OP Sequence

OP: 「Kadenz」by Sakakibara Yui


Initial Expectations

One of my friends at university swears by Dies Irae, and ranks it as one of his favourite visual novels. Although it touches upon intensely taboo subjects, pertaining to magical Nazis finding their way over into 21st Century Japan, there’s something grandiose about the premise. So naturally, it’s one of the series I’ve been looking out for this season, even with potential issues when it comes to crowdfunded adaptations. Looking at director Kudou Susumu’s portfolio, we can see his experience when it comes to handling these kind of themes and materials. K Project delved into conflicts between factions possessing superpowers, and also had underlying German influences, with Adolf K. Weissman being the amnesiac protagonist. Therefore, I’m confident that the quality of German is in no danger. My only concern would be issues with storyboarding, as it was a noticeable weakness in K Project, particularly during the second season. Otherwise, I’m excited to see how this turns out. Without further ado, let’s proceed into the thick of things!

General Impressions

At first, everything seemed really magnificent. A mega-sized golden airship descends from the skies, flaunting a skeletal motif. An epic confrontation was clearly being set up between Reinhard Heydrich (Suwabe Junichi) and his mysterious challenger – presumably our protagonist. However, the narrative kept jumping all over the place, and I eventually lost track of what the heck was going on. Suddenly we are thrown back into the past. A mage by the name of Karl Ernst Kraft (Toriumi Kousuke) finds himself incarcerated within a cell, and headed for certain death. He proceeds to make an eerily Faustian deal with Reinhard in exchange for his release, though the effects are not particularly obvious until much later on.

And here’s where things started to spiral out of control. Particularly irksome was how many random characters start appearing with little to no explanation. A man stumbles out of bed half naked, and is brutally murdered, his assailant spitting out a bloody wad of chewed up flesh. Meanwhile, a white haired man shackled by chains starts brawling with the police in the streets down below. In short, a lot of stuff was going on, but nothing I could make sense out of. As a result, although the character designs look cool and the voice acting seemed crisp, I could not understand a good portion of the dialogue and character interactions in the later half of the episode. The Three Valkyries, Eleonore (Yaguchi Asami), Beatrice (Mizusawa Kei) and Riza (Habuki Risato), offered brief respite halfway through. Despite pledging loyalties and thereby affirming their zealous Nazism, their odd antics were quite fun, and I particularly like what we’ve seen of Beatrice so far. Unfortunately, events escalated to the point I lost my remaining footing in regards to keeping up. Sure, the fighting and action looked pretty cool. Also, I appreciated the intensely graphical violence we received, since it sent a clear message that censorship will not be rife. But I didn’t understand what was going on one bit, not to mention the framerates kept on tanking during fights, indicative of budget animating. Every occurrence seemed impulsive, and there was just no natural flow to the story. For example, I could not anticipate Reinhard turning golden and incapacitating everybody, after some goading from Karl. Much less our bandaged crazy person jumping out of a window, through a hail of bullets that clearly hit their mark, yet coming out unscathed.

Here’s a case study where ‘show don’t tell’ has been taken too literally. With almost nothing being told, how am I supposed to make sense of what’s being shown? What is the adaptation trying to achieve from Episode 00?

Concluding Thoughts

To make sense of Dies Irae’s Episode 00, I had to dig deeper through online forums. My final conclusion? This was an episode made for fans of the source material. Considering that this adaptation was mainly crowdfunded by fans, I suppose that they are the intended target audience. I have also received some assurances that the next episode will set out the prologue in a less confusing manner. That said, I’m still greatly disappointed. Premiering episodes often define our expectations, so it could potentially misrepresent how this adaptation will turn out, especially towards people who are unfamiliar with the source material.

For those who are still sitting on the fence, I’m told that Dies Irae should come across a fusion of Fate Stay/Night and Hellsing. The abilities apparently work like Reality Marbles and Noble Phantasms, while the gore and all out badassery are reminiscent of Hellsing. If those are the kind of things that you enjoy, and you’re contemplating dropping it, I’d suggest giving the show another chance. As such, I will stick around for another episode before making any final judgements.

End Card


  1. Somehow I’m offended with the remark that this is “show don’t tell”, it’s not even ‘showing’ anything. Show don’t tell is when creators creating effective way of portraying scenes that audience can tell what it’s about without spoonfeding them with narratives, in this case it’s not even trying. And they do tell, it feels like half of the episode is dialogues narrating about their own personality. “I’m not a superman, I’m a common man, please believe me audience! Wait a minute, I’m changing my mind: I’m the supreme being!”

    1. Let me ask, are you familiar with the source material? I couldn’t draw that kind of inference, despite having played a few hours of the visual novel to get some idea of what was going on here.

      Otherwise, I’m sorry about offending you, and concede that I didn’t quite catch the nuance I was angling for. Therefore, I’ll amend what I wrote. Think what I meant to grasp at was ‘Show don’t tell’ is too literal here, rather than taking in the figurative meaning we would usually apply.

