「魔法使いは、樽の中」 (Mahoutsukai ha, Taru no Naka)
“The Sorceress in the Barrel”
“The time is out of joint: O cursed spite, that ever I was born to set it right!”
The start of the fall season continues with Bones’ adaptation of the fantasy/mystery series Zetsuen no Tempest. Following the stories of childhood friends Fuwa Mahiro (Toyonaga Toshiyuki) and Yoshino Takigawa (Uchiyama Kouki), the first episode stays quite true to the source material, as well as the basic premise description:
Following the murder of his sister, Fuwa embarks on a journey to try and find the killer. One month after Fuwa’s sudden disappearance, Yoshino finds himself at the Fuwa family grave. There, he is questioned at gunpoint by Fraulein Yamamoto about his friend’s disappearance and his potential involvement in various events across Japan. Fuwa returns just in time to save Yoshino from his predicament, armed with new powers granted to him by the sorceress Kusaribe Hakaze, whom he has agreed to assist in exchange for her help in finding his sister’s murderer. Meanwhile, the city falls under a curse known as iron sickness, caused by Kusaribe Samon’s (Koyama Rikiya) attempt to revive the Tree of Zetsuen to empower his clan’s powers… and potentially lead to the world’s destruction.
And well, that was pretty much the first episode in a nutshell. The overall premise does come off as somewhat generic, but there was definitely a lot to like despite that. For one, there was the superb animation by Bones. Maybe it’s partially because the original character designs from Saizaki Ren are just good for animation purposes, but the overall experience of Zetsuen was a visual treat to say the least. With breathtaking backgrounds and large, sweeping contrasts in lighting (such as the vivid red/orange hue here compared to the dark gray/black here), there’s just a sharpness to everything, and you just can’t help but notice the details in the scenes that you normally wouldn’t care for. To top it off, there’s some great action scenes to highlight these aspects, and a dramatic, but well done sequence of orchestral-isque music by Oshima Michiru in the background too.
In addition, there are the characters themselves to like who while also a bit generic in exterior, seem to have some complex layers to them as well. Take a look at Yoshino for instance. He continues to insist that he has a girlfriend, despite the fact that she was Fuwa’s sister and died years back. Combine this with the fact he and Aika seemed to have kept it a secret from Fuwa in the first place and you just have to wonder at what scenarios they’ve had to deal with to result in such a predicament, as well as the mind sets that led to that in the first place. Then there’s Fuwa. While his mission to find his sister’s killer is quite standard and not surprising in the least, the part of him that says he wishes to save the world despite his obvious dislike of it, points at something deeper too. Granted, there’s a chance that this aspect doesn’t quite develop much, considering the genre involved, but at the very least the characters are decent enough to watch the show for. And if anything, their dialogue and quotes from Hamlet should provide some kind of foreshadow or at least commentary on various themes and topics relating to the world in general. Remember, Hamlet was a tragedy, and we’re already seeing some of the tragic aspects already. And while I’m at it, let’s also not forget to mention that the series doesn’t seem to want to waste much time with the whole question and need to believe aspect regarding Yoshino and magic, which is also a positive.
Moving on, let’s not also forget the main heroine, Kusaribe Hakaze. Voiced by the ever superb Sawashiro Miyuki, she’s a really interesting X-factor in both the context of the story and in the respect that she’s probably one of the first heroines I’ve seen in any show that leads while stranded on an island with nothing but sandals and a dress. Her message in a bottle to circumvent the magical barriers that make the island invisible for normal people hints at some intellect on her part, and the fact she seems to be incredibly powerful also gives her some added recognition as a heroine who may yet separate herself from the pack.
And last but not least, perhaps the most interesting vibe that Zetsuen gives off is that it’ll be fairly straight forward in nature. As the first episode demonstrated, as well as some of the beginning source material, there’s just no real dilly dallying. It certainly seems like the story’s meant to start and continue on a fast pace, and while the story may never develop into something exceptionally grand, it should still be a fairly fun ride. It helps also that the OP (used as an ending this episode) is catchy and the series seems to be able to mix a bit of comedy in with the fairly serious nature in from time to time too. Quotes from Hakaze about at least being stranded with a dress rather than just in her underwear was just one of many that made me chuckle for a moment, along with Fraulein’s whole “I’m not suspicious at all” quip with Yoshino. It’s no easy task mixing in comedy in a fairly straight forward and serious show like Zetsuen… but those that have been able to mix the two have ended up fairly successful.
And so, what can I say? Bones does a great job in its adaptation of the the original material, adding in a few anime original scenes to great effect, and giving the series a much bigger visual impact than I expected from the previews and preliminary research I did regarding the series. For now, it seems like a typical action, fantasy series… but there are hints at a mystery aspect down the line regarding Aika’s death, so it’s not going to be typical generic shounen. And even if it is, I can’t say it’s not worth watching either way, considering the superb job by Bones so far. I only managed to peek at the beginning few chapters of Zetsuen so far, so I can’t say I know much about the future to give a definite prediction, but the vibe I get is that there’s definitely the potential for this series to succeed. If the production values stay firm, the story doesn’t try to suddenly veer from its straight forwardness and try to do something it’s not, the mystery portion picks up in combination with the already good action, it might just impress much more than anticipated before season’s end. Either way, definitely worth a try, especially if you’re a fan of the action/fantasy genres.
Note: As of this moment, weekly coverage of Zetsuen no Tempest has not been confirmed.
EDIT: PLEASE REFRAIN FROM ANY SPOILERS REGARDING THE SOURCE MATERIAL, ESPECIALLY INVOLVING THE ENDING.
OP: 「Spirit Inspiration」 by Nothing’s Carved in Stone