If you have ever read William Golding's Lord of the Flies, then you'll understand very quickly the classic theme this series is tapping into, namely survival of the fittest at the cost of humanity. However, Jyu Oh Sei swaps English schoolboys for convicts, and sticks and stones for beam-knives. As intense as it sounds, the show fails to reach its full potential; instead of capitalising on that brutal exposure of human nature, the ending falls back on an age old sci-fi cliché. The result is certainly surprising, but disappointing nonetheless.
At first it is a fish out of water story, with Thor learning to put aside airy fairy notions for the gritty realities of physical struggle, but then, at the last minute, it changes tack to form an awkward link to the abuses of science. I got the feeling the show had little faith in its own material, dumping the sophisticated stuff in the middle for the typical stuff at the end in an attempt to avoid ‘big', unanswerable questions.
Still, because Jyu Oh Sei is only eleven episodes long, it is ultimately difficult to feel cheated. One key achievement of the series is its ability to jump straight into the plot, introducing tragic elements that make a definite impact from the very first episode. Furthermore, Jyu Oh Sei is the kind of show that doesn't believe central characters have any special rights to survival, with the effect that conflicts instantly have a lot at stake. So, the ending aside, what you get overall are exciting set-pieces, brutal action scenes, and an engaging social experiment, all presented with a decent sense of pacing.
BONES should be congratulated on the fantastic concept for Chimera, and I mean this in all senses of the word. From the first few seconds Rai and Thor spend in the jungle, it is difficult not to be taken in by the detail and inventiveness of the plants. Moreover, Chimera's lush but deadly wildlife is a useful contrast to Juno's sterile, metallic environment, with Chimera washed in refreshing greens whilst Juno is cold silver and blues. As an aside, the character designs reminded me of Escaflowne the Movie, which I take to be a BONES influence.
Jyu Oh Sei has an excellent moody OP and a melodic ED but I'm unsure whether they are worth enjoying as singles in their own right (the rest of the soundtrack is certainly forgettable). Voice acting for almost all characters was suitable, with engaging performances from young Thor, Zagi, and notably Third, whose husky tone really stood out.
The series instantly gives us a good idea of the differences between Rai and Thor through their first stark experiences. Rai is annoying for no good reason, with whiny lines and a whiny voice. As Thor discovers, it is difficult at times to wish him anything but the worst. However, this allows the show to draw instant sympathy towards the tough and efficient Thor in order to make us care quickly about the events that follow. Unfortunately, the bright and colourful child personality is never developed (in fact, a convenient time jump stops us following his growth) so that Thor becomes bland and generic in adulthood.
Later, Rai's annoying traits are easily replaced by Thor's new friend, Tiz, whose constant pleading to be impregnated goes beyond animalistic rationality to just pure stupidity. In fact, not one female character can be said to have any meaningful aims beyond bedding a man. Apparently, when thrown into a state of nature, men want to kill things and women want meaningless romance.
Undoubtedly, my favourite character is Third, first and foremost because of his incredible voice, and secondly, because he is the most complex of a simple bunch. A less swashbuckling version of Allen Schezar (Escaflowne), a rogue seemingly incapable of deep emotion who clearly has ulterior motives, he provides for some of the best conflicts. Sadly, his lacklustre evolution is just one of the many casualties of the ending.
All things considered, each of the characters has simplistic motivations - Thor wants to become the Beast King so he can survive, Tiz wants his babies because she fancies him, etc. - but frankly, their minimal development is appropriate considering Jyu Oh Sei is such a short tale.
Making straightforward recommendations for this series is difficult, which isn't to say Jyu Oh Sei has any ‘new' ideas, but that it has a unique tone. If that's not enough, then its captivating milieu, action-oriented plot developments, and timeless subject matter should make it a worthwhile series for most anime fans.
I had extremely high hopes for Juuousei after the first couple of episodes. The series efficiently sets up its premise, characters and world in an extremely short amount of time, after which the anime rockets off on an extremely promising storyline. Indeed, the first half of the series is excellent.
For one, the characters after episode one are all initially likeable. None of them are particularly deep, but the character designs are excellent and the seiyuu do a good job. More importantly, the pacing of the early episodes is flat out fantastic. Unlike some shows, which half-wittingly bumble through their episodes as they try to introduce everything, Juuousei is extremely good at showing the audience the world while developing the story.