      Tha said, I don’t think there was a lot of telling going on. The quote originally refers to doing the telling in moderation, without being at the expense of showing. I’ll flip that around here, and say that showing was done at the expense of telling. We aren’t being spoonfed narratives, but there’s so little to go off because we are told nothing. Instead, we are being overloaded by just about everything else I would associate with ‘show’, mainly action and sporadically occurring events, and are supposed to guess what’s going on.

      1. I actually agree that this episode told more than showed. The majority of the episode was two or more people explaining their inner turmoil while walking in a straight line down a hallway or a walkway of some sort. Then there was a time skip in the last 5 minutes, and suddenly everyone is a “Magical Nazi Sky Wizard”. To me, the point of an episode 0 is to show us backstory elements that are crucial to understanding the plot. Showing us how “Aryan-Pride” got his golden-boner space palace, or why everyone became M.N.S.W.s, would have made for a better episode 0 – rather than exposition down a corridor, punctuated by nobodies fighting.

  2. Despite considering myself a fan of the visual novel (whom got to know through Steam) and having look forward to it… I have to admit this episode 0 was pretty terrible.

    I had actually pondered on how the narrative would manage to convey the information dumps in the beginning and my conclusion – and what I hoped would happen – was that we’d be given the point of view of the protagonist… whom, like us, begins learning about all this at the very beginning.

    This scene of “how cool it might be at the end” along with the nonsensically-cobbled-together backstory (a lot of which we honestly don’t get to know until much later in the VN anyways) was really not the strongest showing it could have done, which leaves me cringing in regards to what comes next.

    I may watch it as a guilty pleasure of seeing how an animated production can further the VN experience, but I’ve the feeling this isn’t a series I’ll be showing off to my friends.

    1. Ironically, my friend didn’t think the first episode was bad. In fact, he enjoyed it quite a lot, which is why I suggested that those familiar with the source material might have been the intended target audience. He was particularly pleased with this:

      Nevertheless, he conceded that Episode 00 certainly wasn’t beginner friendly. I was also told by him to expect a much less chaotic episode next time round, for when they begin properly, as opposed to adapting a side story that doubles as a prequel. While Episode 00 could have been so much stronger, say if they decided to make it a one hour special, what’s done is done. Time to wait, and see if things can pick up from here.

  3. VN player here. This is terrible. It’s all over the place. This is supposed to be a side story stuff in the VN about the story’s prequel, and playthrough could take about an hour. Should be obvious why it doesn’t work in a 30 minute format. Also this prequel are only playable after you beat the game once, that way you’re not lost at what is happening. My advice to non VN player, give it one more episode. If that one episode is not so good, then all hope is lost, which would be a terrible disappointment because the VN has good story. It’s a very bad decision from the staff to start with this. Non VN player are bound to be confused, especially their execution is horrible trying to cram everything into a 30 minute format. I’m just hoping they know what they’re doing in the next episode.

    1. Thanks danes256! Really explains why I still understood just about nothing, despite spending some time engaging with the source material in an attempt to figure things out. I’ll definitely be giving Dies Irae another episode, as I mentioned in my post, and hope to see some major improvements across the board.

  4. Dies will have 12 TV episodes and 6 online streaming episodes.

    Also, the Bluray is reported to have a German edition which keeps the more overt Nazi dialogue and references from the VN.

    1. Hey Zztop! So good to have a knowledgeable person like yourself popping up, especially at this time. Do you think they will manage to make a satisfactory adaptation of the main route content in 18 episodes?

      Also, pretty sure this will be banned in Germany, if Wolfenstein is anything to go by. What are your thoughts regarding this matter?

      1. It’s not officially confirmed if all 18 episodes will be used to cover the VN story.
        There’s speculation by others that the 12 eps will tell the main story, and the 6 onlines will adapt the VN’s side stories.

      2. There’s no reason to assume they will adapt any side stories(That’s not to say they won’t). The anime only has 12 episodes because of scheduling reasons, they may just use the additional episodes to continue where they left off from the TV broadcast. The animes crowdfunding more than tripled its original goal so they’re giving fans more episodes in return.

        They were asking for 30 mill yen and got 96 million yen for this project.

      3. The nazi content here isn’t any more explicit than the VN, and I follow several of the translators and they didn’t mention any issues with the VN getting banned in Germany. So I don’t think the anime will be banned in Germany. Could happen, but it would be weird

      4. I could be mistaken but I think its the Nazi symbolism that’s banned in Germany. They would just need to edit anything relevant to release it there.

        Something called Strafgesetzbuch section 86a.

      5. @lyfe

        Correct, only the symbols are banned, which I’m guessing is why the armbands do not have any swastikas (as they’re supposed to) and the uniforms (beyond the occasional Totenkopf) lack the iconic Schutzstaffel runes. Just easier to remove them entirely than come up with a special version specifically for Germany and Austria.

      6. Their armbands don’t have swastikas because their loyalty does not lie with the Reich, but rather with Reinhard and no one else. You will have more than enough swastikas soon enough.

  5. It pains me to say it, but they actuall reaaaallly messed up the delivery of a number of things this episode (not to mention parts of the action looked pretty bad).

