Sacred Seven - Reviews

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ThePatches's avatar
Nov 22, 2011

Story

Some of you fondly remember being a twelve year old anime fan. Back then the foundations of incredible storytelling--compelling plot twists, subtle characterization, and good acting--seemed of little import. What mattered most was whether the battles were awesome and the characters looked cool. For those of you deeply in touch with this younger self and a few hours to kill, run along and watch Sacred Seven. The rest of you, stick around a bit before you decide how to spend your time.

Sacred Seven works by mashing together a number of interesting-but-worn tropes and wrapping it in some solid fight scenes and stellar visuals. As a plan of attack it works just fine at delivering meat-and-potatoes shounen, but I doubt you’ll remember much about the plot. Aruma Tandoji, the series’ taciturn lead finds himself the recipient of a mysterious heaven-sent power that can cause massive destruction. His hurting others with it causes him to shun his classmates and spend his time searching for a lost amulet that his mother gave him. But, when strange monsters start attacking Japan, he finds himself allied with Ruri Aiba, her mech-driving combat butler, and army of maids against an unknown enemy. Yes, there’s a rival corporation. Yes, there’s a human experiment angle. Yes, there’s a school fair. Nothing here steps far afield of familiar territory and you will see the ending coming a mile off. But, like, whatever.

Despite the presence of halfhearted machinations and minor character developments, the core plot fixates on its monsters-of-the-week encounters. Here, each new beastie provides a unique encounter or the chance to design a fun set piece battle that serves as each episode's climax. From strange earthquake-causing bugs to a gigantic sky octopus to an animated statue, Sacred Seven coughs up some attractive enemies and fun situations for Tandoji to overcome, even if his powers (which manifest via a ring-menu from which he selects and activates them) provide a solution to each new problem with mundane regularity. Also, the show’s short running time removes any space for the narrative to build tension or create believable plot twists. Much like Black Blood Brothers, the no-frills approach takes much of the oomph out of the final battle which fails to generate the emotion that would make a you rise out of your seat.


Animation

Sunrise has more money than God, and they want you to know it. Despite all of the narrative or characterization failings this show has, it sure looks great. Transformed, Alma looks like an updated Proto-Man, with tight-fitting chitinous body armor and a deadly scarf (yes, the scarf can kill things) and the enemy Dark Stones posses a distinctly otherworldly quality that makes them both easy to pick out from the landscape and thematically consistent (they come from SPAAAAACEEE). The bog-standard humans' designs fare just as well on the whole. Each maid in the Aiba Foundation army, for example, each sport her own hair cut and slight variation in outfit. And, while the girls' uniform for school isn't the most imaginative, the attractive boys' clothes recall the designs from D.-Grayman giving the series a fanciful touch even in its more mundane school life scenes.

But the battles are really where the show flexes its animation muscle. Impressive explosions, creepy monsters, visceral choreography, this studio knows how to make action intense and engaging. Sure, some of Alma's powers are what my roommate would call "cheaty-face" but when you watch him dodge the dragon-headed tendrils of a floating jellyfish on a hover board it's hard to care overmuch.


Sound

Fiction Junction's OP "Stone Cold" is every bit as good as the one they performed for Pandora Hearts, if not a little better. The song captured the anime's aspirational feeling its moderate tempo fit like a glove with the opening animation. The show’s ED theme, while serviceable, doesn’t rise to quite the quality of the OP, which proves unfortunate when the two themes switch positions halfway through the run. However, both songs speak to the series' musical texture which relies heavily on poppy electronic background tracks that set the mood well without being terribly memorable.

Only Toru Ohkawa’s performance as Onigawara rises above the rest of the competent cast's turns. He subverts the “cute-character-with-verbal-tic” trope (think Ika Musume de gesso) by delightfully emulating a samurai trapped in a trashcan; in doing so, he makes the sidekick character a source of savvier laughs and prevents many of his clunker lines from falling completely flat.


