The Chinese-influenced action show Juushin Enbu (獣神演武 -HERO TALES-) brings us pretend incest every Sunday night at 26:00 JST on TV Tokyo.
It’s been almost exactly 3 years since the supremely popular Fullmetal Alchemist ended its run on television, and now a new Arakawa Hiromu manga makes its debut in animated form. Producing is Genco, a company with such a wide array of titles that it’s impossible to make a guess at what we’ll end up seeing. However, it can be noted that neither the company nor director Sekita Osamu (Ichigo 100%) and his team had anything to do with FMA.
In an ancient empire lives a legend of seven great heroes known as the Hokushintenkun. They carry on their skin seven unique patterns representing the stars of the Big Dipper. While they all possess immense power, there are two who stand above the others: Hagun and Tonrou. These Nitenshinson are fated to destroy one another, while the remaining five Goshintoushi choose a side in the struggle. The story begins with an attack of the Rentsuuji temple, where the mighty sword Kenkaranpu is kept. A relic passed down from the very first emperor, it’s said to grant the power to rule the world to the one who can unsheathe it. Having disposed of the entire guard by himself, the attacker finally reaches his object of desire. This man is general Keirou, the show’s antagonist and branded with the pattern of Tonrou. His satisfaction doesn’t last long, as a young fellow called Taitou enters the hall to fight him. Realizing his fists are no match for the massive invader, Taitou grasps the sword and attempts to draw it. Keirou looks on, commenting on how this blade of conquerors is impossible for the unworthy to wield, etc, etc, you know the drill. It turns out that 16-year-old Taitou and protagonist of the show surprisingly carries the pattern of Hagun, which actually enables him to unsheathe the darned thing. Unfortunately, he’s completely new to this hero business, and Keirou wipes the floor with him, eventually departing with the sword and leaving Taitou in a bloody heap. Yet our hero is fortunate, for he has a cute younger sister to take care of his wounds, and to call him baka and blush, and no doubt she dreams of kissing him, because, you know, she’s not really his sister, so it must be perfectly alright!
Piles and piles of money have been spent on this first episode, because it looks stunning. The art is very similar to Fullmetal Alchemist and the animation by Studio FLAG is solid, so old fans should be happy. Music’s composed by Terashima Tamiya, whose previous work includes Ghibli’s Gedo Senki, and it sets the mood nicely without imposing. Perhaps the anime’s weakest point is its cast. Main character Taitou is played by Suzumura Kenichi (Shinn Asuka in Gundam Seed Destiny), whose voice always reminds me of a whiny teenager, but the real problem is his sister Raira, because I wanted to strangle her as soon as she opened her mouth. Kanda Akemi (Asuna in Negima!) usually sounds alright, and I even enjoy her work in Clannad, but here she manages to get so high on the squeak scale that my ears burst in clouds of blood. Not even my precious Sakurai Takahiro‘s (Suzaku in Code Geass) presence is enough to soothe me after Raira’s had a few lines.
Eight minutes into the episode, just as the cool Beat Crusaders OP ends, I was certain that this was to be the season’s absolute megahit, with proper superpowered martial arts and warriors of destiny, but then that horror Raira appeared and ruined everything. Not only does she sound like drowning kittens, she’s also the protagonist’s not-related-by-blood sister. Perhaps by a stroke of luck the anime producers will decide to deviate even farther from the original manga (which it already does, according to my secret sources) by letting her fall into a ravine and die instantly only to return in minor flashbacks, but I doubt it. Juushin Enbu also suffers from a ridiculous obsession with make-believe Chinese, and the episode is littered with dozens of names viewers have to memorize, even going so far as to have a massive glossary to help sort out this mess. Whether it will be enough to save this otherwise decent action series from complete incomprehension is too early to tell, but this is one title where I’d almost recommend waiting for the English dub.
Reminds me of: Fullmetal Alchemist meets King Arthur in China