    For some context: episode 00 is adaptating two separate parts of the DI novel. The brief intro is technically from the end of Marie’s route, but let’s skip that. The episode immediately segues into the origins of the Obsidian Round Table (that’s our magical nazi antagonists) in 1939 Berlin, which is told in the VN in the side story Die Gotterdammerung. That episode explains how Heydrich and the mastermind of the game’s plot, Karl Krafft first began their association, and the history behind the dynamics of a number of other characters in the Round Table.

    Die Gotterdammerung is an interesting choice for an anime prologue, but it loses much of its point when you rush through the material the way the episode did, because it fails to communicate the reasons for things. Like why Bey and Schreiber (the two nuts who started fighting for no reason) have a long held rivalry beyond a chance meeting, the competitive distance that had settled between Eleanore and Lisa at this point in time despite their shared history, exactly the kind of person Trifa (the priest) is and why meeting Heydrich and Krafft was such a marking moment for him and Rusalka (the woman with him).

    Part of it was lost in compression, which also changed the way several meetings panned out. The sidestory on its own could make for a fairly tense episode (or two) on its own, so it’s regretable it winded up like so.

    The last part of the episode was the anime’s take on the Prologue of the Visual Novel, which shows the retreat and loss of the German forces during the Battle of Berlin, where the members of the Obsidian Round Table sow havoc and death to harvest the souls of their countrymen, while Reinhard Heydrich and Karl Krafft stand above the battlefield like devils, beckoning all Germans to lay down their lives for the sake of war and ultimate victory.

    The anime definitely got the havoc and chaos, but it skipped basically all of the extended speech of Heydrich and Karl and the exchange between them, which really form the core of the beguiling and haunting tone of their appearance. Without that part (and the cut scene of a German squad being routed and soul-sucked), the events of the prologue don’t really explain anything of what’s going on, and the expectation it’s supposed to set suffers in turn. As said, it unfortunately ends up too far into “show don’t tell”.

    Now, I think everyone agrees the Tales of Zestiria anime started out okay and then went horribly off the rails, but it would have been preferrable to split what they wanted to cover with this episode 00 into two episodes, the way Zestiria The X split Alisha’s pre-game start misadventures which set up some circumstances in the setting into episode 0 and episode 1.

    Not to make this a whole complain rant, I’ll touch on things I did appreciate in the episode: the music was pretty good, and they’re milking a lot of the game’s soundtrack for it so it’s not entirely unexpected, and Reinhard’s castle actually looked quite good. I also liked the thing the ending (I think that’s actually supposed to be the opening theme) did with the eyes of all the characters, but I’m kinda confused by some of the details we saw there too.

    1. Gee whiz. With what you’ve revealed, I would say that what we lost was far more than a mere part! I think if they made Episode 00 an hour long special, perhaps some of the issues could have been resolved, though the directing was hardly impressive for this episode anyway from animation to storyboarding. The saving grace was the music, which as you said, was milked from the visual novel anyway.

  6. First of all, let me thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving this episode a fair chance. Too many reviewers have apparently written it off as nazi propaganda without even trying to look at it objectively. It’s been a while since I visited RandomC, but posts like these make me consider reading it way more often.

    Now, it is true that this was basically fanservice through and through. As a fan of the series, I found it pretty good: we saw all these characters that won’t be seen again for quite a while (in fact, some were shown for the very first time over the entire franchise!), and hearing familiar tracks in new rearrangements was nice. However, it’s obvious that the newcomers won’t have any idea what’s going on; this appears to be the general opinion between the Japanese fans, as well. That said, the series does deal with the themes of foreknowledge, so perhaps the authors decided to give the viewers a hazy prophecy of sorts?

    In any case, the plot is going to become much more straightforward starting from the next episode, mysteries notwithstanding. Speaking of which, “Twilight Girl” is the name of the next episode: Crunchyroll messed up and didn’t realize that episode 00 is called “Daybreak”.

    Again, thank you for giving Dies irae a chance. I’d much rather read fair criticism than… those other things I had to read.

    1. No worries, I should be thanking you for the feedback, and giving clarification on the episode title. It’s our job to be generally impartial when it comes to criticism, so I like to think that we try our best to be fair. You might also want to thank my friend, since my post would probably have been different without some of what he told me.

      Anyway, it’s a shame that stories like this get written off easily for heavily incorporating something taboo. However, it’s not hard to see that Nazism is still a sensitive topic that gets people obstinately riled up, even if there is legitimate merit to a work like Dies Irae.

    2. I understand the discomfort with the heavy Nazi imagery but its clear these characters are the bad guys so I fail to see why anyone would write the show off as some glorification of the Nazi party tbh…

  7. I’ll say one thing – this definitely caught my attention, lol. Rather than Episode 00 though, it seems like this should have been Episode 13 or an OVA or something for after the main series from what I’ve read.

      1. I get it. Japan doesn’t ever get as offended by Nazi ideals as much as Americans do, and they usually never make anime for American audiences anyway. But I kind of hope this doesn’t get a dub.

      2. The show is (unfortunately) confirmed to get a dub. Also, the nazi craze was not a thing back in 2007, not to mention that there is a purpose behind choosing them as the antagonists.


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