Characters

In its short run, Sacred Seven brings too many pieces into play to make good use of them. True, some serve as cast-offs, like the maid army or the two girls obsessed with Kagami. But the show also teases at development for members of its secondary cast in a manner that piques your curiosity before abandoning them in the wake of a quickly unfolding plot. A veritable laundry list of missed opportunities includes Kagami, FeiKnightWakana, and SP, who all show tiny hints of deeper histories underneath their exteriors, but the show only touches on each before moving back to the central story of Alma and Ruri.

Sadly, even this core dynamic feels hollow. Alma’s reluctant protector schtick was on its way to being tired whenBleach's Ichigo took up his spot as the archetype’s spokesbrat. While our hero’s meager development fits with the space given and follows a believable path, it’s also terribly unoriginal. Given that there exist comfort anime that know how to subvert a trope for dramatic effect (see: Kage Kara Mamoru), Alma’s arc just comes across as lazy by comparison. As counterpoint to him, Ruri Aiba is hamstrung by her physical incapability. While she’s an extremely effective administrator and possesses steely resolve, her inability to adequately avoid danger turns her into a plot-token at the appearance of any monster. As a result, despite having vast resources and knowledge at her disposal she remains the lesser partner in her relationship with Alma.


Overall

Here’s the thing: Sunrise makes a strong claim for the idea that you can throw a lot of money at something and improve it. Sacred Seven’s action set pieces and solid sound direction make the core parts of each episode shine despite the mediocre writing that dominates the series. If you’re in the mood for some cheap thrills and cool artwork, look no farther; if your brain needs a little workout, however, keep it moving.

5/10 story
8/10 animation
6.5/10 sound
4/10 characters
5.5/10 overall
hamletsmage's avatar
Oct 17, 2011

Sacred Seven is your typical "Boy has awesome powers but can't use them until someone else gives him the ability" shounen anime. You've probably seen the same thing happen in anime like Bleach. The storyline follows Aruma, who fits the above cliche by being an outcast with a reputation for violence.

Story: With this type of storyline, you have the protagonist joining an organization to fight terrible, ancient monsters that threaten the world around him (that surprisingly didn't seem to catch his notice before hand...). In Sacred Seven, those monsters are Darkstones, and aside from HellBrick, they all seem intent on destroying the world. Aside from the fighting aspect of the anime, Aruma (now being able to use his powers) is gaining acceptance at his school. Apparently, teen angst is a turn off to everyone. And because it's produced by Sunrise, there's a mech too.

Animation: The anime is well animated, and considering it came from Sunrise, it's not too surprising. The battle sequences and the school activities are both done with excellent detail.

Sound: It sets the tone for the battle sequences, backstory flash backs, and lulling areas of school life. And the title of the OP fits the anime rather nicely (Stone Cold by FictionJunction)

Characters: As much shounen cliche as the series has, it does a fairly good job at developing the important characters. While at times, they seem to be cookie-cutter perfect for whatever shounen role they need to play, teh back stories allow them to have some sense of individual personalities.

 

7/10 story
8/10 animation
7/10 sound
5/10 characters
7/10 overall
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ThatAnimeSnob's avatar
Sep 17, 2012

THE STAFF
- Animated and planned by studio Sunrise, which means cool robot action.
- Directed by Oohashi Yoshimitsu, who has produced nothing but random bullshit shows in his whole career.

Sacred Seven is to fighting shonen what Star Driver is to mecha. A laid back series, full of stereotypes that tributes various shows of the past. It supposed to be running mostly on nostalgia that anything else, and in all honesty it made a crappy job at it. Everything is completely random and uninspired, plus nothing is focused upon enough for us to care.

PRODUCTION VALUES
It feels like a whole fortune was wasted on making artwork and animation as detailed and smooth as a tv series allows. The transformation scenes, and the battle choreographies eat most action shows for breakfast. Sadly that is far from calling the presentation successful, as it is unfocused and messy. The school backgrounds and the character designs feel detrimental and become boring right away. The battles, as spectacular as they may feel, last way too little and you are never meant to feel the hero can lose if he has seven hax powers in his disposal. No matter how many maid suits and silly robot designs they threw on screen, there was simply nothing behind them to excuse the overall randomness. The soundtrack is made up of forgettable pop pieces and voice acting is ok, although there is nothing in it that would allow the actors to perform any better even if they wanted.

