cliffhanger.
Yeah, sounds great already.
So I’m not going to lie, the premise of this anime is amazing, despite being so old. You can focus on different aspects to it instead of just seeing it as yet another corny romance (which it is by the way).
But let’s try to see a bit deeper than that and check out some things most fangirls … err… viewers don’t notice. The pacing for example has always been the most overlooked aspect of most stories, being left alone to read books home while bijinism and extravagant are out partying like crazy all night with naivety and suspended disbelief. If this poor champ would be noticed for some weird to imagine reason, he would tell you that this series (as well as most others for the same matter) is suffering from tuberculosis. It has a very formulaic way to present its story, some parts are damn boring, some others are hardly affecting the overall, and the finale is a five year old writing Tolkien fanfiction on a napkin… with its mother’s crayon.
Of course, nobody ever listens to poor old pacing as the fang… fans of such shows are too busy yelling “Kyaaa, Tamahome is so dreamyyyyy!” This example can expand to pretty much any romance by the way, with the only difference being the name yelled. But in some alternative reality of the multiverse where his voice is heard, everyone would agree that the way the story unravels is far from “as dreamy as Tamahome”.
-Most side stories are hardly affecting the overall plot and yet they are there to slow the pacing. Just imagine four teams of warriors, each one having seven members and yet only one or two in each one matter. And the way the fated couple keeps copping with their ordeals looks too silly at best.
But it’s not like the story is complete boinkers either. Its main idea expands further beyond the main duo and shows how circumstances can turn an average person to a savior and charismatic leaders being manipulated by shady people to do things they never intended. It is also full of emo characters with colorful personalities and sappy personal drama along with supernatural fights in the likes of Naruto or Bleach. And to its core, it is still a romance, ideal and corny enough to follow with your ears gone out of order because of the constant screams of those fang… fans of romances.
Bottom line, it is a good story with a messy presentation. It may sound epic at first but it plays out like a soap opera with magic, slapstick humor and mediocre fan service. I consider this anime the forefather of The Twelve Kingdoms, which a decade later managed to gain far more fans by having far more mature presentation (it is was sadly left incomplete).
ART SECTION: 5/10
Analysis: General Artwork 1/2, Character Figures 1/2, Backgrounds 1/2, Animation 1/2, Visual Effects 1/2
Yup, the visuals are as weak as a harem lead next to a pair of panties. All the attempts at showing cinematics seem poor even considering the age they were made. And the character figures have quite simplistic anatomy and facial structure, being separated only by their hair color or clothes. Of course, this being a romance most will probably only care about how pretty the guys and the gals look (or better say the same guy and gal with different wig and uniform) and won’t give a frakk about the awful way they move… or don’t move at all and stay frozen with a flapping mouth. The manga version could get away with its fluent lining and rather stiff body positions but the anime version is guilty as charged.
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Analysis: Voice Acting 2/3, Music Themes 3/4, Sound Effects 2/3
This part is rather ok. Voice acting is fine (considering how annoyingly sappy the characters are meant to sound) and the songs are ok to listen to many times without feeling fed up with them. At the same time, there is nothing amazing about it either.
CHARACTER SECTION: 7/10
Analysis: Presence 1/2, Personality 1/2, Backdrop 1/2, Development 2/2, Catharsis 2/2
The cast is actually quite interesting on paper as there is a plethora of different people with different goals and demeanors and most of them do change or mature or simply get killed. As far as variety goes, there is lots of it and their behaviors are very well excused through their backdrop stories.
What ruins it is the way they mature / develop, etc. It feels generic in the least and eventually it is all about following what the priestess said. A monologue by some good guy is enough to change one’s worldview immediately while inhuman villains try to look sympathetic to us ten minutes before they kick the bucket. I’m sorry; it’s too sudden to mean anything. As it is with all those characters who seem to matter for one or two episodes and afterwards become nothing but stunts in the team and stall time in the battles.
Some minor bickering can be said about the main characters as well for being to the most part irritating stereotypes. They do eventually develop of course but considering the amount of air time they get, it feels slow and vein popping to the most part.
-Miaka for example has nothing special to remember her about. She is aloof and frail when it comes to some hunk near her. She either gets saved by pretty boys or gets super powerful when they are not around; so she survives no matter what happens. She also has a real problem in staying dressed or not being chased around by rapists every ten minutes. And lol at her superpowers going away if she is no longer a virgin; this alone guarantees her purity remaining intact for the whole show.
-Tamahome is to the most part the stereotypical hunk the heroine is after from the first second they met. He is simply so blunt in whatever he is doing and even most of that has to do with running after Miaka or desperately trying not to deflower her although he really digs her ass.
-Yui is basically the evil side of Miaka, manipulated by the villain who is basically an evil Tamahome. That’s right, the main antagonists are the dark counterparts of the heroes. What, you expected something more? Anyways, Yui is also a blockhead for becoming her best friend’s nemesis for something she never did. Furthermore, how much of an idiot can you be for not knowing if you got raped or not?
VALUE SECTION: 3/10
Analysis: Historical Value 1/3, Rewatchability 1/3, Memorability 1/4
Um, not much. It is ok the first time you watch it, with those cliffhangers constantly making you yearn for more. But the second time you will most likely skip most of it, since to the most part it plays out as a corny shoujo with corny shounen action. And the premise in general has been used numerous times in later shows with better animation; so tough luck even there.
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 1/10
Analysis: Art 0/1, Sound 0/2, Story 1/3, Characters 0/4
Good concept, bad pacing, bad animation, irritating personalities. Gets 1 out of 4. But if you are one of those Banshees, you will like it a looooooot more.
The Twelve Kingdoms
Vision of Escaflowne