Campione! – 01
「はじまりの物語」 (Hajimari no Monogatari)
“Tale of the Beginning”
Don’t expect Campione! to break new ground. But with that said, it doesn’t mean fun can’t be had with its intriguing premise.
First, basic synopsis of this introductory episode: Camipone! follows the misadventures of Kunasagi Goudou (Matsuoka Yoshitsugu) who has taken up the job of returning a stone tablet to his grandfather’s associate, the eternally youthful Lucrezia Zoa. Along the way he is confronted by the mage Blandelli Erica (Hikasa Youko) for possessing this supposingly magical tablet. Through a series of events he subsequently is made aware of mythological pagen gods that walk the earth alongside men, bringing disaster where they go. The both of them gets involved in tussle between two of these gods, and Godou subsequently uses the tablet to steal the power of one the the gods, Verethragna, and then kills him with it, earning Godou the title of God-Slayer, the Campione.
With another season comes yet another take on the fantasy-action-harem setup that almost seems like a prerequisite for every new set of shows. You pretty much go into Campione! knowing what to expect already: There’s an Ordinary High School Boy in Godou meeting a Spunky Mage Girl in Erica, and Goudou subsequently gets dragged into extraordinary circumstances while unwittingly being given a be-all-that-ends-all power. It’s the classic setup that feels so pervasive amongst the endless generic light novels adaptations we see these days, and the show certainly doesn’t seem keen on averting these preconceived tropes seemingly drawn straight out of Japan’s “Storytelling 101” like it’s the bible. That said, whether this derivative nature is a bad thing or not is wholly subjective. Take last year’s Infinite Stratos for example, an anime stuffed with the very same overbearing clichés but executed with so much bravado and flair that it became far more entertaining than it had any right to. And, well, the impression I gleaned from Campione! is that it’s an enjoyable if wholly unremarkable series. This is completely fine with me as I certainly didn’t expect the show to ever get creative with its storytelling or its direction, especially with a director like Kusakawa Keizou (Sekirei, Dog Days) at the helm. I have no illusions about the show encroaching upon greatness, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be somewhat fun in its own right, with Godou having his own little moment of unexpected GARness, and Erica making for an surprisingly appealing heroine that delivers oodles of HNGGG-worthy pouty faces and fanservice.
It is the spin Campione! puts on this standard setup that was the true surprise for me, and it certainly helps that I’m a complete sucker for tales than involve ancient mythologies. Yes, I’m a guy who has read through the Tales of the Argonauts and spent nights browsing the wikis on Egyptian deities, and you can bet that I’d love a good mythos mash-up in the same vein of stories like Everworld or American Gods. (And if you haven’t read these two books, DO IT. NOW.) Campione!’s take on this, that these ancient gods unseeingly runs rampant about the world causing untold destruction, has plenty of potential to it, especially if they want to get down to the nitty-gritty of the god’s own nuances. The depiction isn’t entirely accurate to a fault as one might expect -Verethragna for example is a divinity which embodies the concept of “Victory” in Zoroastrianism, is the base of numerous derivations of Zoroastrian deities and has parallels to various other mythological figures in pagan religions- and there are flourishes to the mythos such as with the 10 avatars he supposedly possesses. Having said so, the explanations achieves a nice balance of actionable details while delivering some of that critical mythological referencing and cultural expositions that makes stories like these so much fun to follow. What I also liked was that the gods were suitably imposing in their depiction as gods rightly should be, and there was a strong sense of mortality when the humans could only negotiate with these overpowering deities. (Until, of course, Godou pulls out his gamebreaking-divinity-stealing-power.)
Now, one thing I’ve heard is that this first episode greatly condenses one of the series’s later volumes. It’s an interesting thing to note, because the story might not be as expansive in its settings as this first episode seems imply with the opening act on the Italian island of Sardinia. From what little I’ve heard it’s also highly likely that the series will devolve into the standard Japanese school setting that the genre just can’t seem to break free of. “Work with what you know best” and all that standard jazz, right? The condensation also reflects in the pacing of the episode, which quickly does away with introductions and rushes through a large set of developments that could’ve been more spread out for exposition’s sake. It is a style quite unlike what I’ve come to expect of Hanada Jukki, who previously worked on the brilliant screenplays of Steins; Gate, Level E and Setokai No Ichizon, and there are vocal complains about his trivialization of events in order to fit an entire volume into a single episode. Having never read the novels, I cannot attest to the flawed nature of this adaptation, but I did wonder about the rushed pacing when we have barely eased into Godou’s character before being interrupted by Erica and a fight at barely two minute into the episode. It’s likely that this might be the case because they wanted to get the origin story out of the way, so I’ll reserve judgement on this until I’ve actually seen a few more episodes.
Moving onto the more technical details, Campione’s art feels as unremarkable as the setup, but props should be given to Studio Diomedea and Barnum Studio for their decent production values, evident by multiple fights and the UNLIMTED GATES OF BABLYON WORKS scene that closed the episode off. The character design are equally serviceable (read: Erica is major cute, ‘nuff said) and a step-up from the light novels’ designs as well, of which I’ve seen some artwork of. And while the score won’t have me scrambling for my hi-fidelity ATH-A500 headphones, it suits the show well enough, as it rightly should.
It’s hard to tell how much focus will be given to the mythological aspect of the Campione!’s story as compared to its inevitable harems bits, and this might very well be the key factor in deciding my overall enjoyment of the series.