SCRIPT
The story is as basic as it gets, and if you happen to have seen a single superhero show while growing up you will know right away how things will play out. Some meteorites drop to Earth and have crystals which create monsters and grant superpowers to humans. Some use them in human experiments, others to protect their loved ones, blah-blah, overused stuff I see no point in elaborating any further. In practice you get the good guys goofing around in their school or mansion, before some monster of the week appears, and the protagonists heads there to defeat it with minimal effort and in less than five minutes. There is absolutely no build up or emotion to all the stuff that happen in the show, and the result is complete apathy even if you stare at monsters blowing up buildings. There is a sort of escalation in the form of the heroine’s twin sister and a villain who wants the ultimate power but they happen in such a blunt way that they fail to mean anything.

CAST
Oh boy, you can’t have a show with more generic characters than these. Some uncaring boy with a secret power, a pretty girl who loves him right away and helps him to unlock it, magical transformations, and predictable shonen battles where the hero wants to protect his friends and wins with hax power ups. There is absolutely no attempt at fleshing them out past the obvious, plus several uniforms are downright retarded. The protagonist’s berserk form is cool but instead he prefers a geek armour with a scarf. The heroine loves to dress like an elegant loli and has an army of fighting maids. She has close to no emotions, yet has the hots for the uncaring protagonist. And so does another girl in his school, for no apparent reason. Add some avenging youths who were used in human experiments and a cardboard villain who want to take over the world and you get a nice Swiss cheese of a cast to fall asleep easier at nights.

LEGACY
It is a very forgettable and passable show. You’ll have more fun rewatching Tekkaman Blade or Guyver than this most uninspired tribute to them. Even minor details, such as horns popping out of foreheads or armoured warrior flying with hoverboards is far more fun to watch in other shows (FLCL and Eureka Seven respectively).

3/10 story
8/10 animation
6/10 sound
3/10 characters
3.5/10 overall
Archaeon's avatar
Nov 6, 2011

"Haste makes waste."

Entertainment is a cut throat industry, and while every studio and publisher scrabbles around in a desperate search for the next big thing, they must continue to make ends meet in some way. When it comes to anime this is usually achieved by creating a one season adaptation of an existing manga, game or light novel, and the aim of these shows isn't simply to generate revenue, but also to test the market for potential franchises. There are other methods though, one of which is to string together several well known base concepts, add something resembling a story, and release the finished article as an "original" work.

Now while the latter method can produce some very good titles, more often than not the results are ... underwhelming.

Sacred Seven follows the exploits of Tandoji Alma, a seventeen year old high school student who leads a solitary life on the outskirts of a port city. One night he sees a ship on fire in the harbour, and whatever has caused the incident also triggers a reaction in him, one that he desperately fights off. The next evening Aiba Ruri, the CEO of the Aiba Foundation, pays him a visit in an attempt to recruit him, and she seems to know more about his secret than he does.

One of the problems with bringing together several "popular" themes is that all too often something fundamental is sacrificed in the process, and that's pretty much what happens here. The plot may initially seem interesting, but once the story gets going it quickly becomes clear just how rushed this show actually is. In addition to this there's a distinct methodology to the composition of the series, almost as if director Ohashi Yoshimitsu and writer Yoshida Shin adopted a "check-box" approach. Unfortunately this brings the major issues to the fore, one of those being the rather obvious drive to include certain scenes and events - some of which have no bearing on the story. There's also an automatic limitation placed on the narrative, and while the lack of imagination and creativity is palpable, it's the knock-on effect on the development of both the plot and the characters that really stands out.