Unfortunately, this efficiency ends up being the series’ downfall; put simply, Juuousei’s collapses under the weight of its own ambition. The overarching storyline is so vast and grand that eleven meager episodes can’t possibly do it justice. From the government conspiracies to the wilderness survival stories to the global politics, there’s just far too much to cover. As a result, the writers need to take massive shortcuts across the entire storyline. There’s a three year time jump. Massive plot twists abound, but are so frequent and unrelenting that the viewer never really gets a chance to digest them. The end, especially, suffers from information overload – a sloppy mess of hurried resolution, clumsy tragedy and borderline melodrama.
What’s worse, the initially likeable set of characters suffers as much as the storyline, if not more. Supporting characters seem almost blurred by how quickly they rush in and out of view; you’d care for them if only you could see them clearly. On the other hand, the protagonist develops so quickly and randomly that even though he’s in every episode, you don’t really feel like you know him by the end. Tiz, the primary love interest, somewhat escapes this, but certain events make her a largely unsatisfying character anyway.
This deficiency is made all the more painful from the fact that this is Juuousei’s only real weakness; everything else in the series is rock solid. Animation is amazingly clean and crisp for what was probably a small budget. As mentioned before the character designs are appealing both before and after the two year time shift, and the action scenes are always serviceable and sometimes even good. Of particular note are the backgrounds of the jungle, which are vibrant and luscious to look at. The sound also compares favorably to shows of its budget. The voice acting is fine with few exceptions, and the background music is competent at setting the mood of the show, albeit somewhat forgettable. Of particular note is the OP, which, using blaring trombones and catchy Engrish, absolutely rocks.
Still, an ambitious anime that needed to be longer is certainly better than a safe one that should have been shorter. As so many series pad their running time with meaningless side-stories and tedious flashbacks, Juuousei is notable for being fresh and new the entire way through, even as the pangs of disappointment start to kick in. Even though there have been plenty of other “survival” anime made already, Juuousei never feels trite or clichéd. Overall, Juuousei doesn’t approach some of the other titles released this year, but should provide a satisfying time to those looking for a relatively short shounen flick.
Planet of the Beast King could have made a great sci-fi / action / mystery / survival anime but because of bad storytelling it ends up being nothing but a superficial shojo romance for fangirls. Do not make the mistake of expecting action or adventure while starting this anime. The story begins with a pair of twins living in a high-tech colony, having their parents murdered and themselves thrown on a savage planet where they must survive on their own. This is an instant hook with most viewers who would of course expect an epic adventure. The setting may support the genres but, guess what, they are used at minimum. Most of it is tragic romance and overblown drama around pretty lads and pretty gals, thrown amidst a poorly constructed mystery / sci-fi setting.
- Animated by studio BONES, so of course that means good production values and absolutely no attempt to have a decent plot.
- Directed by Nishikiori Hiroshi, who has a surprisingly variable roster that covers most genres (Angelic Layer, Azumanga Daioh, The Melody of Oblivion, Ghost Slayers Ayashi, Toaru Majitsu no Index). None of them are particularly good but at leas the guy tries something slightly different each time.
SCRIPT & CAST
The story had enough material to be a full season or more yet it was all ruined by having to be shoved inside a tiny 11 episode format, where most of its elements are left out or done in a rushed way.
- The most obvious example of which is a time skip that happens midway and practically throws out the window all the adventure and the possible action the setting could have. One moment you have a wimp weak boy starting its adventure in a savage world. The scene changes and you are told years passed and it is now a macho man who surpassed all challenges, conquered all the savage tribes, and became the master of the world. WELL THANKS FOR NOTHING! All the fun is watching HOW he did all that and not IF he succeeded in the end.
- The second problem with this anime is the rushed and unnatural relationships and behaviors of the cast. Romances bloom out of nowhere, and characters behave way too exaggerated before they become completely different people out of screen. You are simply not made to believe all their overblown drama is interesting since it is completely artificial and forced. You don’t care about them either because all that happens too fast to find the time to even get used to this artificial feeling.