In contrast to the lacklustre storyline Sunrise appear to have done a half-decent job with the visuals, and there's some interesting design work on display - especially where the monsters are concerned. The animation is a little on the utilitarian side, but there's a surprising fluidity and range of movement during many of the action scenes. In addition to this the characters are well realised, but this is tempered by the fact that they're also rather mundane and a little too reliant on certain stereotypes. This is also reflected in the banality of the settings and background imagery, and these factors attest to the speed with which this anime was completed.

Sadly, these aren't the biggest problems with the visuals.

There are several errors that any sort of basic quality control would quickly spot and rectify, one of those occurring at an auction in England where Aiba is bidding on a new gem. The auctioneer clearly states the closing price is £990,000, but the display reads £9,900,000, and while this may seem like nit-picking, it's the ridiculousness of the mistake that lowers the viewer's expectations of the show.

That said, the auctioneer does have one of the best British accents in anime, but that's one of the few high points where the acting is concerned.

No amount of preparation or talent can resolve the problems with a script that, like several other aspects of Sacred Seven, is too reliant on what has gone before. While the actors try to do the best they can, it seems to have been impressed upon them that their characters should speak or behave in certain ways. The dialogue is far too manufactured, and with little in the way of natural flow to balance conversations, this results in some severely wooden performances.

The strange thing is that the music seems to have received more care and attention than any other part of this anime, with much of the background music being well suited and choreographed to the on-screen action.

To many people it can seem as though Sacred Seven features two opening and three ending themes, when in truth all that happens until the end of the final episode is that the first OP and ED swap places. "Stone Cold" by FictionJunction is quite the upbeat techno track, and the opening animated sequence does a good job of introducing the main players whilst being stylized enough to be eye-catching. The second theme, "Kiseki" by Nanri Yuuka, is a more traditional blend of J-pop/rock, and its accompanying animation is well choreographed and suitably heroic. As for the third track, "Tsunagaru Made" by Nakajima Megumi is a much quieter song that plays out at the conclusion of the final episode..

Now some of you may have noticed that there has been no mention of ending sequences. The reason for this is simply because Sunrise, like so many other studios, don't think it's worth the effort of making a decent one, and aside from some spinning jewel thingies in the first ED, both rely on still images.

Strangely enough, this sentiment also appears to ring true where the characters are concerned, although admittedly part of this is due to the check-box approach taken by the director and the series writer. This is a heavily manufactured anime, and this fact becomes very clear when one considers not just the portrayal of each character, but the manner in which they develop as well. While it's true that Alma grows more than anyone else, the simple fact is that he starts the series as nothing more than a blank sheet with little to no personality, and given that situation it's very easy to make the character appear more defined by the end of the story. Sacred Seven uses age old methods to ensure this happens, including Alma's solitary lifestyle, hidden power and traumatic past.

Throw in some alien meteorites and you're supposedly on to a winner.

On the other hand Ruri is rather well defined from the beginning, but alongside this is the fact that she doesn't really change at all over the course of the anime. The only supporting character to receive any kind of back story is her personal butler Kagami Makoto, but aside from giving the viewer a reason for his dedication to the Aiba family, he remains nothing more than a stereotype (you know, the intelligent, dark haired guy with glasses who's always stern and serious).

Everyone else is treated as narrative furniture, and given that Sacred Seven attempts to include some kind of human drama, this is nothing short of wasteful.

Even with its many flaws, Sacred Seven is still  a surprisingly watchable series, and Onigawara offers some genuine moments of amusement that break up the monotony. While it falls just short of being "no-brain entertainment", the simple fact is that the heavily manufactured storyline and characters make it both familiar and easy to follow. Unfortunately the price of this is that far too many questions remain unanswered by the end of the anime, which is a shame as there were a few interesting ideas that really should have been given more detail. The sad part is that if more time had been given over to developing the series before it hit production, many of its issues could have been resolved - but as everyone knows, anime is a serious business.

One of the most basic rules of storytelling is that it should never be rushed, but in a world where time is money, such sentiments are normally viewed as idealistic nonsense.

5/10 story
6/10 animation
7/10 sound
5/10 characters
6/10 overall
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