- The third problem is the plot twists that are completely ridiculous to the point you think they were written by a 5 year old. Or in this case, the BONES staff, which is the same thing. The finale reveals the reason for all the mess in the story and it is plain ridiculous. It’s again trying to shock you with a major plot twist that happens ten minutes before the series ends and with no investment to it, you are just facepalming and wondering WHY DID I WASTE MY TIME WATCHING THIS? It came out of nowhere, without foreshadow or even further elaboration, as again nothing but an amateurish method of using SHOCK EFFECT to make you go WOW with things that were unexpected because there simply was NO WAY to figure it out yourself.
Yet I understand that the target audience for such works LOVES this overblown drama, as long as it is around tragic romances concerning pretty and very stupid people. You know what I mean; feminine boys and bimbo girls that are in desperate need to be saved by handsome men… because they are girls. So yeah, in theory it is very successful for the same reasons the Twilight movies were. Still, nothing lasts long enough for even the fujoshis to care and all you are left with is a messy plot that changes abruptly every 20 minutes just because THEY ARE RUNNING OUT OF EPISODES. All the potential the rich setting and the character interaction had was wasted right there. Plain horrible!
The best part in the whole anime is the artwork, which is very good in terms of colors and drawings. A minus is the DAMN huge eyes the characters have, just because this is a shojo story. Very hard to accept it in a series that takes place on a savage planet full of testosterone filled barbarians. And as I said, don’t expect any action because it sucks.
Music on the other hand is plain mediocre. The songs are full of silly Engrish and a tone that feels irrelevant with the setting. This anime is called “Bestial” and we get LULLABIES??? So we can what, fall asleep while watching the man-eating plants ripping apart their victims or the barbarian tribes gutting each other in raids? This is all out of place! And so are the voice actors; most sound like gays and bimbos despite being on a planet oozing with hormones. I guess those sentient plants are full of TENTACLES that ass-rape them twice a day in order to achieve that. Pf, the anime better fits to be called Planet of the Drag Queen.
This anime fails in practically all sections. Maybe it wouldn’t if a different studio had animated it. I recommend Towards the Terra as a much better variant, plus to make sure you throw this series to the ass-raping plants where it belongs.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 7/10
General Artwork 1/2 (nice setting)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 2/2 (very fantasy-like)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 1/2 (basic)
SOUND SECTION: 4/10
Voice Acting 1/3 (out of sync with the setting)
Music Themes 1/4 (average and out of sync with the setting)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 3/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 0/2 (terribly messy and rushed)
Complexity 1/2 (rich context but barely looked into)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 0/2 (bullshit plot twist)
CHARACTER SECTION: 5/10
Presence 1/2 (generic)
Personality 2/2 (rather cheesy but well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 0/2 (ridiculously rushed)
Catharsis 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
VALUE SECTION: 2/10
Historical Value 0/3 (none)
Rewatchability 1/3 (low because of too much rushed plot)
Memorability 1/4 (the setting is the only thing worthy to remember it for)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 2/10
Art 1/1 (looks so fantasy-like)
Sound 0/2 (sounds gay)
Story 1/3 (good ideas handled by BONES)
Characters 0/4 (stock material with rushed developments)
At first I thought that this wouldn't be too good of an anime since it isn't very popular but after watching the whole series I was shocked. Despite it only being 11 episodes long, it has a lot of character depth and has a plot, that we've all heard of in one form or another, in an amazing way. Each episode had me constantly wondering about what was going to happen and on many occasions I found myself screaming at the characters to do what I wanted them do (which never works but don't kill me for trying). It isn't the type of anime that ends with a million questions or you wanting there to be a second season because a lot of loose ends are tied up and even though I did ask myself some questions at the end, the manga answers them as well (read it!). Lastly, watch the anime and tell others to as well if you like it because more people need to know about the wonderful anime that is Jyu Oh Sei!
Jyu Oh Sei is surprisingly decent. It is a solid mix of soft and hard science fiction, taking influences from Lord of the Flies and Starship Troopers (the book, and not the action bits) more than from other anime. What makes it pard hard scifi is the reliance on the world to create the plot. What makes it soft scifi is the way the characters stand on their own and are not just guides to the story but rather the story is about them specifically. Usually, this hybrid approach backfires spectacularly as they are rather contradictory in style.
Perhaps it would have been a more daring choice to go the hard scifi route like Shinsekai Yori or Humanity Has Declined, or more coherent if fully soft like Code Geass or Steins;Gate. It's easy to rip it to shreds by looking at the many half-measures forced due to this choice, but those choices would have left Jyu Oh Sei lacking in a unique feel. That unique feel, taking a lot of Lord of the Flies as source material is an incredible strength. Due to the harsh conditions of the world, men are forced into constant fights for dominance, women take the traditional child-rearing approach, and it is shown through the characters' attitudes.
Unfortunately, at only eleven episodes, Jyu Oh Sei doesn't manage to fullfil its lofty ambitions. The world isn't completely formed and the characters don't get much in the way of development. Still, it has some interesting characters and they follow a strict "show, don't tell" guideline to understanding them (which gives you ample material to think about their motivations). The world is definitely deeper than that of the strict soft-scifi works, but the plot moves forward at a brisk pace, not giving the viewer time to digest the full impact of what happened.
My biggest qualm with the series is that it chooses to resolve everything in a clean cut manner. Not only that, it gets melodramatic and over the top. This undermines a lot of the hard scifi approach, but for eleven episodes of length it is kind of unavoidable. That is the true tragedy of this series, as it could have been that much better with at least a couple of more episodes.
Writing (Story and Characters):
As mentioned in the overview, the hybrid approach to writing this series is all but impossible to pull off in such a short series. You can point out the technical flaws in both writing and characterization within Jyu Oh Sei with ease. This of course misses the inherent strength and unique feel that this type of writing creates. The biggest flaw of the writing is that the way the pacing is at times forced due to the short length. Even the time-skip doesn't manage to salvage this.
Like the classic hard scifi approach, the plot is a slave to the wrold of Jyu Oh Sei. Unfortunately, the story remains underdeveloped for the grand ambition of both creating a world and giving the character arcs to the depth they need. The world is definitely not your cookie-cutter stuff, and the plot, while it goes through the motions necessary, is not quite the standard stuff (until the final couple of episodes).
Discecting the characters is tough. There is a clear characterization for most of them, though some of the side characters are definitely a bit on the flat side. Perhaps the biggest flaw is that character growth is very limited. What does shine is how characters are a part of Jyu Oh Sei's world, and have a distinct set of priorities which does not stay in line with the norm. There could have been more space for development, but the cast is well rounded.
Really though, the story and characters both create and are a part of the world. Jyu Oh Sei bites off more than it can chew, and the writing suffers for it by having to cut corners. And yet, criticizing the ambition when it creates a special feeling that is outside of the norm is hypocritical when it is sucg a good thing.
Art (Animation and Sound):
Critically, the artwork does a good job at what it sets out to do. Jyu Oh Sei has a very old-school feel to the art, and while this is usually hit or miss, for the large part this is a hit. There are technical issues, but overall it helps give an out-of-the-norm feel which manages to match up with the writing very well. That being said, the flaws are noticeable.
Visually, the world of Jyu Oh Sei is brought to life through great use of backgrounds and clever palette use. The character designs are workable but not excellent, and there are occasional issues with movement. And yet, for the most part the movement is just great, if a bit mediocre in some of the action-heavy scenes. Luckily, this isn't an action-heavy piece, so this does not detract much.
A great soundtrack could have made Jyu Oh Sei a lot better, but instead we get an efficiently used if mediocre one. The opening theme is a particularly repugnant Backstreet Boys ripoff which would make all but the least discerning listener cringe. The voice acting is rather decent in tone, but doesn't always synchronize flawlessly with the animation. The special effects do their job, and are virtually unnoticeable which is exactly how you'd like them for something lacking in artistic license with the video.
Jyu Oh Sei has a world that is brought to life by the artwork, and by that the artwork completes the most important task it has. There are technical flaws all over the place, but the animation and sound together help give a unique feel to the series. But while the art manages to execute an ambitious piece of writing, it does not quite elevate it to the point where the writing issues matter less.
Honestly, Jyu Oh Sei is a good series. It is recommended to science fiction fans who are bored of cookie-cutter approaches. Still the issues with the series can't bring me to say that it is great; just solid yet unique.